Friday, 8 October 2021

October 10th 2021. TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

GOSPEL: Mark 10:17-30

Translation of a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

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Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel.

 

GOSPEL                                    Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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

 

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

1. In order to love, we must leave aside all else

A rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, to possess life to the fullest. It is interesting that Jesus begins by pointing to the commandments, to the fact that obedience to God is the first requisite. This requires forgetting one’s own mindset and submitting to the plan of salvation of God. Jesus then lists the commandments that are directed towards right relationship with one’s neighbour. The young man replies that he has kept all of these. Why has the observance of these laws not brought life to this man? Because he has observed the word of God without entering into relationship with God. In fact, Jesus looks at the young man with love and invites him to give up everything else in order to have the right attachment to Jesus. If a man wishes to love a woman, then he must place that love above everything else in his life. If a father wishes to love his children, then he must put everything else in second place. Money and possessions cannot be made the priority if we are to love authentically. We are unhappy failures if we put money before love. Possessions lead to slavery if they are not placed in the service of love.

 

2. The “eye of a needle” was a gate you entered on your knees without merchandise

The disciples begin to worry and ask Jesus how any of us can enter into life, because each one of us has many material attachments. Jesus then says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. Some scholars believe that the “eye of an needle” was the smallest gate of a city that was closed last in the evening after all the other gates were closed. This permitted people who arrived at the last minute to enter, but camels could only fit through it on their knees, with all of their merchandise unloaded. To pass through this door, a camel had to be carrying nothing. We too must carry nothing on our backs if we wish to enter the Kingdom! In order to enter into any relationship in a genuine way, we must leave other things aside. The reason the rich young man has not had life is because he has only observed the commandments; he has refused to leave the other things aside. Let us underline this: if we are to enter into life with Christ, we must put him in first place.

 

3. The emphasis of this Gospel is not on what we give up but what we receive in return

It is a mistake, however, to think that this Gospel focusses on renunciation. In reply to Peter, Jesus emphasizes that the central issue is not what the disciple has given up but the huge blessings he receives in return. When we allow ourselves to enter into a relationship with God, we receive much more than we give. This shedding of everything for the sake of the sake of the Lord seems difficult but everything is possible with God. Once we are with God, once we place ourselves in his presence, then we are able to freely detach ourselves. In fact, this freedom is in contrast to the sadness of the young man. We all have the same fear as this man of renouncing something, but in God we find the strength. Like the camel, let us shed our load and enter the city, for God is good, God is beautiful.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY . . . Jesus tells the rich young man that he can have life in the fullest sense if he keeps the commandments. The young man replies that he already keeps the commandments, thus showing that simple observance of rules has not given him life. This brings us to the crux of this Gospel: what kind of relationship must we have with God if that relationship is to bestow life in the fullest sense? Clearly, keeping commandments (as the young man has done) is not enough. The answer is provided by Jesus. Jesus looks at the young man with love and tells him to renounce his possessions and follow him. This is what Jesus wants from us: a relationship of love. If we love someone, then we do not say to them, “I love you to this extent only. There are certain things that I have that you cannot share. There are certain things to which I am attached, and I am not willing to give up these attachments for you”. The relationship with Jesus must be total if it is to be authentic. This is what Jesus is saying to the young man. The young man simply keeps the rules but is not attached to God. He is too attached to his possessions. If we do not serve God then we will serve something else. If we do not draw life from God then we will try to draw it from somewhere else. We are all attached to our physical well-being, our physical possessions, our esteem in the eyes of others. We try to draw life from these things and they are obstacles to our drawing life from God. Jesus looks at us with love and asks us to renounce all these lesser things, entering instead into a radical relationship of attachment to him.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

October 3rd 2021. Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL Mark 10:2-16

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

 

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

 

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GOSPEL Mark 10:2-16

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
"Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?"
They replied,
"Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her."
But Jesus told them,
"Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate."
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery."
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
"Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it."
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

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

 

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

 

1. This Gospel is for everyone because our nature is SPOUSAL.

The first reading from Genesis and the Gospel from Mark both speak of the call of married couples to indissoluble union. As always, the Gospel is not just relevant for one sector of humanity (married couples) but speaks to every person in every condition of life. Each one of us is challenged to deepen our understanding of our fundamentally spousal nature. St Paul tells us that the union of man and woman must be understood in the light of the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is all about the gift of oneself. In Italian, there is the expression, “You have not wed yourself to this plan”. Of course, you cannot marry an idea or a thing, but the expression refers to one’s self-involvement in a project. It is possible to live without ever entering into a spousal type of relationship. Some people have been married for decades without ever donating themselves to the other! On the other hand, there are single people who live lives of love, putting themselves entirely into the service of others. God issues a universal and radical call to do everything by giving ourselves, by offering ourselves, by uniting ourselves to others.

 

2. What stops us from true spousal behaviour? Hardness of heart

What opposes this universal call? The hardness of our hearts. At the very moment we need to be true to our call, we invent rules that permit us to be released from the bond. In moments of crisis, when it is hard to remain with the other person, our hearts harden and we return to the business of defending my own little space. Once we enter into marriage, we soon discover that reality is different to our dreams. The moment comes when we must transcend ourselves and enter into God’s plan for us, no longer being two separate people, but one flesh only, where we forget ourselves. We can go through life, selecting our relationships, uniting ourselves to others insofar as it suits us, rejecting the very things that we are called to do. The word “conjugal” has interesting origins. It means to have the same yoke (the instrument laid upon a beast of burden so that they will bear the weight of the load they are carrying). This requires that both walk at the same pace. If one beast of burden in a pair stops, then the other must stop also. Either the rhythm of my life is dictated by my own egotistical preoccupations or it is open to walking with others. How beautiful it is to do things together, to sing together, to do the little and large things of life together. This is the call of the Gospel.

 

3. We should have no fear of living in a spousal way; this is how Christ loves us

The passage ends with the disciples trying to stop people bringing children to Jesus. He rebukes them, saying, “To ones such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven”. What does he mean, that we take on attitudes that are infantile or immature? No. We are to welcome the Kingdom as a pure gift, without the tortuous suspicions of adults who wonder what God really wants from us. In fact, there is an ambiguity in the original Greek. It might mean, “to welcome the Kingdom as a child welcomes the Kingdom”, OR, “to welcome the Kingdom as you would welcome a child”. We should have no fear of the Kingdom, of God’s rule, no more than we fear a child. He calls us to live. The Gospel ends with Jesus embracing the children. Everything that Christ does is an echo of the love he receives from the Father, a love that he has brought to us so that we might love each other as Christ has loved us.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY . . . Would you try to climb the Himalayas with tennis shoes? No, but how often people in our world try to embark on the journey of marriage without being remotely equipped in the right way! In the Gospel this Sunday, the Scribes want to talk about how to escape from marriage once it has gone wrong. Jesus, instead, wants to return to the ultimate foundation of marriage, a matter of the heart. He takes a child, embraces it and places it in the centre of the discussion. We must first of all embrace Christ in a childlike way before we can embrace each other. The relationship with Jesus is the basis of the indissolubility of marriage and the eternity of all our other relationships. The problem is that we seek to undertake marriage on the basis of hormones or passions, but these come to an end all too quickly. If we try to found our relationships on the capabilities of our own flesh, then we will find that it is a very fragile foundation indeed. And if our marriage is in difficulty, then trying to straighten out some of its superficial features can only have very limited success. The solution to marriage problems is to return to the origin of marriage: God’s love for us, his forgiveness, and his call to us to love and forgive each other. This is the true source of the indissolubility of marriage.

Friday, 24 September 2021

September 26th 2021. Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL Mark 9:38-43, 47-48

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


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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)


GOSPEL Mark 9:38-43, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"

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

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

1. The Kingdom is inherently open to all, not just to an exclusive elite.

In the first reading, Joshua demands that Moses not allow unauthorized persons to utter prophecies. Moses replies, “Are you jealous on my account? How I wish that all were prophets in Israel!” The zeal of Joshua failed to see that which really counted. In the Gospel, we have a similar zealous reaction of the disciples, who wish to impede someone who is not part of their group, but is casting out demons. In reply, Jesus gives a lesson on a fundamental aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven: if God did not have an inclusive mentality, none of us would be saved. If the Kingdom of Heaven did not have an inherent openness to everyone who wished to enter, then we would all be in trouble!

2. Jesus uses very strong language to emphasize what counts

Jesus first demands this inclusivity, then he goes on to speak about the good which this man is doing. If anyone carries a cup of water in Jesus name, he will not lose his reward! Following this, Jesus’ discourse become very serious and challenging: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” He says similar things about the eye and the foot. Why these harsh sayings? Because it would be better to lose a hand than to exclude a brother or sister, to forbid access to a little one who just might enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That which really counts is communion with our brothers and sisters, not etiquette or party membership. If we place reasons, principles or abstract ideas above communion then we have gone astray. Our association arises from something cold and dry, not from life itself.

3. Communion requires circumcision of the heart, a cutting away of self-absorption

Jesus then says that it is better to enter into life without an eye, a hand or a foot, than not to enter at all. The Jewish people practiced circumcision, the removal of a piece of flesh, in order to enter into the Covenant with the Lord.  Similarly, for us to enter into life, we need to undergo a circumcision. Part of our heart, part of our actions (the hand), part of our way of seeing things (the eye), part of the way of life that we follow (the foot), that are not compatible with communion must be cut off. In a certain sense, one always enters life lame, blind or without hands. And this form of renunciation is essential if we are to avoid the delirium of being part of an exclusive set. The elitist group cuts off those who are not part of the group, but Jesus is asking us to make the cut within ourselves, to stop thinking in terms of superior/inferior, us/them. We are Catholic, and the word means “universal”. It is in our DNA to be inclusive, in truth and in love. Communion, the reaching out to others, is always more important than abstract principles.

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY . . . The disciples are upset because someone is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But they ignore the fact that this person is doing good and instead object to the fact that he does not belong to their special “club”. Exclusivity is a common problem in religious circles. We insist that people conform to certain conditions before they can belong to our elite group. People get a sense of belonging and a sense of identity by membership in groups that exclude others. Adolescents sometimes do terrible things in order to belong to a certain group or to show public conformity to a certain ethos. Jesus condemns this behaviour in very strong terms. The language he uses is paradoxical because that is how the Semites communicate things. The Bible is a complex work that requires a refined level of interpretation. It is not to be read in simplistic, superficial or fundamentalist terms. Jesus does not want us to pluck out our eyes, cut off our hands or chop off our feet. But he wants to tell us that it would be preferable to lose a limb or an eye rather than lose one of our brothers or sisters. The Holy Spirit leads to communion, not to exclusion. In fact, Jesus not only lost a hand, foot or eye but had his whole body nailed to the cross in order to bring all people into loving communion with his heavenly Father.

Friday, 17 September 2021

September 19th  2021. Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL: Mark 9, 30-37

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

 

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

 

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)


GOSPEL: Mark  9, 30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

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

 

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

1. We do not want to embrace the kind of life that Jesus is calling us to.

In the first reading from Wisdom, we hear how the godless persecute the just man and put him to the test, to see if he is truly the son of God. This prepares us for the Gospel. Chapter 9 of Mark’s Gospel has the third announcement of Christ’s Passion. Here, Jesus is being very specific. The Son of Man is to be given into the custody of men, when he will be killed before rising on the third day. The disciples do not understand but are afraid to question him. This is the fear we all experience when we do not want to go beyond our customary mode of survival, our own ideas, our own mentality, to a deeper and more authentic form of existence.

 

2. We all make something the centre of our existence. Often, it is comparison to others that becomes our fixation.

Later, Jesus asks them what they were discussing on the road. They were debating which of them was the greatest. This is a microcosm of ecclesial life! For any of us to live, we must have a source of life. If we do not make God the source and centre of our life, if abandonment to the Fatherhood of God is not the wellspring of our existence, then we turn to other things, such as carnal pleasures. Eventually, we begin to seek meaning in being superior in some sense to others, in constant comparisons of myself to the people around me. Thus we live by seeking to assure ourselves that others are lesser than me. How many of our “Christian” projects, for all their appearances of worth, are really directed towards self-promotion and self-gratification. The effort to be the first among the disciples is an effort of this sort.

 

3. It is through love, which involves making ourselves last, that we find fulfilment.

Jesus responds by saying that he who wishes to be first must put himself in last place. He agrees that the desire to be the greatest is itself acceptable. It is right that we should seek as much as possible in life, to want things that really count. Ok! Let’s be the greatest! How? By being the servant of all, just as Christ is the first but makes himself last. Then Jesus takes a child, embraces it, and says that whoever welcomes a child like this, welcomes Christ and the Father who sent him. This is a key message. Our call is to welcome other people, not compete with them. From the time of Adam and Eve, we have sought to be like God. But the key is to be with God, to be with other people, not superior to them or in competition with them. The drive for victory, for self-affirmation, is not the life of the Spirit. In the Our Father, Jesus teaches us that God’s name be held holy before all else. It is not our name that we must seek to promote. True joy does not come in victory but in love. When we love, we cease to be the centre; service becomes the centre. That which gives us the most fulfilment in life is to truly welcome another, putting his needs before my own. We are not talking about a slavish, servile existence, but authentic love. Whenever you welcome someone as you would welcome a child, then you welcome God himself.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY . . . Jesus teaches his disciples the fundamental Paschal mystery: he must be handed over to be killed, but he will rise again after three days. The disciples do not understand, but still do not bother to ask the Lord to explain. We prefer not to enter into the crux of life! We prefer to remain on the surface and live our Christianity in a superficial way. This is highlighted by what happens next: the disciples start to argue about which of them is the greatest! Jesus is telling them about the life that comes through the cross, but they are fixated with the “life” that comes from their own egos! The glory we obtain from being “greater” than others is shallow and limited compared to the glory of the children of God that comes from following Jesus. In response, the Lord places a child in the midst of the disciples and embraces him. This gesture of welcome is the key to the faith. In fact, the word “welcome” is repeated by Jesus four times. We must welcome what the Father is sending us. We must embrace it and value it. The key to the Christian life is not our activities and initiatives but our openness and welcome of the crosses that God sends us.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

September 12th 2021. Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL Mark 8:27-35

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


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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)


GOSPEL Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out

for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.

Along the way he asked his disciples,

"Who do people say that I am?"

They said in reply,

"John the Baptist, others Elijah,

still others one of the prophets."

And he asked them,

"But who do you say that I am?"

Peter said to him in reply,

"You are the Christ."

Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them

that the Son of Man must suffer greatly

and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,

and be killed, and rise after three days.

He spoke this openly.

Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,

rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan.

You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for my sake

and that of the gospel will save it."

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

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

1.THE CROSSROADS OF EVERY DAY: SURRENDER TO GOD OR DEFEND MYSELF. The readings this week are very serious and challenge us to enter into the right relationship with the things that happen to us. The first reading from Isaiah (usually read in Holy Week) speaks of a suffering servant, a prefigurement of Christ, who opens his ear and does not offer resistance to what is happening to him, offering his back to those who strike him and his cheek to those who tear at his beard. The point is that this man has his ears open and is aware that all of history is in the hands of God. “Who will accuse me?” the servant asks, “for God is close to me and he will come to my aid”. We are at this crossroads regularly in life: will I entrust myself to God in what is happening, or defend my little corner? In the Gospel, Peter confesses his faith in Christ, but, in the next moment, is called “Satan” by Christ. Jesus had just asked Peter to remain silent about his divine identity. Why? Shouldn’t we broadcast the identity of Christ from the rooftops, using all the social media tools that we can? Indiscriminate dissemination of information about Christ is of questionable value, because the real issue is not to obtain information but to enter into a relationship with Jesus. In fact, salvation is not information but a place of death, the cross, where we encounter life. In order to be saved, we must learn to respond to the difficult and embarrassing situations that life places in front of us.

2. THE FAITH IS NOT AN INSURANCE POLICY AGAINST PROBLEM

Why does Peter not think as God does but as men do? It is comical that Peter takes Jesus to one side to tell him what he should say or not say! Jesus tells Peter to get behind and follow him, not vice-versa. When each one of us is confronted with suffering, we have a tendency not to open the ear, as the servant did in the first reading; we say to ourselves, “This shouldn’t happen to me”. We transform the faith into an insurance policy against problems and our prayers are pleas for our problems and our sufferings to be resolved. Such prayers are understandable but the fundamental thing is to trust in the Lord and to be led by him. We will never find a place where suffering, temptations, error and evil cannot afflict us! We do not live to avoid death or avoid problems. What we need is a response to problems, and this response is the salvation of Christ, which involves losing one’s life in order to find it. At times when our lives seem to be gone astray, we can raise all of our systems of defence (which don’t solve the problems but displace them temporarily), or we can trust the Lord, finally taking the opportunity to live as his children, in the name of Jesus Christ, asking the Holy Spirit to assist us in abandoning ourselves to God in the things that happen to us.

3. JESUS IS TO BE FOLLOWED, NOT TALKED ABOUT

What are we called to disseminate in the world, information or a way of life? What is more important, to tell everyone what we know, or live according to what we know? A person who makes an act of faith illuminates the people around him much more than any amount of information received! If someone imparts a lot of information to me about Jesus, I assimilate it according to my impoverished categories, preoccupation, fears and desires. I insert Jesus into a scheme of thinking that is as small as I am myself. However, when I encounter new life, a person who has abandoned themselves to God, then I find a real point of reference for my own life. We talk too much! Jesus is to be followed, in the place in the world where God has placed me, in the concrete situation I find myself in today.

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY

Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ but he does not accept that Christ should suffer. Jesus severely reprimands him: “Get behind me Satan! You do not think according to God’s ways but according to human ways”. When Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, he is simply asking Peter to follow him. He is saying, “You must follow me. I will not follow you.” Jesus asks us to follow him, to renounce ourselves and take up our crosses. When we follow ourselves, then we make our own thinking into an absolute. This thinking might well seem very rational, but it leads to the horrors of history like Auschwitz. How different life would be if we followed the Lord and took up the crosses that come our way! Then life would be beautiful and sublime. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of a person who opens his ear to listen to the Lord, and this enables him to accept life’s tribulations with serenity. The first enemy that seeks to prevent us from following the Lord is the great god of our lives: our own ego. When we learn to say “No” to ourselves then we are enabled to come out of ourselves and enter into love. The house that we must always seek to escape from is that of the absolutisation of ourselves. The cross of coming out of ourselves is not imposed on us. Jesus invites us to “take it up” - an expression which highlights that it should be embraced freely and valued as a gift that leads to growth and self-detachment. Once we abandon ourselves, then we begin to think according to the logic of God. We begin to acquire true wisdom.​


Friday, 3 September 2021

September 5th 2021. Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37

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

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

(Check us out on Facebook – Sunday Gospel Reflection)

GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37  

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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

SUMMARY OF HOMILY

1. THE HEALING OF OUR SENSES. The context of this Gospel passage is the pagan territory on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In this region, Jesus performs the healing of the deaf-mute. This account would have been very relevant for the baptismal liturgy of the earliest Christian community. In fact, still today, the priest touches the mouth and ears of the child to be baptised and says the same words as Jesus, “Be opened!” Through this action, the child is to hear the word of God and profess the faith. This text speaks of something essential if we are to make the necessary leap from the life of the flesh to the life of the Spirit: the healing of our senses. This is spoken of little in preaching, but if we are to enter into the Christian way of life, we need our senses to be redeemed. Our interior life is mediated to us by the senses. As St Paul asks, how can anyone believe if no-one preaches the Good News to them?

2. THE STORY OF THE DEAF-MUTE IS EMBLEMATIC. When our senses are redeemed, we have new eyes, new ways of perceiving, new ways of touching. How often we are confronted by grace and we do not see it! We call salvation that which is disgraceful and disgraceful that which is salvation. How often we have expended all of our energies pursuing vainglorious and worthless things! How can we have eyes to see and ears to hear? The story of this deaf-mute is emblematic for us. In the first place, the man is taken to Jesus by people who already know the Lord. We need people to lead us to Jesus so that he can visit us and heal us. No-one can come to Christ by himself. Secondly, Jesus takes the man to one side. We too need to be taken into an exclusive encounter with the Lord, away from the world, away from the mentality that surrounds us. Thirdly, Jesus places his finger in the man’s ears and touches his tongue with saliva. Such acts would be considered invasive by us, but they are highly symbolic. The hands of Jesus are the hands of God. If our ears are to be opened, then we need to open our hearts to the works of God. Similarly, the saliva of Christ represents his word, which is the word of God. It is essential that our mouths learn to speak with the words of God. Much of our prayer – the Psalms for example – is composed of the word of God. When God’s word becomes our word, then we learn gradually to speak in an authentic way.

3. THE HEALING OF OUR SENSES IS GOD’S WORK, NOT OURS. When my ears are filled with the works of God and my mouth with his word, then I begin to be healed! Jesus looks towards heaven and sighs, which is a sign of the coming of the Spirit. The he pronounces; “Be opened!” The senses are opened by Christ, not by us using rational means, by the Holy Spirit, not by our good will. This passage shows us how to be healed, how I can listen and perceive the works of God speaking to me, how I can speak with the words of God.

Alternative homily . . . The deaf mute in the Gospel represents each one of us. We are all is a state of isolation, in a state of being unable to enter into communion with those around us. How does Jesus heal him? There are four stages. Firstly, he takes the man away from the crowd. We too must be taken away from the crowd, from worldly things, from empty things, if we are to be healed of our sicknesses. Secondly, he places his hands in the man’s ears. The hands of Jesus are the hands that created the heavens! We need to have the hands of Jesus in our ears! In other words, we need the grace to comprehend how the hand of God is working in everyday things around us. We need to be attuned to this action of God. Thirdly, Jesus puts saliva on the man’s tongue. This represents the word of God on our tongue. If we are to be healed of our loneliness and isolation, we need to have the word of God on our mouths. Fourthly, Jesus looks towards heaven and says, “Be opened!” In looking towards heaven, Jesus is looking to his heavenly Father. This relationship is the basis of everything that Jesus does. We too, if we are to be healed of our loneliness, must look to the heavens. We must look away from ourselves and enter into relationship with Jesus and the Father.

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Sunday Gospel Reflection