Saturday, 19 May 2018


May 20th 2018, Pentecost Sunday
GOSPEL  John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

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

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GOSPEL  John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel passage for this Pentecost Sunday tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us to the fullness of truth. He does this, we are told, because he does not speak about himself but rather relates what he has heard from the Father and the Son. But, hold on a minute. Surely the Holy Spirit leads us to the truth because he knows the truth, not because he refuses to speak about himself? The Holy Spirit is love, and love never speaks about itself! The Holy Spirit is wholly oriented towards the other. If we are to have authentic marriages or friendships, then we too must be oriented towards the other. This message is not easy for us. We want to retain control over our own lives. We make ourselves and our own interests the fulcrum of our existence. That is why Jesus says that his message is too hard for us to bear all at once. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to the kind of self-emptying love that is the foundation of real joy. Sometimes marriages start off well but run into difficulty because the spouses seek to base their relationship on their own qualities. But our own qualities are not an enduring fuel for true communion. True relationships are fuelled by the Holy Spirit, and he can only operate when we cease to rely on ourselves. Sometimes we try to mimic a Christian society by basing it on our own efforts at civility. Only the self-forgetting impulse of the Holy Spirit can provide the foundation for authentic communion.

The Holy Spirit is the one who is utterly oriented to the other, not to himself
On this Sunday of Pentecost we hear passages from St John’s Gospel which announce the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, the one who comes close to us and speaks to our hearts, the “Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father”. When he comes he will guide us to the fullness of truth, Jesus tells us, because he does not speak about himself. Rather he will relate what he himself has heard and will tell us of things to come in the future. This might sound a little strange. Surely he will guide us to the truth because he knows the truth, and not because he refuses to speak about himself? We tend to think of the truth as being a precise thing, a matter of content. But the truth is not simply a matter of content. The Holy Spirit is the one who does not speak about himself, but speaks what he has heard, what he has received from Jesus, and everything that is possessed by the Father is also possessed by Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit is love. Love does not talk about itself. It is not centred on one’s ego. Love speaks of the one who is loved. It speaks of God. The Holy Spirit speaks of the Father and of the son and of their relationship. It is hard to express this mystery because love is not something that can be put in a certain category. Rather it is communion. Love is much more than just a sentiment. It is not simply some sort of perfectionistic act. If someone approaches us and speaks to us with love, their words can sometimes be hard and challenging, yet we recognize that they are speaking for us, for our good.

It is frightening for us to lose control over everything. The Holy Spirit leads us down that path
The Holy Spirit says little about himself. He is not self-affirmative because he is love. This attitude can be a little bit scary for us. To be obedient to the Holy Spirit signifies to loosen one’s control over everything. The things that are ours only attain their meaning as a function of love. The things that Jesus has to relate to us of the Spirit are things that we can receive only gradually. For the moment, Jesus tells us, these things are too heavy for us to bear. We are incapable of living them and they would appear to us as a moralistic burden. It is only the Holy Spirit that can teach us to lose ourselves and no longer be at the centre of our own lives. We have a dark terror of no longer being at the centre of reality. In the first reading, the disciples attain the capacity to go out and lose themselves, speaking to and for others. This is an art that is not learned in one day, but the result of a long process of self-emptying.

We only mimic a truly Christian society if we do not build it on the Holy Spirit and the art of emptying oneself
Matrimony is a continuous adventure of progressive growth. Sometimes marriages that begin well go more and more wrong afterwards, often because the Holy Spirit has not been allowed to do his work. These are people who are as good and decent as anyone else, but they have sought the wrong kind of fuel for their marriage: they have tried to rely on their own strength. It is only when we lose ourselves that we make space for the love of God. Marriage is a process of ever greater emptying of oneself, a process of falling deeper and deeper in love. Such marriages are not just a theory or an ideal: they exist in the Church. They occur when two people recognize matrimony as a vocation, as a call that only the Lord can bring to completion. When we cease to be the centre of everything, then everything we do becomes a place where we lose ourselves and enter into the greatness of communion, the greatness of collaboration, of being together with others, of taking care of others. This is authentic family, authentic friendship, true society. A Christian society can only be constructed upon people who have been emptied of themselves. We can only mimic such a civil society if communion and the Holy Spirit are not placed at the centre.

Let us abandon ourselves to God and allow him to control our lives
This Pentecost let us have courage! To receive the Holy Spirit means to lose oneself and to place others at the centre of everything. Only God can do this. We are too fearful and lack the strength to bear this burden of completely losing our self-referential control over things. I wish everyone, and myself first of all, the grace to permit ourselves to lose this “battle” with God, to allow him to win within our souls.


Thursday, 10 May 2018


 May 13th 2018.  The Ascension of the Lord
GOSPEL: Mark 16:15-20
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL: Mark 16:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Ascension has little to do with the triumph over gravity and everything to do with the culmination of Jesus’ journey back to his Father. The Father is the source, meaning and goal of everything.  Everything we do, if it is to be directed towards its rightful end, must be oriented to the Father. But Jesus’ Ascension is not just a movement back to the Father but a journey to the right hand of the Father. “Right hand” symbolizes Lordship. The Ascension is all about Jesus becoming Lord. What does it mean to say “Jesus is Lord”? Does it mean he sits on a special throne? No, it is all about Jesus exercising dominion over us, and, as the Gospel tells us, this dominion is manifested in the signs that accompany us when we proclaim the Gospel. The proclaimers of the Gospel “drive out demons”, thus freeing people from the power of the deceiver. They “speak new languages” which refers to their capacity to speak with love, to communicate that which is born of God. They “take serpents in their hands” which means that they do not run away from reality but face up to it, confession their sins and acknowledging before the Lord the ways in which they have been deceived. They “drink deadly poison and are unharmed”, referring to the capacity of the Christian to be unaffected by the poisons that are present in our culture. And they “lay hands on the sick and heal them”, referring to the power of the Church to bring peace and healing to people by the imposition of hands.

The Ascension has little to do with the triumph over gravity and everything to do with the culmination of Jesus’ journey back to his Father
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. The first reading narrates the actual event of the Ascension, but let us concentrate on the Gospel, which this year is from Mark. The sixth article of the Creed is that Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. But what does this mean? Is it concerned with the bodily victory over gravity and the transportation of Jesus to another place, a place that is not a place at all in the sense of our conception of space and time? What is sometimes forgotten is that this is the culmination of a pilgrim journey by Jesus to the Father. He came from the Father and now he returns to his origins. And this also is the goal of all human life: to return to the Father. The notion of Christian “ascent” is not concerned with people trying to achieve some sort of perfection with respect to personal integrity. Rather it is a movement towards God the Father. The Ascension teaches us to follow Jesus, in all the events of our lives, in his journey to the Father.

It is a journey to the right hand of the Father. And “right hand” symbolizes Lordship. The Ascension is all about Jesus becoming Lord
And it is not just a journey by Jesus to the Father, it is a journey to the right hand of the Father. The right hand is a symbol of action and power. As the psalms say, “the Lord’s right hand has triumphed, the Lord’s right hand has worked marvels”. To be seated at the right hand of the Father means to be the executor of his power, to truly be Lord. As the letter to the Philippians says, it is to receive the name which is higher than all names. What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord? Does it mean that he is seated on a special throne that everyone can recognize is the highest position of all? Is it a seat like the seats of power in our human structures of bureaucracy? No, it is something different altogether.

What does it mean to say “Jesus is Lord”? Does it mean he sits on a special throne? No, it is all about Jesus exercising dominion
We are sent out into the whole world to announce the Gospel, and it is here that Jesus reveals himself to be Lord. Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The Lord confirms the preaching of the disciples with the signs that accompany their preaching. He manifests himself as Lord in these signs. What exactly are the signs in question? The capacity to drive out demons refers to the ability to free people from the grip of the deceiver, from the devil who separates us from God. How many times throughout history people have been liberated from the grip of the deceiver. The ability to speak new languages refers to speak in a way that is new with respect to all other languages. It is the speaker that has been renewed by the new and eternal covenant, and he can now communicate that which is fresh, that which springs from God. Whoever has the love of God in their hearts is able to speak this new language. There are people who can speak eloquently with flawless logic and with an outstanding grip of the language, but often the content that they communicate is empty. And how often a child can talk in simple terms and touch your heart because they are able to speak with love. It is not about perfect articulation, but about having the capacity to communicate with love. We can listen easily to those who have love in what they say, who communicate effectively the maternal care of the Church. This is the new language spoken by authentic Christians.

The power of the Gospel liberates people from the power of Satan, it makes people recognize and reject the poisons inherent in our culture, and it brings peace and healing to those who are sick
We are told that the faithful will be able to take serpents in their hands. Some people try to live by escaping from reality, but serpents must be taken in hand. The serpent, the liar, who tries to sow confusion in our hearts, must be taken in hand and drawn out. In confession we name our sins and state clearly the ways that we have been deceived. This is what it means to take serpents in our hands. Their poison no longer has any effect on us because we consign them to God. “If they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them”: generally in our time we are very conscious about not exposing ourselves to any poisonous substances. This is all very good, but the real poison that the Christian is not affected by is the poison inherent in our culture. “Everything is pure for the one who is pure” says St Paul. When our hearts have been touched by the truth, we recognize deceit. Its falsity becomes very apparent to us. We must remain small and humble, clinging to the Lord, so that we can be preserved by him. And the final sign of the Lordship of Christ is that the sick will be healed when hands are laid upon them. The Holy Spirit is transmitted by the imposition of hands and people are healed, some of them physically, whilst it is the heart that is healed more often. The riches of the Church – the Holy Spirit – can be transmitted by this gesture of laying on of hands, placing into the hearts of people peace, acceptance, freedom and love.

Friday, 4 May 2018


May 6th 2018.  Sixth Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL   John 15:9-17
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL   John 15:9-17
Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The effort to arrive at the fullness of life through the observance of laws never manages to reach its goal. Moralism is not just unpleasant, it is useless: it never leads us anywhere. Our hearts are never changed by means of the observance of a norm. Where is authentic new life really located? Wherever true love is to be found. As Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”. It is only in a relationship of love that we experience joy and fulfilment. There is all the world of difference between doing something according to a code of behaviour and doing the same thing out of love. The Lord is calling us to a life of love, not detached acts of obligation. We did not choose him, he chose us. He has loved us, elected us and given everything for us. He has opened up the riches of his life and invited us to partake of them. Let us welcome him and remain with him just as he remains with us. We will discover then that life is beautiful.

The first reading reveals how the Lord’s plan of salvation is intended for all of humanity
The first reading for the sixth Sunday of Easter is from Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles. Peter sees an uncircumcised family receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. He then baptizes them on the spot because he sees that he cannot remain fixed in his ideas regarding salvation while the Lord is already moving ahead. This was something surprising and serious that the Church had to work through. It was necessary to accept that the Lord was calling those who did not belong to the chosen people. In fact, this reading is relevant for each one of us. It tells us that we can enter fully into the inheritance that the Lord has prepared for humanity since eternity.

No matter how hard we try to observe laws, such observance never brings us to an authentic kind of life. It is only in relationships of love that we experience joy and fulfilment
Peter has to accept something that he was not prepared for. What exactly is it that he has to accept? The Gospel throws light on this question. The most bitter diatribe that ever came from the mouth of Jesus was directed at those who were obsessively preoccupied with the observance of norms. Jesus brings another type of life, another way of living in fullness. In fact, the effort to arrive at the fullness of life through the observance of laws never manages to reach its goal. Moralism is not just unpleasant, it is useless: it never leads anywhere. No one’s heart is ever changed by means of the observance of a norm. Where is authentic new life really concentrated? Wherever true love is to be found. “Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”. Jesus is the joyful Son of the Father and he carries this happiness to us, treating us according to that same happiness. We are called to remain in this happiness - “Remain in my love”. Even though our bodies might be moved to thousands of different places, with all of our hearts and minds we are called to remain within the love of God for each one of us.

There is all the world of difference between doing something according to a code of behaviour and doing the same thing out of love. The Lord is calling us to act out of love, not obligation
“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love . . .” Some people observe the Lord’s commandments without love.  The rich young man tells Jesus that he has observed all of the commandments since his youth, but he still does not experience the life that he yearns for. He has not changed. Nothing eternal has touched him inside. But when one remains within the love of God, he does not observe the commandments in order to be righteous, to feel ok with himself, to have a quiet conscience, to sleep easy at night. It is one thing to do something for you because it is an obligation, but an entirely different thing to do something because I want to be with you, because I want a genuine relationship with you. I do the things that you want because I want to be with you. There is all the world of difference between a life lived according to a code or a set of rules, and a life lived from the point of view of a valued relationship. Here we are not talking about living up to a certain model of behaviour but about giving one’s life for another. This is not something that can be understood rationally. It requires investing oneself completely in a relationship. Prayer according to this mode of relationship is not about completing some sort of devotional practice but about remaining with the Lord and uniting oneself with him. It is about having a serene and profound joy, not a vain human euphoria that vanishes quickly.

We did not choose the Lord, he chose us. He has elected us and given everything for us. He has opened up the riches of his life to us
The Lord Jesus wants to give us everything, and He cannot wait to meet someone who will open their hands to receive what He has to give. Through the events of our lives, we respond to this love, but not through acts that take their initiative from us. As the Gospel passage says: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you”. It is the Lord’s initiative. He chooses us and we should know that we have been elected by him, like a woman who realises that a man truly loves her and wants to be with her profoundly in every area of her life. In the same way the Lord wants to throw open all of his riches for us. We are his. He has chosen us, elected us. The Lord Jesus has made his choice and is on our side from the very beginning. We are his property, but not in the sense of being dominated by him. Rather, he is on our side and values us completely. We are never nothing, never forgotten. He is ready to do everything for us. He says to us, “YOU ARE MINE!” We are for him because he is for us. As we say every time at the Eucharist, his body is for us. It has been given for us. Let us welcome him and remain with him and life will be beautiful.

Friday, 27 April 2018


 April 29th 2018.  Fifth Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL   John 15:1-8
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL   John 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This Sunday presents us with a text of profound wisdom. We hear of the vine, the branches and the vine grower. The vine grower cuts away that which does not bear fruit, while he prunes that which is fruitful. Either way he cuts! And it is the same with the Father. Whatever does not unite us to the Lord is cut off and burnt, whilst that which does bear fruit is pruned further so that it will bear even more. The Father does not do this with violence, but it happens nevertheless. Sometimes our initiatives are simply rejected by others and wither. Maybe the Father is saying to us: “These things were not my things. They did not have my eternity in them. They were initiatives of yours and nothing else”. We must constantly examine our consciences to see if our projects and our lives are filled with things which do not lead to the Father. Everything that is not joined to him must be abandoned immediately. Life must become a progressive process of simplification where he becomes everything, and that which is not joined to him is thrown on the fire. He alone will make us bear fruit. He alone will make us bloom.

The first reading tells of the acceptance of Saul by the other disciples. Now, finally, he is joined to the body and his preaching can bear fruit.
On this fifth Sunday of Easter, the first reading is from chapter nine of the Acts of the Apostles. Saul comes to Jerusalem after his conversion, but the other disciples are afraid of him. Barnabas shoes himself to be this marvellous, discerning figure who welcomes the controversial person into their midst. Barnabas appreciates the value of Saul and introduces him to the others. Once Paul has been accepted he is free to proclaim the Gospel, and he does so in a full and effective way because now, finally, he is united to the rest of the body. What must be accepted? What must be rejected? What inspires fear? These thoughts introduce us to the Gospel for Sunday, which speaks of the vine and its branches.

The Father cuts off the branches that are fruitless while he prunes the branches that bear fruit. He is always cutting, one way or another!
Three roles are mentioned in the analogy of the vine. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches and the Father is the vine grower. The description of the process of cultivation is truly enlightening “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” This reveals something fundamental of the way the Father works with each one of us. If a branch does not bear fruit, the Father cuts it. Anyone who does not remain in Christ is cut off, gathered and thrown in the fire – a terrible scenario! What is unfruitful is cut away by the Father. The surprising thing is that the branch that does bear fruit is also pruned so that it might bear even more fruit. So the branch that bears no fruit is cut while the fruitful branch is pruned. Does this mean that the Father is always cutting something away? Yes, the Father is always cutting away!

Life should be a process of progressive simplification, a shedding of that which does not lead us to God
We tend to think that we are in a general state of deprivation with regard to something or other, but the fact is that we suffer more from the excesses in our lives. The really good travellers travel light because they know that they need little. It is the same with God. Firstly, the Lord provides everything we need, and, secondly, when we are with the Lord we need nothing else because he is everything. Life is a process of growth in simplification. In other words, a process of becoming free from that which leads us nowhere. The Father cuts these things away. How does he do it? With violence? No, these things die by themselves and then other people come and dispose of these things entirely. The same is true in the ecclesiastical sphere. Many of the things we do are rejected by others. The fact is that many people are not interested in the things we have to say to them in our parishes, because these things we say and do are withered branches, detached from the Father, self-referential, self-celebratory. It is not so much that the world discarded these initiatives of ours but that the Father was never in them – they remained solely our own initiatives. On this matter we should examine our consciences regularly and accept the rejections that the world presents to us. It is as the Lord is saying to us: “My things have eternity within them. They pass through the crises of Easter, but they rise again. And if this initiative of yours does not rise, then maybe it does not come from me at all”.

The deadweight in our lives must be pruned away. All that must be retained is that which leads us to God
The things that do bear fruit are pruned. Where and how are plants pruned, normally? When I speak of these things with young people, I discover that few of them know how to prune a plant. Usually we prune a branch above the first or second bud. If the second bud looks promising then we prune above it, but if it does not look very healthy, then we prune above the first bud. The principle is that we retain nothing that is not going to be fruitful. In our lives there is so much deadweight! And we must allow the Lord to strip us of it. Many of the cuts we receive during life are not things to be complained about but rather welcomed wholeheartedly. The Lord does not want us to have one millimetre more than what unites us to him. Whatever is outside of our union with the Father does not lead us anywhere. All these things are for corruptibility and fire. This beautiful text is full of profound wisdom. It teaches us to free ourselves, or allow ourselves to be freed, from everything that does not lead to heaven. When St Philip Neri famously said, “I prefer Paradise”, this is what he was referring to. Whatever united him to authentic life would be retained by him. He was not speaking in an abstract way of where he would like his life to end up. Rather he was speaking of a choice that he was making moment by moment: the union with those things that lead to paradise and the abandonment of those things that lead to emptiness. How much energy we consume on so many projects that do not lead anywhere! Also in the world of the Church, so much time is spent on ecclesiastical bureaucracy that bears little fruit. This is not to deny that we need a certain order in the Church, but we need to be absolutely rooted in the Lord. Whatever makes us bloom is to be retained jealously. That which causes us to implode is to be abandoned immediately.


Friday, 20 April 2018


 April 22nd 2018.  Fourth Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL   John 10:11-18
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL   John 10:11-18
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . As Peter says in the first reading, Jesus is the corner-stone and source of all salvation. But how does Jesus save us? By listing the obligations we have to fulfil in order to merit eternal life? In the Gospel, we see how Jesus saves us! He is the Good Shepherd who asks for nothing from us and lays down his life so that we may live. The Good Shepherd is compared with the hired hand. The hired hand will only defend the sheep if he is paid for it. Human society in general works in the same way. People usually do things in order to receive something in return. But Jesus is not like that! He asks for nothing. In so doing he liberates us from the oppression of thinking that we have to merit salvation. But surely the great saints of charity, like Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa, poured themselves out in service of others. Isn’t that how they responded to Christ’s call? No! These saints are unanimous in asserting that our only task is to open ourselves to the love of God, to be recipients of his salvation. Once we receive his love, then we lose our insecurity and defensiveness and become capable of loving others. Our capacity to love has its source in the fact that we have been saved by the Good Shepherd who asks for nothing. He is not the hired hand who demands payment from us. His love enables us to love unconditionally in return.

Our salvation is in Christ. He is the stone rejected by our world, but ultimately he becomes the source of all salvation
The first reading from Acts 4 contains an important proclamation by Peter. Jesus, he says, is the only one in whom we can find salvation. He was the stone rejected by the builders. In fact, the “builders” of human affairs do not generally found their structures upon Christ. He is the stone that has been discarded, the one who has been reckoned unwise by the intelligent, and deemed blasphemous by the religious authorities of this world. The God that we did not know is revealing himself to us; this wisdom that is not human wisdom has become the place upon which to found our lives. He alone – Peter proclaims – is the only one in whom we can find salvation. It is true that the Lord has many different ways of saving us. Our God is a loving Father and guides us as best he can, respecting our freedom. Yet there can be no doubt that the fullness of salvation is in Christ and no one else. The Church is mother of all and values those who have different creeds than us. Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we have welcomed and esteemed the riches contained in other faiths, but we still affirm that the single and ultimate source of all salvation is Jesus Christ. The parable of the Good Shepherd in this week’s Gospel is an eloquent expression of the way in which Christ is the saviour of all.

How does Jesus become the source of salvation? By telling us of our obligations? By listing the things we need to do in order to be saved? No, by being the Good Shepherd. By going against the systems of this world, all of which demand payment in return for good. Jesus expects no payment and lays down his life for us.
The Good Shepherd stands in complete contrast to the hired hand. The hired hand works for pay, whilst the Good Shepherd does not measure how much he is being paid; rather, he is ready to lay down his life for his sheep. When the wolf arrives, the hired hand runs away but the Good Shepherd defends the sheep with his own life. All of our human, philosophical and political systems work in terms of payment, how much we receive in return for our efforts. This is also true for many of us in the Church. We tend to operate according to the same approach of the Jews under the Law: if you behave well, you are loved; if you behave badly you are rejected. The Good Shepherd, by contrast, does not operate according to this mentality. He sacrifices himself for the sheep and seeks nothing in return. The picture of the Good Shepherd in the three Synoptic Gospels is one of a shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep and brings him home on his shoulders. A chapter of the prophet Ezekiel is completed dedicated to the critique of shepherds who are only preoccupied with heaping obligations on their flock. Christianity, however, is born from above. It is directed to the living out of our vocation in the power of love.

Are we saved by our good deeds? No! Our task is to welcome Christ’s love in faith and trust. Once we do that, then God can work through us in the world
How often we tend to think that the problems in our lives can be sorted out if we offer more sacrifices, make greater efforts, exert more sweat. Surely these labours will merit salvation for us! No! Salvation is only merited in the Christian life through faith, through the welcoming of the working of God in our lives. Salvation is more a receptiveness than an active doing. St Vincent de Paul, an immense master of charity, said that the works of God carry on by themselves; what we have to do is welcome the work of God within us. The great saints of service and charity are unanimous in asserting that our task is to be open to the workings of God in our lives.

The love of the Good Shepherd for us is where our Christian existence has its source. This love liberates us from the oppression of thinking that we have to earn salvation. This love engenders in us a security and trust which enables us to love others in our turn
The Good Shepherd liberates us from the oppression of thinking that we have to merit salvation. We discover that God loves us because he loves us! He loves us because we are beautiful. Once we learn from him of our own beauty then we too begin to love. We love unconditionally, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta did, or St Francis of Paola, or St Francis of Assisi, or any of the saints that united themselves completely to those who were suffering. They were enabled to do this because they know that the Lord had united himself to them, that the Good Shepherd had laid himself down for them. We are able to love when we feel secure, when we are no longer on the defensive. If my life is in the hands of the Shepherd, the one who asks for nothing in exchange except that I trust in him, then I am enabled to love. Christian acts are extremely generous. Saints and other members of the faithful do incredible deeds, but not out of obligation, not because they are under a hired hand who must be paid, but because they have been loved. Our life begins from his love.

Friday, 13 April 2018


April 15th 2018.  Third Sunday of Easter
GOSPEL   Luke 24: 35-48
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL   Luke 24:35-48
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Many religions proclaim a life after death, but the Christian proclamation is a unique one. For us, life after death is not some kind of purely spiritual or immaterial existence. Our creed proclaims the resurrection of the body. It is hard to understand this kind resurrection, but it is part of our creed and is firmly rooted in the appearances of Jesus to his apostles. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus appears and affirms that he is not a ghost (a “spirit”). Rather he has “flesh and bones”. He eats with them to demonstrate that he has a real body. St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tries to explain what this resurrected spiritual body is like. Just as a tree grows from a humble seed, so our resurrected body will arise from the humble seed of our earthly body. It is important to recognize that Christianity is not opposed to the flesh! One of the Church fathers, St Irenaeus, affirmed that our flesh is the pivot of salvation. It is in the flesh that we are saved and it is by means of our flesh that we love and serve others. Salvation is not the possession of abstract knowledge about God, as the Gnostics, past and present, claim. It involves encountering the risen Lord and going out to love and serve others using our bodies. We cannot love others abstractly! It is only in concrete acts that we can do so. The Lord Jesus rises in his flesh because our flesh is destined for the fullness of life of the children of God.

Jesus prepared the chosen people over centuries for his resurrection. In our personal lives too, God has prepared us in various ways to deepen our encounter with the risen Lord
In this third Sunday of Easter we hear the proclamation that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has glorified his servant Jesus. Why is this affirmation so important? We find it in the third chapter of the Acts of the Apostle, one of the first announcements by Peter following the resurrection of Jesus. The point is that Jesus does not appear out of nowhere: he is the fulfilment of ancient promises. In the Gospel he tells the disciples: "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." This is a precise description of the three parts of the Old Testament: the law, the prophets and the wisdom literature (represented by the psalms). The Lord Jesus prepared the world for his coming. His resurrection is the fulfilment of the history of his people. But in our personal stories also there are promises that the Lord brings to completion. There are things that prepare us for our encounter with him. In cases where people are converted to the Lord, one discovers afterwards that these conversions were prepared for over a long period.

Christianity proclaims a life after death, but this afterlife is not some kind of spiritual or ethereal existence. It involves the resurrection of the body, a notion that is difficult to comprehend, but firmly rooted in our faith
There is another important feature of this text. That which we proclaim in this joyful time of Easter is what is perhaps most obvious – the resurrection! This is not just about life after death. Other religions too speak of life after death. Christianity goes beyond vague references to the next life with its eleventh article of the creed which affirms belief in the resurrection of the body. We believe in a resurrection that is not some form of abstract or ethereal existence. But it is not easy to explain what is meant by the resurrection of the body.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul provides the analogy of the seed with the plant that eventually comes into existence from the seed. The plant is very different to the seed, but is nevertheless inextricably bound to the seed. In the same way, we will plant one kind of body and rise again with a different, spiritual, body, but the two bodies are nevertheless intimately linked. This mystery cannot be penetrated by rationalistic methods, but its basis in Scripture is clear. In the Gospel, the disciples think that Jesus is a ghost. The original Greek text refers to him as a “spirit”. Jesus says to them: "Why are you troubled? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost [a “spirit”] does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." Jesus eats with them to demonstrate that he can engage in acts that imply corporeality. It is hard for us to comprehend the meaning of this: how can the risen Lord eat the things of this world? Nevertheless, the Church has seen in these appearances of the risen Christ a truth about the resurrection of the body that it is compelled to proclaim. The great fathers of the Church have been clear on this issue. St Irenaeus of Lyon, a martyr, had an essential motto: “Caro cardo salutis”. This means that the flesh is the pivot of salvation.

Christianity is not opposed to the flesh, but the contrary. It is in the flesh that we are redeemed. It is with our bodies that we are called to love others through concrete actions and service
Are we inclined to think that Christianity is against the flesh? The opposite is the case! The flesh is the place where we are saved. Without the flesh we cannot be saved. The business of redemption is not just mental comprehension. It involves acts and the globality of the person, our muscles and our bones, the things that make us who we are. When spirit and body are separated, we are dead, we are no longer complete! Completeness requires the unity of the human person. The first letter of St John emphasizes this point a lot and condemns those who deny that Christ has come in the flesh. The first heretical movements in the Church were the Gnostics, and they are still with us today. The attempt is to turn Christianity into a theory, a system of abstract values, a philosophy, a specialised form of knowledge. But authentic Christianity is nothing of the sort. The love of a man for a woman involves his body, his actions, his service. It is not a concept and not even a sentiment. In fact, it only becomes a genuine sentiment when it involves corporeal action. If our bodies do not manifest our faith, then our faith is worth nothing. St James says this in his letter, “I will show you my faith by my works”. How else can we demonstrate our faith if not in terms of concrete acts? If I truly encounter God, then this will illuminate every aspect of my person and life. The way I eat and sleep will be redeemed. The way I walk, work, welcome a child; the way I live things concretely, wash the dishes, the way I serve you. How can I love if not with the body? Love is not an abstract, idealised thing. Life is not an abstract thing. The Lord Jesus rises in his flesh because our flesh is destined for the fullness of life of the children of God.

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