Sunday, September 17, 2017

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

A challenging passage from the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-35) is presented to us today on the need to forgive others. Peter asks,“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus, calling him to imitate the infinite forgiveness of God, responds, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Christ uses the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to further illustrate how our mercy toward others must flow from the mercy he bestows on us. St. Augustine, commenting on this parable, writes:
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Claude Vignon (1593–1670)

There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the Lord’s own words: Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon he says: “Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness.” Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar to in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a giftthe gift of God himself.
What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus's words in today's Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20), "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," are a call to unity among us as individuals and as Christians. "Love," said Pope Benedict XVI, "acts as the principle that unites Christians and guarantees that their unanimous prayer is heard by the Heavenly Father." In this homily, given at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he said:
"Deus caritas est" (1 John 4:8,16), God is love. The faith of the Church, in its entirety, is founded on this solid rock. In particular, the patient pursuit of full communion among all of Christ's disciples is based upon it: By fixing one's gaze on this truth, summit of divine revelation, it seems possible to overcome divisions and not to be discouraged, even though they continue to be gravely serious.
The Lord Jesus, who broke down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14) with the blood of his passion, will not fail to grant to those who faithfully invoke him the strength to heal every wound. But it is always necessary to start anew from this point: "Deus caritas est."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. These are difficult words, which Jesus addresses to his disciples - including us - in today's Gospel (Matthew 16: 21-27). Who by nature welcomes suffering? And yet Our Lord does not tell us to take up our cross and follow our own path, but, Follow me. We are not alone. Jesus prepares the way, as Pope Francis tells us:
Christ Carrying the Cross, (ca, 1565) Titian
Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: My yoke is easy and my burden light. Whatever is hard and his commands is made easy by love....
Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way. The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death. The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has levelled it by passing over it himself.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


In today's Gospel (Matt. 16:13-20), Jesus asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And then he asks them,  “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter gives the response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In his homily for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul last year, Pope Francis commented on this passage:
Today [Jesus] looks straight at us and asks, “Who am I for you?” As if to say: “Am I still the Lord  your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?” Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles....
Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. They know that they are not to believe half-heartedly but to “be on fire” with love. They know that they cannot just “tread water” or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Church gives us a very powerful message in today's gospel: don't give up in prayer. A Canaanite woman, although a pagan, asks Jesus to heal her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. At first he refuses: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She persists, as Pope Emeritus Benedict tells us, even when she received an answer that would seem to have extinguished any hope: It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Jesus was struck with admiration, he continues, for an answer of such great faith and said to her: Be it done for you as you desire.
The Canaanite Woman
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (1412-1416)
Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!” This is the way that Jesus made his disciples take, as well as the Canaanite woman and men and women of every epoch and nation and each one of us.
Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way and in the end it is a gift of God who does not reveal himself to us as an abstract thing without a face or a name, because faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life. 
For this reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and open their life to his Love.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nineteeth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

What a wonderful gospel story we are given in this Sunday's Mass! Jesus walks on the water, and St. Peter, impetuous as ever, wants to come to him (Matthew 14: 22-33). But he loses his nerve and starts to sink. These words of St. Augustine, read at Vigils, talk about our own lives, when we are storm-tossed and sinking:
When the Lord said: “Come,” Peter climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. This is what he could do through the power of the Lord; what by himself? Realizing how violently the wind was blowing, he lost his nerve, and as he began to sink he called out, “Lord, I am drowning, save me!” When he counted on the Lord’s help it enabled him to walk on the water; when human frailty made him falter he turned once more to the Lord, who immediately stretched out his hand to help him, raised him up as he was sinking, and rebuked him for his lack of faith.
Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swell and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them. If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realise that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration

On this Feast of the Transfiguration, here are some words from Pope St. John Paul II:
Transfiguration of Christ by Fra Angelico (1440-1442)
Today, the Eucharist which we are preparing to celebrate takes us in spirit to Mount Tabor together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, to admire in rapture the splendour of the transfigured Lord. In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. 
We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries. But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith. On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.