Friday, 3 February 2023

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION

February 5 2023 - Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Exclusive to this website English translation of a great homily from Vatican Radio for this Sunday's Gospel. The homilist, Fr Fabio Rosini, is a renowned speaker and fills the Roman basilicas with young people!


DAILY MASS REFLECTION (WEEKDAYS ONLY)

Short, straight-talking reflection on today's readings


CHECK OUT OUR BLOG

Orthodox views on the state of the Church and the world

How Mary is the New Eve, a Scriptural key for the entire Rosary, 

and much more

Friday, 27 January 2023

January 29th 2023. Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL: Matthew 5, 1-12

Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

 

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

 

Gospel:Matthew     5:1-12      

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.

Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:

theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

The Gospel of the Lord.   Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

1. The spiritual life is not about moral coherence but happiness

The first reading from Zephaniah tells how the powerful, the nobles and the religious leaders will be taken into exile because of the infidelity of Israel, but the poor people will be spared this purification. The kings often led the people into idolatry, resulting in the deportation of the rich and powerful to Babylon. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, we have the Beatitudes. This reminds us of something that we often forget. The repetition of the word “blessed” or “happy” emphasizes the joy to which we are called. Too often we turn the spiritual life into a striving after perfection or spiritual narcissism.  We think Christianity is a question of moral coherence, but it is actually a question of personal happiness. The saint or holy person is not someone sad but someone who has found the beautiful kernel of life.

 

2. It is the humble, the meek, the merciful, those who strive after right, who discover the happiness of the life of the Kingdom

Who finds this kernel? The poor in spirit! Their humble condition permits them to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who are meek will inherit the land because their focus is on a greater inheritance – the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven - than the worthless prosperity that we seek after here below. Happy are those who seek justice, not in the sense of revindication, but in the sense of the Kingdom, as we discover later. It is those who seek true righteousness and holiness who will be satisfied. The merciful are those who are aware of their own need of mercy. They find mercy because they pardon others, as the Our Father exhorts us. We need to forgive because we too are in need of forgiveness. This is true happiness, to experience the mercy of God.

 

3. Then our hearts are purified and we begin to see God. Then we begin to strive after peace.

It is in this way that our hearts are transformed, through this poverty, these tears, this meekness, this thirst for what is right. Then one begins to have a heart that is no longer deceived, that is pure, an authentic heart that is in touch with the centre of our existence. Finally, then, we begin to see God, and this is real beatitude – to see God in our lives, in the things that happen to us, even in tribulation. Then, we become operators for peace, and nothing counts more than peace. Sometimes we meet those full of aggression who seek to put things right at all costs. These are not makers of peace but of war. Sometimes they do it in the name of God, and religious violence becomes the most aggressive of the passions. Peacemakers are “sons of God” and we see this in the only Son, Christ, who brings peace between heaven and earth with his blood. Those who are persecuted, excluded, are the very ones who enter the Kingdom of heaven.

 

4. If we have lost joy in our lives, it is because we have lost humility, meekness, true mourning, true mercy. It is because we battle for the wrong things and seek success and applause.

These Beatitudes are the pathways of joy. Often, when we lose the joy in our lives, it is because we have lost these pathways. We are no longer in touch with our own poverty, we have forgotten our real motive for mourning, we fight the wrong battles, we have hunger and thirst for stupid things, we are slaves of mediocre and useless passions. We forget that we need mercy because our hearts are confused, we fight battles instead of striving for peace. We end up being people who live to be applauded, to have success.

 

5. It is not in possessions, success, laughter or entertainment that we find happiness, but in entrusting ourselves to the Father as Jesus did. Then we will experience the peace of the Spirit.

The Beatitudes finish with: ‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’ Again, the key to this line is the first word: “happy” (or “blessed”). This is the secret of the saints, of those who belong to Christ. Even in the midst of persecution, their hearts remain steadfast. It is the Holy Spirit who consoles them and brings peace, the same Spirit of Christ who entrusted himself to the Father on the cross. It is only in God that our soul finds repose, not in the world or possessions, not in reward, entertainment, laughter. All the successes and celebrations of this world have their days counted. Everything will one day be washed away in the face of that which really matters, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Friday, 20 January 2023

January 22nd 2023. Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL: Matthew 4, 12-23

Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

 

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

 

GOSPEL: Matthew 4, 12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,

he withdrew to Galilee.

He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,

in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,

that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet

might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles,

the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death

light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,

casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

He said to them,

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

At once they left their nets and followed him.

He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,

James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.

He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father

and followed him.

He went around all of Galilee,

teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,

and curing every disease and illness among the people.

The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

 

1. The Gospel passage mentions the prophecy in Isaiah of darkness being transformed to light. In the Old Testament there are many instances of God giving victory to those who are small or insignificant.

On this Sunday which Pope Francis wishes to be dedicated to the Word of God, we reflect on the power of God’s work to being light and joy. In the first reading, we read how the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. This phrase refers to multiple things. The reference to “the day of Midian” refers to an event in the book of Judges when an insignificant member of the smallest family of Israel managed to win a great victory against a superior number of warriors, liberating the nation from oppression. This story of Gideon is a story of the weak defeating the strong, as is the tale of David defeating Goliath or the people of Israel overcoming the power of Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. Death is changed to life, darkness to light, that which we despise is turned into something glorious.

 

2. The Gospel is first announced by Jesus in an area of great confusion and darkness.

The Gospel passage from Matthew tells of the onset of the ministry of Jesus at the moment when John is arrested. As so often happens, what seems to be the end is actually the beginning. Jesus goes to preach in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled. We must remember that Israel was not a compact or isolated entity at the time of Jesus. The area of the Decapolis had ten cities which were pagan in nature. The “way of the sea” was a valley that went from the east towards the Mediterranean. It was an easy route for travel and had very heavy traffic. This area must have seemed a bit like Babylon, an area of promiscuity and darkness, but it is in this very area that the light is manifested.

 

3. Jesus asks us to repent, to liberate ourselves from our own narrow mental schemes. We too can discover that the kingdom of heaven is not a distant utopia, but near at hand.

Jesus begins his preaching by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” Repentance means to go beyond what one normally thinks, to open oneself to another way of conceiving things, to free oneself of one’s own narrow perspective. The kingdom of heaven is near, in contrast to our usual notions of utopia, which tend to be abstract and theoretical. In reality, the kingdom is near for it is a matter of conversion, a matter of a change of heart.

 

4. To get out of darkness and enter into the light, we must get away from our own vision of ourselves and enter into what God thinks of us and what he can do with us. Let us open ourselves to this light. This is what the word of God can do when it comes into our hearts. It offers us another key for understanding everything.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. He doesn’t say, “Be good, be committed, make a big effort.” No, what is happening here is a work of God. We are often sad and in darkness, not seeing that the kingdom of heaven is near us, because we think it is up to us to save ourselves, to resolve our own problems. Instead, it is God who appears in our valley of darkness, in our Galilee of the Gentiles, in our world of confusion. He simply asks us to follow him so that we can discover what he can accomplish in us. As we see in St Peter, it is a long process of the apostle learning that it is not what he can with himself as the centre, but what the Lord can do in him. Peter is called in this Gospel, but will have to pass through failure and darkness before he learns to follow the Lord. The darkness of his betrayal will be illuminated by the forgiveness of Christ. Only then will he become a fisher of men. In the case of John and James, sons of Zebedee, to be converted, they must come out of their own framework of thinking, they must move away from the influence of possessive paternal or familial influences. When Abraham was called, he had to leave his paternal home, the zone of his original interpretation of who he was as a person. To get out of darkness and enter into the light, we must get away from our own vision of ourselves and enter into what God thinks of us and what he can do with us. Let us open ourselves to this light. This is what the word of God can do when it comes into our hearts. It offers us another key for understanding everything. Let us allow this key to unlock God’s grace, the goodness of the kingdom of heaven which is not distant but very close.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY

 Sunday has been designated by Pope Francis to be the Sunday of the Word of God. Did you know that we can be enslaved or liberated by words? We are relational

 creatures and we are always fundamentally in dialogue with something. It is important that

we be in dialogue with God’s word and not with a lie! The serpent in the Garden deceived us

with his lie. This has caused us to distrust God and each other, and has led us to live lives of

 isolation and suspicion. But into this darkness, comes Jesus! The Gospel tells us that light

 begins to shine on the people who lived on the “way of the sea”. This was the commercial

route to the Mediterranean. Jesus did not meet people on top of a high mountain, but went

right into this busy region and called the first disciples. They were living in darkness in the

same way that all of life is in darkness and heading towards death and nothingness. Jesus

calls them (and us) to conversion. Conversion means to change direction and head towards

the Kingdom. So the people who lived on the way of the sea are now living on the way to the

 Kingdom of Heaven! This Sunday we are called to embrace the life-giving word of God,

change direction and allow the Kingdom to come in our lives.

Friday, 13 January 2023

 January 15th 2023. Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL: John 1, 29-34

Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

 

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel


GOSPEL: John 1, 29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.”

Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

 

1. It is Christ who comes towards us, not we who go to him. He takes the initiative. Our task is to be open to his arrival.

After the Baptism of our Lord, we enter into Ordinary Time in which each Sunday has a different Gospel and the mystery of Christ is looked at from many different points of view. The testimony of John the Baptist introduces us into this new period of the year. John the Baptist is the prototype of the proclamation of Christ and what he has to say is relevant for our journey through Lent and towards living the mystery of Easter. Firstly, John sees Christ coming towards him. It is Christ who comes to us, not we who go to him. Advent is about the coming of Christ. Our task is to welcome him, to be open to the work of God in our lives.

 

2. God does not wipe away our sin, but takes it upon himself

Secondly, John says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”. The lamb was the one whose blood enabled Israel to escape extermination in Egypt. The expression “takes away the sin of the world” in the original Greek actually means to “take upon himself the sins of the world”. Jesus is the one who allows the entire weight of sin to fall upon him. If we look at the state of pollution of the world, we ask how it can all be taken away. In a more profound sense, the world is polluted by sin. War, for example, leads to greater and greater anger and greater multiplication of evil. How can humanity deal with this toxic inundation of sin? The original term for “sin” meant to miss the target, to search for life in the wrong place. Sin destroys our youth, our maturity, our relationships, leaving internal marks that seem indelible. How can humanity respond to it? Christianity proclaims that this wave of sin can be taken away, that the pathway to destruction can be converted into a new pathway of beauty. We announce that humanity can be liberated form sin and can live a new existence.

 

3. We must proclaim Christ, not get bogged down in our own projects. We must enter into an enduring and stable relationship with the Holy Spirit, not an occasional one.

Thirdly, John the Baptist announces that Christ has precedence over him and is much greater than him. Too often in the Church we are bogged down in our ecclesial matters. We need to proclaim him and trust that he can bring good from our weakness and contradictions. Fourthly, John testifies that he saw the Spirit come down and remain upon Jesus. What we need is a stable and enduring relationship with the Spirit. Jesus shows us what a human life looks like when it is lived in full cooperation with the Spirit – the life of God in human flesh. The Holy Spirit is not someone to have a relationship with every now and then, whenever we have an inspiration or an interior illumination. No, we must live with Christ constantly. A marriage is not something that is occasionally lived in a heavenly manner. It must be lived constantly in this way. This is the power of baptism, which means to be “immersed” in the Holy Spirit. When we live in the conviction that the Lord has taken upon himself our sin, then we can live constantly with the trust that the Holy Spirit can guide every aspect of our lives. This is the marvellous proclamation of Christianity that we can live in every liturgy of this year.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY

John’s Gospel says something surprising: we are told that the testimony of John the Baptist is necessary for each one of us if we are to have correct faith in Christ. What does the Baptist say? He points to Jesus and says, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. This is a crucial testimony concerning the identity of Jesus. However, the translation “takes away” is not so good. The original Greek really says “takes upon himself the sins of the world”. Jesus takes our sins upon himself. This is so essential. Humanity is not able to deal with sin. Psychology and counselling can only do so much. They cannot remove the guilt of sin. What Jesus does is forgive us and bear the weight of our sins completely. My sinful and toxic past is thus transformed! What was once a history of error and weakness now becomes a history of how much God has loved me and shown his mercy towards me despite my faults!

Saturday, 7 January 2023

January 8th 2023. The Baptism of Our Lord
GOSPEL: Matthew 3, 13-17

________________________________________________________________
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

GOSPEL: Matthew 3, 13-17
Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands’. At this, John gave in to him.
As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him’.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

1. Justice would seem to demand that Jesus NOT be baptised, because he is the sinless Lamb of God. But God’s justice is different. His priority is to set right the relationship between himself and us, that we would see that we are his beloved children.
On this feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, which completes the period of Christmas, we read chapter 42 of the prophet Isaiah. The servant of the Lord, we are told, will bring justice to the nations. This contrasts with the Gospel in which John the Baptist says, “I need to be baptized by you,” but Jesus replies to let it be so for the moment so that they can do what justice demands. Surely John was more just to say that he, not Jesus, needed baptism? Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sins of the world. How can it be just that Jesus allows himself to submit to baptism? This is the great surprise. The justice that Isaiah’s servant brings is of a new sort. God’s Son becomes man so that he can put our relationship with God right from within. We are now to live as children of God, live as people who experience the favour of the Father, the love and tenderness of the Father. We do not understand how God can place himself in a line with other sinners to receive baptism. We do not understand how he can offer himself to be crucified. The parameters of justice of this sort are divine, not human. The real injustice for God is that man does not recognize the greatness for which he has been created, that he does not experience the love of the Father that has been destined for him. Jesus knows the love of the Father and can experience the humiliation of baptism, which is a self-emptying, or kenosis as expressed in the Greek of St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Jesus emptied himself so that we would experience the fulness that God destined for us. 

2. We seek love in a disordered way, running form one idol to another. But our true greatness, happiness and peace is to be found in the love of the Father. That is why Jesus is baptised! He is emptying himself so that we filled with the fullness of his divine sonship.
Sin is the great injustice. When man sins, he sins above all against his own greatness, his own beauty. We are called to rediscover the beauty of our own baptism, our deepest identity, that which we are before God. Before God, we are beloved children. How often we are flitting here and there, searching for life in a disordered way, the life that the Father has reserved for us in his love. We are called to see ourselves from the perspective of God and live as his precious children. How many idols we pursue! How often we rely on our own capacities and talents as if they gave us the right to exist. God does not look upon us as something to be disregarded or discarded. He looks upon as a marvellous wonder, worthy of sending his beloved Son. This is the justice that must be fulfilled. It is not any old justice but “every” justice. The fulness of justice is love. Man lives in complete righteousness when he lives in love, responding to the love of the Father. On this feast of the baptism of Jesus, may the Holy Spirit make reverberate in us the voice of the Father, that we are loved, blessed, that the Lord rejoices in us. If we do not believe in this love, we end up seeking it in disordered ways. That every righteousness may be fulfilled in us! That we may experience the love, the beauty, the peace, the divine sonship that the Lord destines for us!

3. Normal “justice” involves making the person pay for his terrible crime. But the justice of God involves enabling that person to be transformed so that he can love again as he should.
For us, when someone commits a great injustice, the normal recourse is to punish him, but for the Lord, real justice involves saving that person. When someone does something very bad, we think that he should be made to pay for it. This can be valid in certain ways, but the real justice is that this person finds the beauty that he has lost. If someone does wrong to us, what is better, that he be made pay for it, or that he return to a state of loving us properly again? This is what God seeks when we sin against him. He wants a conversion of love. He wants us to rediscover our greatness in him, our communion with him and with true life.

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY
In the Gospel, Jesus asks John to baptize him. This seems strange: Jesus does not need baptism! Then Jesus tells John that this baptism will “fulfil all justice”. What can this possibly mean? Justice is like a weighing scales, right? Offences and punishments being balanced against each other? Wrong! The righteousness of God is not like that! Since the time of the Garden of Eden, we have failed to trust in the loving providence of God. We have believed the serpent’s lie when he told us to do our own thing if we want to be happy. Since then, we have sought to construct our dignity on our own talents and hard work. We yearn for success and acclaim in the eyes of others. We esteem beauty, intelligence, skill. But Jesus comes along to his baptism and turns everything on its head. He tells us that our system of balances, our notion of righteousness, counts for nothing. At the baptism, the Father cries out that his favour rests on his beloved Son. And the Father wishes to say the same to us. Righteousness – being in a correct relationship with God – does not require that we accomplish certain things. Rather, the fundamental thing is to abandon ourselves in trust to the Father, believing that he loves us and esteems us. This is right relationship with God. We construct cages around ourselves and the bars of the cages are made up of notions about image, looks and talents - false ideas about what gives me dignity. Trust in the loving providence of a Father who loves me is the remedy that sets me free. 

Find us on facebook

Sunday Gospel Reflection