Saturday, 10 April 2021

April 11th 2021.  Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

GOSPEL   John 20:19-21

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 20:19-21

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, "Peace be with you."

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

"Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."

But he said to them,

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nail marks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples

that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,

and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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


SUMMARY . . . The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the life of community of the early Church. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the early Church was not some sort of unspecified power, but was oriented to the relationships between the believers themselves, a life lived out concretely in love. In the Gospel, Thomas is absent when the apostles gather on the Sunday after the resurrection. He refuses to believe that they have seen him and insists that he himself have the same personal experience that they had. And when does he have that personal experience? Exactly one week later, when the apostles gather again on Sunday and Jesus appears among them. The implication is clear: the normal place to encounter the risen Lord is in the Christian assembly, in the life of relationships that we live out with others. In his first letter, St John asks how I can claim to love the God that I cannot see if I do not love the brother or sister that I do see. We experience the risen Lord in our relationships with those around us. This is the place where he appears to us and where he wishes us to work out our salvation.


Why does Thomas not encounter the risen Lord?

On this Second Sunday of Easter – traditionally known as “Low Sunday” – we hear the account of what happened eight days after the resurrection when Jesus appears. Thomas is not with the others and they tell him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas replies that if he does not have the same experience that they had, they how can they expect him to believe? After all, they were not inclined to believe the testimony of Mary Magdalen when she came running from the empty tomb. Thomas refuses to believe unless he has a personal experience of the Lord. But why did Thomas not have this personal experience with the other disciples? Before answering this question, let us look at the first reading.


We have an appointment with the Christian community every week. This is the normal way to encounter the risen Lord, in the shared life of the Church. Thomas absented himself from the assembly and did not meet the Lord.

The first reading is a luminous proclamation of the life enjoyed by the early Church. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favour was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them”. It is worthwhile repeating these words because they give us a key for understanding what happened to Thomas. The life of the Christian is not the life of a superman, a perfect existence lived out by individuals. Rather it is a life of communion, having one heart and one mind, where everything is done with others in mind, where everything is done out of love. The new life which the Holy Spirit brought to the early church was not power of some unspecified sort, but oriented to the quality of the relations between believers. They became “one heart and one mind”. It was for this reason that Thomas did not encounter the Lord on the Sunday after the resurrection, and it was for precisely this reason that he did meet the Lord another week later. In other words, the real issue is not that Thomas did not see the Lord. The real issue is that he did not remain with the others. According to the typical way of counting days for the Jews, “eight days” indicates the passage of exactly one week. Every week we have an appointment with the Christian assembly, an appointment with communion. The resurrection is communion, fraternal love. Consequently, no one can live the experience of the resurrection as a private event. Thomas cannot experience the risen Lord until he is together with the others disciples. And, in fact, a week later Thomas is with the others and encounters the Lord.


We have the life of the Holy Spirit within us to the degree that we build up the Church, to the degree that we love one another

You might reply, did not Paul encounter the Lord in a completely private fashion on the road to Damascus? But Paul is left blind by the event and needs to be led by others. He does not receive his sight until he meets Ananias, the leader of the Christians that Paul was on his way to destroy. Ananias says to him, “Brother, the Lord Jesus has sent me that to you”. Ananias calls the very man who had come to destroy their community “Brother”! Until he meets the one who will welcome him as a brother, Paul will not recover his sight. Even in the most private of encounters, the experience is not complete until others are present. The experience of fraternity, the fact of living the life of the Church, this is the issue! Unless we build up the Church, our Christianity is fraudulent. The Holy Spirit is the communion between the Father and Son. If he enters into us then it is to put communion into our hearts. It is in the Church above all that one encounters the risen Lord because the Lord’s intention is that we be together! Life is beautiful when it is lived together, in relationship. A life of solitude is generally an unhappy one.


If we wish to experience the power of the risen Lord, then we need to do so in the place where he himself wishes to save us: through our relationships of self-effacing love with those around us

There are many things that could be said about this beautiful Gospel. The power of the gift of the Holy Spirit is proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins. We have focussed on just one aspect of the text. If you want to experience the risen Lord, then it is essential to remain with the Twelve, to remain with the Church. Do not seek to create a do-it-yourself Christianity. What individualism there is nowadays in various approach to the faith and in devotional practices! A faith that tries to function just between me and Jesus and Jesus and me does not work at all. To love God and to love our neighbour is the same commandment. The first letter of St John asks how I can claim to love the God that I cannot see if I do not love the brother that I can see? This Sunday proclaims that the place where the Lord appears is in relationship. We do not find him in some area of our private lives that we have constructed ourselves. Rather we find him in the place where he wishes to save us: in love, in relationship.


Saturday, 3 April 2021

Easter Sunday Homily, April 4th 2021

April 4th 2021.  Easter Sunday

GOSPEL   John 20, 1-9
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 20, 1-9
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

SHORTER HOMILY . . . Easter Sunday is described in the Gospel as the “first day” of the week, but it is really the eighth day of the Lord’s creation since it follows upon all the sublime events of the previous seven days. If we allow Christ’s resurrection to penetrate into our existence, then everything changes, for everything is now understood from the perspective of heaven and eternal life. In fact, the second reading encourages us to stop thinking of things from an earthly perspective, since our real lives are hidden with Christ in God. We cannot live this new life according to our usual categories of defending ourselves, depending on our own efforts and seeking our own advancement. It is that very “survival” approach that entrapped us in a life without perspective. The second reading goes on to say that, when Christ appears, we too will appear with him in glory. This does not refer only to glory after death. Easter calls for a shift in my life from a perspective on worldly things to the perspective of the resurrection.  When Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb, she finds that the stone has been moved. No-one could move this stone by themselves. What happens in the resurrection is purely the work of God. Why was the stone moved? To allow Christ out? No! Jesus does not need physical doors to be opened to him any longer. You do not come out of death to return to the old mode of existence. You exit to enter into a new kind of life. Jesus did not come out of death to resume being a carpenter in Nazareth. Instead he passed to an existence with the Father. Why then was the stone moved? For our benefit. It is we who do not see the resurrection, who do not see the true glory of life, who need to stop living out of the multitude of infantile perspectives that we carry inside. Our dependencies on material and self-referential things only render us mediocre, incomplete and take away our beauty. Converts or those who rediscover their faith come to realize that their entire existence has been redeemed. The stone is taken away and a new life is ignited. Only God can remove this stone, but what is important to realize is that this life is ALREADY there and waiting for us. This stone is in the hearts of every man and woman, a stone that only the Lord can move. In the Gospel, the beloved disciple arrives first at the tomb. He allows Peter to enter and then he too goes in, sees and believes. It is only now, in the light of the resurrection, that the Scriptures begin to make sense to the disciples. They did not need new Scriptures or new writings. The removal of the stone and the fact of the resurrection enlightened what they already possessed. Let us celebrate Easter, let us celebrate newness! May the Lord remove the stone so that we may enter into life. In the resurrection, all of our weakness and fragility take on the potential of new life, because in Christ everything that is ours is redeemed.

LONGER HOMILY
God’s solutions are always surprising. The people of Israel escape from Egypt right through the middle of the Red Sea. Abraham receives the promise of the Lord during the night of faith in which he was asked to sacrifice his only son.
On this joyous feast of Easter we listen to the narrative regarding the discovery of the empty tomb. This is described in both the Gospel of the Easter Vigil and that of the Sunday Mass. The stone has been moved and Jesus’ body is no longer there. Peter and John race to the tomb. John arrives first but awaits Peter before entering. There is much symbolism in these different speeds of running and the respectful waiting by John. Peter goes inside and sees the cloths, but the body is certainly not there. Then John enters, “sees and believes”. They had not yet understood the Scripture that he must rise from the dead. Easter is something imponderable, the surprising action of God. It is the aspect of reality that we never calculated. It is the escape route, the solution that we never considered. That which we never understood, the sacred Scriptures, were the deposit in which all of these promises were contained. They tell us that God is surprising, that he is not like us, that his solutions are not the ones that we think us. The escape route for the people of Israel in the great story of the Jewish Passover was through the sea! Who would have ever suspected it! Moses appeared to be leading the people to a dead end, but the sea opened and they had the incredible experience of passing through it. The water that was their salvation was also the instrument by which the oppression of the Egyptians was destroyed. In a similar way, during the night of faith of Abraham, the Lord asked for the very thing that Abraham was most attached to. It was necessary for Abraham to discover that God does not ask; God gives. That which appears death becomes life; that which appears the end becomes the beginning.

Salvation always involves the unexpected action of God
The first three readings from the Vigil recount the great works of the Lord. In the first reading God creates from nothing. He puts life where there is no life. These are things that we are asked to understand, but we are unable to understand this creation from absolutely nothing. We do not comprehend a faith that is actually gaining everything at the very moment when it appears to be losing everything. We do not understand the solution of God which is always in the place where no one would think of looking. The successful escape of the Exodus did not depend on the speed of the people but on the power of God.

Let us free ourselves from our stagnant ways of thinking! The Lord opens roadways in the sea and brings life from nothing!
Our sin leads to destruction, but the Lord places himself there, in the midst of our confused and contradictory pathways. He accepts our sin, takes it upon himself, and transforms it into unexpected salvation. In the night of Easter we sing the proclamation which has the famous patristic phrase “O felix culpa!” - the happy fault that merited such a great Saviour. Because of the Lord, the sin is no longer closed up in itself but open to the saving action of God. The death that we inflict on Jesus is resolved in the response of the Father, the resurrection, the beginning of something that we will never fully understand. Let us free ourselves from our preconceived modes of thinking! God moves the stones and makes the dead rise! He opens roadways in the sea and brings life forth from nothingness.

In order to experience the Easter of the Lord, we do not need any special techniques or mental schemes. All we need to do is abandon ourselves to him and allow him to lead us on his unexpected pathway to life.
It is one thing to be fixated with our own capacities and limits, and to think that life depends on what we make of it; it is something completely different to abandon ourselves to the Lord and be led by him along pathways that are completely unexpected and are not our own. I will never know how the Lord intends to lead me, how he intends me to progress, but the important thing is that he is calling me to let myself be led by him. This Sunday, we proclaim the joyous resurrection of Jesus, which is not a preconceived scheme, or a spiritual technique, but an act of abandonment. It involves handing ourselves over to him and allowing him to lead us to a fuller life, a life that no one will ever be able to take from us. When someone experiences the Easter of the Lord, he will never forget it again. When our pain or our oppression has been illuminated by the power and providence of the paternity of the Lord, then it will remain with us forever. The Christian celebrates Easter over and over again because the seas part in front of us over and over again, the tomb opens in front of us many times, and that which seemed the end becomes a new beginning.

Friday, 26 March 2021

March 28th 2021.  Palm Sunday
PROCESSIONAL GOSPEL   Mk 11:1-10

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

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

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PROCESSIONAL GOSPEL   Mk 11:1-10
When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, 
he sent two of his disciples and said to them, 
"Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, 
you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone should say to you, 'Why are you doing this?' reply,
'The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.'"
So they went off  and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, 
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, 
and they permitted them to do it.
So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it.
And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, 
and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!"
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

SUMMARY . . . On Palm Sunday of Year B we read the Passion of Our Lord from Mark’s Gospel and so begins Holy Week, which finds its maximum expression in the Easter Triduum. From a literary point of view, all four Gospels are really a long introduction to the account of the Passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord. The liturgy of Holy Week normally envisages the dynamic participation of the faithful. The procession on Palm Sunday should begin outside the Church and move through the streets of the neighbourhood. This year, our movements will be very much restricted on account of the pandemic. However, we can still participate bodily by shaking the palm branches at the appropriate times, kneeling during the account of the death of Jesus, kissing the cross, fasting on Good Friday and having a festive vigil on Saturday night. In order to celebrate these events fully, it is important that we enter into these bodily gestures. Why? Because the salvation that the Lord offers us is not an intellectual thing! If we try to approach the events of Holy Week in an intellectual way, it will slip through our grasp and will have no effect upon us. Christ loved us by undertaking the Passion with his body, not with an abstract discourse. He gave us bread and wine as true sacramental signs of his body and blood. Prostrate in Gethsemane, he offered himself to the Father with his entire body. He was beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross. With his body, he passed through the events of Easter and arrived at the resurrection and the Father. The salvation of Christ is not assimilated by reading a book or attending a conference. It is assimilated in the sacraments which trigger the working of grace in our lives. Tertullian said that the flesh is the hinge of salvation. If we wish this Holy Week to be meaningful then we must participate in its liturgies with our bodies. Sometimes it is good when the Lord strips us of what we have so that we can appreciate the things that matter. Easter must become tattooed and engraved on our bodies, for it is in our bodies that we have been loved by Christ. And with our bodies we can give glory to Christ by loving in return. This Holy Week is an appeal to enter into the fullness of life. We love with acts, not simply with sentiments. A sentiment which does not transform itself into acts is simply a transient state of soul. The Lord loved us with his entire body and his love is concrete.

The passion and death of Jesus is at the heart of the Gospel. This is not a passage to be read on an intellectual level. It must be lived, and for that reason we are asked to enter into the liturgy with our bodies
Palm Sunday is dedicated to the proclamation of the Passion. Literally speaking, the Gospels are long preparations for the narration of Our Lord's Passover, at which point the rhythm and intensity of the story clearly change. This proclamation is the heart of the Gospel, and it must always be remembered that passion and death are only a part of a single story, which, without the resurrection, is incomplete. There are essential elements in these texts that go beyond their vocal proclamation. In fact, vocal proclamation is not sufficient: one must "celebrate" this story; it is not enough to just read it or listen to it. It is not something to be comprehended solely with the mind, but something which must be lived. In fact, on Palm Sunday we are entering Holy Week, and it is an opening that has a lively and engaging liturgy. The event starts with a joyful procession and involves the use of palms. We are asked to kneel down when the story arrives at the point of Jesus' death, and we are asked to shake the palms during the Sanctus. The other liturgies of this week will introduce further gestures: the washing of the feet, the veneration of the cross on a day of fasting, and finally a festive night vigil. In short, it is a week when the whole body is invited to be involved, as always, in the liturgy. Because the salvation that Our Lord brings us is not just a different way of looking at things. With his body and through his body Christ saves us; and he saves our whole body, not just our intellect. It is in his true body that, passing through the events of Easter, he arrives at the Father.

Christ saved us with his body. He was anointed, gave us the bread and wine as sacramental signs of his body and blood, was beaten, spat upon, was crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross. With his body he loved us, and we are asked to respond with our bodies during these liturgies: through our fasting, our prayers, our physical and wholehearted participation in the liturgy.
He will receive perfume on his head, because the name “Christ” means "anointed with perfumed oil"; in the bread and wine he will give us the sacramental sign of his body and blood; prostrate in Gethsemane, he will invoke the heavenly Father with the intimate word of a child ("Abba"), while he hands himself over to the most terrible of fates; he will be betrayed with a kiss, they will lay their hands on him; and he will receive spits, blows and slaps; on his head will be placed a crown of thorns, and his hands and feet will be nailed to the cross. These are the essential features of the Passion as summarized in the Gospel of Mark. In his real body he will rise again, because in his real body he has been killed. The salvation he has wrought for us cannot be assimilated in a book or by attending a conference, but with the sacraments, with these liturgical acts that seal and trigger the works of grace in our lives. Tertullian, in the third century, said: Caro salutis est cardo, which means "the flesh is the cornerstone of salvation". If we approach Holy Week seeking to understand it intellectually, it will slip out of our hands and have no effect. In order for it to influence our existence, we must allow it to be written on our bodies, through liturgy, by acts of fasting, in genuine prayer, taking advantage of the opportunities that Providence gives us to be in communion with others and do deeds of mercy. Easter is something that must be tattooed, engraved on the body. We have been loved with the body. With the body we love.

Friday, 19 March 2021

March 21st 2021.  Fifth Sunday of Lent

GOSPEL   John 12:20-33
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 12:20-33
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honour whoever serves me.
"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

SHORTER HOMILY . . . On this fifth Sunday of Lent, we read from the long discourses of John’s Gospel which precede the Last Supper. Some Greeks ask to see Jesus. This theme of seeing or beholding Jesus is a favourite one of St John the Evangelist! In the Prologue of his Gospel, we read that “the Word became flesh and we have seen his glory”. The first letter of John speaks of what our eyes have seen and our hands have touched. At the foot of the cross, John, the beloved disciple, testifies solemnly that he himself has seen the blood and water coming from the side of Christ. Later in the same Gospel, St Thomas, in order to enter into the fullness of faith, places his finger in the wound of Christ and experiences it directly. In all of these cases, it is a personal experience of Christ that transforms everything. This direct beholding of God was lost to humanity after the Fall. After the sin in the garden of Eden, Adam hides himself. When God calls out, “Adam, where are you?” it is the anguished cry of a father who has lost his son. The Old Testament is really the story of a humanity who is seeking to rediscover the face of God again. The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the intimacy between the Father and the Son. What is it to see the face of God? Is it something intellectually satisfying or aesthetically pleasing? No, it is to see a Son who trusts in the Father, and a Father who does not abandon his Son. In the Gospel, Jesus knows that he is about to be crucified on account of sin. Our existence is a constant effort to run from our destiny, to escape death, to deny our vulnerability. Just think of the anguish this pandemic is causing! At the heart of every act, we are struggling with our mortality and fear of death. This often leads to depression and anguish, the sensation of having no way out. How does Jesus respond when he finds himself confronted by death? He entrusts himself into the hands of the Father, confident that he will not be abandoned. This is the source of the glory of Christ! These Greeks want to see Christ. What is it to see Christ? To see a Son who trusts in his Father. If we try to affront the darkest things of life with our own resources, we will fail continually. But if we see in the darkest situation in front of us an occasion to walk behind Christ, then the situation is transformed. Death and suffering are the places where we entrust ourselves to the Father, confident that he is always with us and for us. In these places, the Father is waiting for us so that his name might be glorified in us.

LONGER HOMILY FOLLOWS

Jeremiah speaks of a new Covenant when the law will be written in our hearts. But how can we get to the point of observing God’s ways from our hearts, out of love and not out of obligation?
In this fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear the beautiful prophecy from the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah concerning the new covenant, the covenant that will finally put into the heart of man the wisdom of God: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts”. How can a law be written in our hearts? When we speak of law, we are usually referring to a code that is observed physically and externally in a certain way. But there is a big difference between observing a norm because I am constrained to do so, and observing something that I cherish in my heart. It is the difference between legalistically observing a norm of behaviour and following that same pattern of behaviour out of love, because one has understood the norm to its depths. But how do we get to the stage of observing the norms because they are beautiful, because they have become part of us?

The Gospel, at first sight, seems to have a different theme. Jesus speaks of falling to the ground and dying in order to produce new life. And this is essentially the same point that we find in Jeremiah. In order to have the life of the new covenant in our hearts, we must die to our old ways
The Gospel seems to have another theme altogether, but if we reflect on the Gospel in its profundity, then we discover otherwise. The story of the Gospel has arrived at the point where even the Greek visitors to Jerusalem are asking about Jesus. Everyone is talking about him and wants to see him. Jerusalem is the place of the cult with great numbers of visitors, and many people wish to know if Jesus is the Messiah. Word comes to Jesus that some Greeks wish to see him, but his response is very strange. He says that the time has come for him to be glorified. “Truly I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.” What is all of this about? Why is Jesus talking about death, about losing oneself? Unless a seed goes into a state of decomposition, it cannot become the plant. Jesus must die in order to manifest his glory. He must be annihilated in order to show that he is everything. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” In order to arrive at the new wisdom, in order to have love in our hearts so that we no longer do things solely out of obligation, in order to have new life, the old life must die. It is pointless to think that the new covenant, the beauty of the new relationship with God, can coexist with the way we were originally. We only recognize the power of God when we renounce our own power. When do we experience the power of God? When we cease trying to rely on our own resources. “Dying” in this sense does not mean dying biologically but serving and following the Lord Jesus.

The Greeks thought that Jesus was a spectacle to be casually observed, but we cannot truly encounter God unless we empty ourselves.
We are honoured by the Father when we give Him His rightful value. The word “honour” in Hebrew means to attribute to something its rightful value. It is only when we abandon our own lives into the hands of God that we, to the depths of our being, allow Him to give His life for us.  It is only then, like the seed, when we allow ourselves to be by broken down and destroyed, when we are taken to the point of nothingness, that we can become completely His. The Lord Jesus empties Himself completely because in us there is always something lacking. Easter and the time of resurrection are coming soon, so this is the time to open ourselves to this moment of transition. We must allow this phase of annihilation, of annulment, to happen. In order for Jesus to arrive at the glory of the resurrection, He had to pass the oblivion of the tomb. Jesus had the omnipotence of God within Him but it was left aside at the time of the crucifixion and death. The hands that were capable of healing were nailed to the wood. The feet that walked new paths were rendered immobile. The heart that was capable of such love was torn apart. He gave himself completely. How can a man truly love a woman without giving himself completely? How can a woman be a genuine spouse to her husband without giving everything and holding nothing back for herself? And how can God be our true God if we do not give Him our lives? The Greeks in the Gospel treated the Lord as a spectacle to be seen, but in reality one cannot encounter God unless one empties himself before God. This is not an act of the will or an exertion of the muscles, but an act of abandonment. What we really need to do is allow ourselves to be taken, allow ourselves to be saved, allow ourselves to be transfigured. We need to give Jesus everything and not resist Him any longer. We need to open the door, give Him the password, follow Him until He is truly our Lord. This is the road to Easter and new life.

Friday, 12 March 2021

March 14th 2021.  Fourth Sunday of Lent

GOSPEL   John 3:14-21

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

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

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GOSPEL   John 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,

but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,

because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the verdict,

that the light came into the world,

but people preferred darkness to light,

because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light

and does not come toward the light,

so that his works might not be exposed.

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,

so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

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

SHORTER HOMILY . . . On the fourth Sunday of Lent we hear one of the most profound texts of the New Testament: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The first reading, curiously, is not about this event in the desert but recounts another key moment: we hear how the shocking infidelity of Israel leads to the Babylonian exile, but the Lord brings the people back home through the action of Cyrus, King of Persia. Why was this event chosen for the first reading on Sunday? Because humanity needs to allow itself to be redeemed, ransomed and brought back from the exile of sin. In the story of the serpents in the desert, the people of Israel were disobedient to God and were grumbling. This led to them finding themselves among serpents. The cure for the snake bite was to look the bronze serpent in the face. Jesus does the same for us with the cross! Looking at Christ crucified, we see our sinfulness, our egoism, our idolatry. When we behold Jesus on the cross, we behold our own sins, accepted and forgiven by God. In the Christian life, we can digest meditations, conferences and spiritual techniques in industrial quantities. But what really counts is to have a real experience of the forgiveness of my personal sins by God. Humanity loves hiding in the shadows. Ever since the time of Adam we have constructed hideous garments to cover the state of our souls. Light is painful to those who are used to the shadows. Saul was pursuing his own way and considered himself to be righteous. The light of Christ actually blinded him, even though that light was his salvation. It is important for each one of us to come into that light and to see the state of our souls, our need to be ransomed by Christ. None of us should think he does not need to be ransomed in this way. We all have much to be ashamed of. There is only one thing we need to do about our sinfulness and that is to illuminate it with the light of God, who so loved the world as to give what was most precious to him, his only begotten Son. He became sin for our sake and took all our evil upon himself. We can go on defending our own image, our own presentability, and never allow ourselves to be touched in our deepest and most hidden selves by grace. In this time of Lent and on this Sunday of Joy, there is no joy greater than the forgiveness of God! Let us not fear the light, let us experience the forgiveness of God, not intellectually, but concretely in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament that returns us to our baptismal state, restoring us to our status as children of God. This Sunday we have the joy of forgiveness to celebrate and welcome.

LONGER HOMILY FOLLOWS

SUMMARY: The first reading tells of the exile to Babylon. This event is absolutely central to understanding the Old Testament. The people and priests are guilty of infidelity after infidelity until the anger of God reaches its limit and the people are carried off into exile. Why did the exile happen? For a variety of political and military reasons? No! Scripture is very clear: the exile happened because the people disparaged the benevolence and love of God for them. We too think that we have dozens of different problems, but in reality we have only one: our failure to believe and accept God’s love for us. This is what causes our “exile”, our unhappiness, our brokenness. Our preoccupation with our own self-realization leads us to ignore the love and compassion of God for us. The Gospel this Sunday proclaims the unconditional love of God for each of us: “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him would not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world so that the world might be condemned, but so that it might be saved through him”. The key to every spiritual challenge we face is our acceptance of God’s loving salvation unveiled for us by the face of Jesus.


The exile is of great significance in the Old Testament. It is the key to reading many of the Messianic texts and to understanding the structure of the entire Hebrew Bible.

In this fourth Sunday of Lent we hear the marvellous dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. The Gospel is prepared by the first reading from the second book of Chronicles. It is worth noting that this is the last book in the Hebrew Bible, so we are reading some of the last words in the Old Testament as far as the people of Israel were concerned. The reading describes the beginning and end of the terrible event of the exile. It is not possible to understand the structure of the Old Testament, the promises concerning the Messiah and the mentality underpinning the texts unless we take into account the significance of the exile. In the history of Israel there are many moments of darkness and light, tribulation and exultation, but the exile is a paradigm which has a particular significance.

The exile happened because the people did not accept the loving compassion of their God. After seventy years in exile they matured and their hearts returned to the Lord.

The description in the first reading is very densely summarised. The people and the priests of Israel were guilty of infidelity upon infidelity, committing the same abominations as others peoples and contaminating the Temple. The Lord in his compassion sent messenger after messenger to warn the people, but these were rejected until the anger of the Lord against his people reached its limit. As a consequence, the enemies of Israel demolished the walls of Jerusalem and entered the Temple. The people were put to the sword or carried off to slavery in Babylon. We could say that the ones who were sent into exile were those who disparaged prophecy, those who did not appreciate the special loving care of God towards his people. And then the text ends with these words: “In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfil the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,  the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!’” There is a people who went into exile and, by the generous providence of God, there is a people who returned from exile. What is it that caused the people to be sent into exile? Their disparagement of the love of God for them. What permits them to return from exile? The loving care of God. Only now the people are able to take this love seriously. During the seventy years of exile, the people mature a lot and learn many lessons. Scripture has many testimonies to the benefits that accrued as a result of this period of correction.

The real problem of humanity is its rejection of the love of God. This is what causes our “exile” and belief in God’s love helps us to return!

The Gospel too proclaims that there is a way back, a way of light, a way to reach salvation. This salvation impinges on the central problem of humanity. Was the event of the exile in Babylon the result of economic, political or military factors? No. Scripture tells us that it was a result of the rejection of the benevolence of God. As the Gospel says, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him would not die but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world so that the world might be condemned, but so that it might be saved through him”. Belief in the love of God, belief that God desires to save us, belief in his benevolence: this is what permits us to return from exile! What is the real tragedy of man? This or that pain, disaster or setback? No! The real tragedy is that we do not believe that God loves us dearly. Our love of anger, our attachment to complaining, our tendency to wallow in negative attitudes instead of welcoming the tender love of the Lord for us. It is vital that we believe that God is saving us in every single event of our lives! He does not forget us. He is love and treats us as his dearest children . In Jesus Christ, God has made his face known. The key to every spiritual challenge we encounter is to believe in the love of God and his goodness.

This Sunday, the unconditional love of God for you and me is proclaimed!

We tend to think that we have dozens of problems, but the only thing that ultimately determines our happiness is whether we open ourselves to receive his tenderness. God can only offer us his love. If he forces it upon us then it is not love. The love of the Lord is offered as a gift, but like any gift we can take it or leave it. How many books have been given to us as gifts that we have not even opened! And it is the same with the love of God. We do not accept this gift because we are too preoccupied by our own affairs. This Sunday the unconditional, generous offer of salvation is proclaimed. Jesus shows us the face of God. He unveils the fact that none of us should feel left out of salvation. All can be saved because all are loved! We all have the capacity to say no. It is a really vital matter that we welcome this beautiful invitation. In Sunday’s Gospel, God presents himself as someone who implores us, saying: “Welcome me. Believe me. Allow yourself to be loved by me”.

Friday, 5 March 2021

March 7th 2021.  Third Sunday of Lent

GOSPEL   John 2:13-25

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 2:13-25

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,

Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,

as well as the money changers seated there.

He made a whip out of cords

and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,

and spilled the coins of the money changers

and overturned their tables,

and to those who sold doves he said,

"Take these out of here,

and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."

His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,

Zeal for your house will consume me.

At this the Jews answered and said to him,

"What sign can you show us for doing this?"

Jesus answered and said to them,

"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."

The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,

and you will raise it up in three days?"

But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,

his disciples remembered that he had said this,

and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,

many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.

But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,

and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.

He himself understood it well.

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

SHORTER HOMILY . . . In the Gospel, Jesus chases the sellers out of the Temple area and says, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”. The theme of purification is central to John’s Gospel. It is a very Paschal theme, since it regards preparation for true liberation from the state of slavery or sin. We need the Lord to liberate us from the many “sellers” that we have in our hearts! What is very important here is the theme of the memory of the disciples, which is mentioned at two different points in the passage. Jesus connects the act of purifying the Temple with the business of the purification of the hearts of people. And the purification of our hearts requires that our memories be purified by the reception of God’s word. Memory is essential to the person. If our memories are changed then our character is changed. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will bring to their memories all the things that Jesus has told them. The Holy Spirit purifies us by acting on the sick areas of our memory and cleansing them. Inside our minds, we have a little weighing scales which is constantly calculating what we think we are owed, what we have received, what we have given. But when a person begins to become conscious of the unconditional love and grace that God has been bestowing on us all our lives, only then does his heart cease to be a place of business and becomes instead a place of love! This Lent, it is essential that we confront those dark areas in our memories. We need to stop calculating those things that we believe have been denied us or taken from us, these secondary things that distract us from the history of love that God has been pouring out on us. We need Jesus to purify our hearts by changing the way we interpret our past. In the light of the resurrection, the disciples see things differently. We too must interpret our lives in the context of the salvation and mercy of God. Let us allow our memories to be illuminated by the zeal of the Lord for our hearts! All of our pasts are stories of the patience, mercy and tenderness of the Lord towards us, if we could only see it clearly! When our memory is illuminated by the pardon and mercy of God, then we become people of peace and love; we become a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirt is diffused on those who surround us.

LONGER HOMILY FOLLOWS

Is there one commandment which goes beyond all the others?

On this third Sunday of Lent, Year B, we hear the dramatic Gospel recounting the purification of the Temple by Jesus. It is interesting that John has this event at the beginning of his Gospel, whilst the other Gospels place this scene in the last week of Jesus’ life close to the completion of his mission. But John describes this very serious event immediately after the account of the wedding feast at Cana. The first reading has the proclamation of the Ten Commandments. An interesting question to ask ourselves is: “What verse or phrase encapsulates the entire Gospel?” Of course, it is not possible to find a single phrase of this sort, but nevertheless it can be a helpful way to deepen our understanding of the Gospel. A similar question is: “Is there a commandment that helps us enter more deeply into the other nine commandments?”  The last two commandments (which are ordered differently in the classic account from Exodus than the numbering normally used by the Christian churches) demand that we not desire the wife or property of our neighbour. They can be collapsed into a single commandment that requires that we not desire what belongs to others. Could this be the most important commandment? How could such an assertion be justified? There is a celebrated rabbinic commentary that discusses this very issue. A disciple puts a question to his rabbi: “Why does the blessed Isaiah tell us not to desire the house, livestock or slave of our neighbour? He had already instructed us not to steal. Moreover, why did he tell us not to desire the wife of our neighbour when he had already told us not to commit adultery? Perhaps the holy and blessed Isaiah has given us commandments that are superfluous?” The rabbi responds: “By means of the other commandments the blessed Isaiah has shown us the transgressions that we are to avoid, but in this final commandment he tells us the origin of all the other commandments: desire, that which is in the heart”.

Jesus wishes to purify my heart, since it is the origin of everything that I do

In the last line of the Gospel for Sunday, we are told: “But Jesus would not trust himself to  them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” In other passage from the Gospel we hear that it is not that which enters the mouth that contaminates man, but that which proceeds from the heart. Where does our tragedy have its source? Our robberies, our adulteries, our homicides? All of these things are simply the result of what we have in our hearts. It is by our desires that we are crucified. Jesus’ purification of the Temple is a forerunner to another kind of purification, the purification of our hearts. And if we do not experience this purification, then everything that we do is a waste of time. Until our hearts are rid of that which produces our destruction, we will never be happy.

We must enter into our baptism, be purified by Jesus, so that our hearts are changed and begin to have the desires of the Holy Spirit. These desires will regenerate our lives and reorient our being

Often our lives are miserable not because they are miserable in themselves, but because we want them to be different than they are. How often we are dissatisfied, angry and frustrated only because our lives do not correspond to our own expectations. What is it that crucifies man? His expectations. Not reality, but what he expects from reality. Jesus discovers that the Temple has been exploited for gain and advantage, and the Lord must perform his task of the reconstruction of things, the reconstruction of this Temple which is humanity. Our experience of baptism, if assumed by us, if welcomed by us, becomes the basis of a radical re-foundation of our being. Beginning from our hearts, our baptism engenders in us different desires, as described in Galatians 5. These desires of the Spirit involve a reorientation of our being. We might try to change ourselves from the outside; we might seek to be faithful by applying ourselves with more determination; by not looking at what is not ours, not doing the things prohibited by the Law; but it is the heart that is the origin of all these things! It is the heart that is sick and is the origin of all our suffering, the heart that is the source of these desires that do not come from the Holy Spirit!

We need Jesus to drive these merchants of material things from our heart. We try to allow these material fixations to cohabit our hearts along with our religious sentiments. But such a condition will lead us nowhere. We need Jesus to purify us, which involves a dying on our part. Only Jesus can liberate us so that our hearts are filled with the desires of the Spirit

Jesus needs to give a hiding to some of the merchants, the sellers who focus on material gain, that dwell in our hearts. This Lent let us receive from the Lord Jesus the gift of being purified by him. Jesus knows what is in our hearts and is capable of giving us new desires. Through his word he can bring to fruition a new orientation in our hearts. If this does not happen, then we will end up going nowhere. And the problem is that we are inclined to allow these merchants to cohabit alongside the Temple. The work Jesus wishes to do is chase these merchants away from the Temple. We try to allow worldliness and Godliness to stay together side by side. Our egocentric desires, directed to our own self-realization, sitting side by side with the true God? No, this is not possible! Purification requires a dying on our part, a destruction. Let us allow ourselves to be “destroyed” by the Lord and challenged by his word. Let us permit Jesus to enter our hearts with the cord, correct us and tell us what we need to hear, fertilize the Good News within us. This Sunday the liturgy speaks powerfully to our hearts. Our hearts must be liberated by the only one who knows how to renew them, the only one who can transform them from hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.


Friday, 26 February 2021

February 28th 2021.  Second Sunday of Lent

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

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

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GOSPEL Mark 9:2-20
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

SHORTER HOMILY . . . The Gospel on Sunday describes the transfiguration of Christ. The first reading also has the story of the ascent of a mountain: the sacrifice of Isaac. The call to sacrifice Isaac comes at the end of a long process of difficulties and trials. A son is born to Abraham and Sarah, despite their great age, but then God calls Abraham to offer this precious son in sacrifice. They are living in the land of Canaan, which is populated by gods who demand human sacrifices from their adherents. Do we consider it strange that the tribes of Canaan made sacrifices of children to their idols? The sacrifice of children is commonplace nowadays. Many people today find themselves at the end of their lives with few or no offspring. Their idols demanded the sacrifice of their children, either by refusing to have any, or by terminating the ones they had already generated. What are these idols that we adore? Our worldly interests, fears and anxieties. We pursue them instead of God, because we consider God to be a harsh taskmaster. But God is always much different to what we expect. As Abraham discovers, it is only when we abandon our lives to God that we realize that he does not want our life; he wants our heart! If God seems to be asking something from us, it is only because he wants to give us much more. 
    This is a prelude to understanding the transfiguration. What is essential for Lent? The most urgent thing in the spiritual life is always to change our ideas about God. When Abraham comes down the mountain with Isaac, he knows God in a different way. Peter, James and John must ascend the mountain with Jesus to discover that the Lord has a different face to the one they imagine. In Eden, the serpent destroyed in Eve the image of God by speaking negatively of him. The action of the Holy Spirit is the opposite: he speaks well of God and we discover him to be Father. It is only after the resurrection that the disciples realize that the transfiguration event was an authentic experience of prayer in which their image of God was transformed: they experienced the fatherhood of God. Let us take it step by step. First, Jesus takes them away from the world. This process of being taken out, separated, is always an essential aspect of prayer. Then they encounter Moses and Elijah, who represent Sacred Scripture (the Law and the Prophets). These Scriptures speak of Jesus, revealing who he is. Then Peter remarks that it is beautiful to be here. What they are experiencing is not just a matter of rational comprehension of Jesus, but a beautiful encounter with him. The Father then speaks, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him”. The word “listen” in Hebrew always includes the element of obedience. 
    So what is this wonderful time of Lent calling us to? To know the face of Christ so that we begin to obey him. To see his beauty, to be happy to be with him, to want to always be with him, in acts of obedience, acts of abandonment to his sacred will. 

LONGER HOMILY FOLLOWS

The Transfiguration is a revelation of who Jesus is at the deepest level
The second Sunday of Lent is traditionally reserved for the account of the Transfiguration. But what has the Transfiguration got to do with the subject of the first reading – the sacrifice of Isaac? Why does holy mother Church consider this reading a good way to approach the mystery described in the Gospel? The true etymological meaning of “transfiguration” is that of metamorphosis – to go beyond something’s form. In other words, to change a reality, not by replacing it, but by going beyond what it already is, or how it appears – in a certain sense, to unveil the truth. The disciples see Jesus “beyond the form”, beyond what is visible. St Paul tells us to fix our gaze on invisible things. By the grace of God, Peter, James and John are able to see who Jesus is in a profound way. They perceive his mysterious reality and hear the voice of the Father. In the Old Testament, the voice of God represented his most intimate form of revelation.

The Transfiguration of Christ is intimately related to the transfiguration of humanity
What was the motive for the Transfiguration? In his letters, St Paul says that from glory to glory we are transfigured into his image. But are we talking about the transfiguration of Christ or our own transfiguration? Are these two separate things? What is our transfiguration? From the moment when God first calls Abraham in Chapter 12 of Genesis, it is the transfiguration of Abraham by God that is in progress. He is an elderly man with no sons and a sterile wife. His life seems to be at a dead end, but he will become the father of a nation and the progenitor of many descendants. His very name will be transformed. “I will make your name great”, says the Lord. This is the meaning of transfiguration – the work of God in us.

It is God alone who removes the veil and reveals our true beauty, our true paternity. It is in encountering his beauty that we become beautiful ourselves
Where does it lead us? In the case of Abraham, he seemed the lowest in every sense, and yet he had in himself the potential to be the father of a great nation. It is God alone who can reveal who we are. Each one of us needs God to reveal who we are. We need the experience of God to lead us to our beauty, to our true paternity, to the greatness of our name. Every woman and man has a wonderful grandeur, but it is God alone who can make this beauty reveal itself. How does this happen? The eventual transfiguration of Peter, James and John will occur when they come to know the true face of Christ. Curiously we are transformed, not by working on ourselves, but by encountering the Lord. When he changes in our eyes, we too are changed. When we see his beauty we become beautiful ourselves. In his first letter, John says that we don’t know yet what we will become but we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. What a curious thing!

Like the pagan gods, our materialistic gods demand the sacrifice of our children through abortion, neglect, or the refusal to conceive
It is often forgotten by many commentators that the Canaan in which Abraham lived had gods like Baal and Moloch who demanded human sacrifice. It was normal for the Canaanites to offer their first-born sons to their false gods. Our modern idolatry demands the sacrifice of children as well. To advance our careers we renounce children. If a life is not exactly as we hoped it would be, then we abort our children. There is nothing new about this. For money we sacrifice our children. Our careers demand the sacrifice of children. Worldly success demands children, children that are never born, or aborted, or neglected. We do not take care of them because the idols of this world demand our attention. The Canaan in which Abraham lived offered their first-born to the Gods. When God asks Abraham for his son, he seems to be a god just like the others. Abraham will discover that his God is completely different, but he will only make this discovery when he has shown himself completely willing to sacrifice his son. Many people are horrified when they read this account, but the person who was least surprised at God’s demand was Abraham himself! When God said, “Take your son and give him to me”, Abraham simply takes him and begins the journey. The gods, after all, all asked for that which one was most attached to; they made humanity pay the necessary taxes for existence. Abraham obeys and climbs the mountain, and there he discovers that God does not demand this sacrifice at all.

At the sacrifice of Isaac, God reveals to Abraham that he is a God of love who does not ask anything from us, but only wishes to give. Whenever we undergo a trial and are afraid, let us trust in the Lord and then we will be transfigured; we shall see his face, and when we encounter his beauty, we too will become beautiful
In Jesus Christ we will discover eventually that the Father does not demand the firstborn son but offers us his own. The ram that Abraham finds caught in the bushes is a sign of the providence of the Lord: he will provide the sacrifice. On this mountain, the Lord reveals to Abraham who he is. It is not simply the mountain where God does not ask for the life of Abraham’s son: it is the place where Abraham follows the Lord to the limit and where God reveals himself as the one who gives life. He is not like Moloch who demands the firstborn son. The true God is the one who offers his own son. It is here that Abraham truly becomes the father of a multitude because of what the Lord is doing with him. We too discover that the Lord does not require anything at all from us. He only wants to give to us, and when he appears to ask for something, it is only because he wants to give us more. If he seems to be asking a sacrifice from us and we are afraid, then let us trust in him, because it is in these situations that we will see his face, and when we see his face, we will be transfigured. The transfiguration of man is the encounter with God which draws out his authentic beauty, an encounter in which he discovers that God is much different than he thought. He is a God who does not ask for anything, but has so much to give us.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection