Saturday, July 21, 2018

16th Sunday of OT, Year B

They went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.... When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:32, 34).

At the Mass with the Papal inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI on April 24, 2005, he gave a deeply moving homily on the ministry of the pope. Its themes of desert and of the Good Shepherd are a fitting commentary on today's Gospel:
Jesus the Good Shepherd, tomb of Pius IX,
Saint Lawrence outside the Walls
The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. 
The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

15th Sunday of OT, Year B

Today's Gospel recounts Jesus' sending out his disciples two by two. They are "to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. "In virtue of their baptism," says Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, “all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.”
Jesus sends out his disciples (10th c. fresco)
Buckle Church, Goreme, Cappadocia
Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41).... So what are we waiting for?
... Each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others. Our falling short of perfection should be no excuse; on the contrary, mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

14th Sunday of OT, Year B

In this week's Gospel from Mark (6:1-6), we see the profound lack of faith of Jesus's native people. As a result, Christ works very few miracles in their midst. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily below, reflects on this scene and reinforces the relationship between faith and divine power.
Jesus preaching at Nazareth, unidentified icon
This reaction is understandable because familiarity at the human level makes it difficult to go beyond this in order to be open to the divine dimension. That this son of a carpenter was the Son of God was hard for them to believe. Jesus actually takes as an example the experience of the prophets of Israel, who in their own homeland were an object of contempt, and identifies himself with them. Due to this spiritual closure Jesus “could do no mighty work there [Nazareth], except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them” (Mk 6:5). 
In fact Christ’s miracles are not a display of power but signs of the love of God that is brought into being wherever it encounters reciprocated human faith. Origen writes: “as in the case of material things there exists in some things a natural attraction towards some other thing, as in the magnet for iron... so there is an attraction in such faith towards the divine power” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 10, 19).

Saturday, June 30, 2018

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

The beautiful Gospel for today (Mark 5:21-43) tells of the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” How comforting these words are! Pope Frances speaks of this Gospel and how we all face death:
Raising of Jairus' daughter,
Codex Egberti, c. 980-993, Reichenau Abbey
We are all small and defenceless before the mystery of death. However, what a grace if at that moment we safeguard in our heart the little flame of faith! Jesus takes us by the hand, as he took Jairus’ daughter by the hand, and repeats once again: “Talitha cumi”; “Little girl, arise!” He will say this to us, to each one of us: “Arise, rise again!”.

I invite you, now, to close your eyes and think about that moment: of our death. Each of us think about our own death, and imagine that moment that will come, when Jesus will take us by the hand and tell us: “Come, come with me, arise”. There, hope will end and reality will abide, the reality of life. Think hard: Jesus himself will come to each of us and take us by the hand, with his tenderness, his meekness, his love. Each one repeat Jesus’ words in your heart: “Arise, come. Arise, come. Arise, rise again!”.

This is our hope in the face of death. For those who believe, it is a door that is thrust open wide; for those who doubt it is a glimmer of light that filters through an exit that is not quite completely closed. But for all of us it will be a grace, when this light, of the encounter with Jesus, illuminates us.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Solemnity of St. John the Baptist

Today the Church celebrates the the Solemnity of the great forerunner of Christ, St. John the Baptist. This great witness to Jesus, this great martyr, is an example to us all for many reasons. Here is part of a moving homily by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in which he talks about the place of prayer in his life.
St. John the Baptist, De Gray Book of Hours
We see this great figure, this force in the Passion, in resistance to the powerful. We wonder: what gave birth to this life, to this interiority so strong, so upright, so consistent, spent so totally for God in preparing the way for Jesus? The answer is simple: it was born from the relationship with God, from prayer, which was the thread that guided him throughout his existence. John was the divine gift for which his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for so many years; a great gift, humanly impossible to hope for, because they were both advanced in years and Elizabeth was barren; yet nothing is impossible to God. The announcement of this birth happened precisely in the place of prayer, in the temple of Jerusalem, indeed it happened when Zechariah had the great privilege of entering the holiest place in the temple to offer incense to the Lord. 
John the Baptist’s birth was also marked by prayer: the Benedictus, the hymn of joy, praise and thanksgiving which Zechariah raises to the Lord and which we recite every morning in Lauds, exalts God’s action in history and prophetically indicates the mission of their son John: to go before the Son of God made flesh to prepare his ways. 
The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions. The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself. John the Baptist, however, is not only a man of prayer, in permanent contact with God, but also a guide in this relationship. The Evangelist Luke, recalling the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father, notes that the request was formulated by the disciples in these words: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his own disciples.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus says that "...the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed." Any gardener knows what a miracle of creation a seed is: from a tiny object, sometimes scarcely visible to the eye, a large plant grows, given the proper environment. In this commentary St. Peter Chrysologus says that:
The Sower, (1888) Vincent van Gogh
Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the Virgin's womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed....
Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the partriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This Sunday's first reading (Gen 3:9-15) brings us to the garden of our first parents, the place of their transgression; here we see the context for Christ's coming to undo the sin of Adam, to reverse the curse of death. As Jesus preaches the coming of the kingdom of God against the earthly kingdom of Satan in the Gospel of Mark (3:20-35), so too does the ancient Greek homilist in his 5th century text below:
Adam & Eve in Paradise, painted wood ceiling, Michaeliskirche (12th c.)
The signs of the Lord's resurrection are obvious: deception has ceased, envy has been banished, strife is despised. Peace is held in honor and war has been done away with. No longer do we reproach the Adam who was fashioned first; instead we glorify the second Adam. No longer do we reproach Eve for transgressing God's command: instead we bless Mary for being the Mother of God. No longer do we avert our eyes from the wood of the tree: instead we carry the Lord's cross.
We no longer fear the serpent: instead we revere the Holy Spirit. We no longer descend into the earth: instead we reascend into heaven. We are no longer exiles from paradise: instead we live in Abraham's bosom. We no longer hear, “I have made your day like night”: instead, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we sing: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing.”