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reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seventeeth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Today at Mass, Jesus tells his disciples parables about the Kingdom of Heaven: among them are the image of the treasure hidden in a field, and the pearl of great price (Mt 13:44-52). What is their significance? Pope Francis says that:
Pearl of Great Price by Eugène Burnand
They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can happen suddenly like the farmer who, ploughing, finds an unexpected treasure; or after a long search, like the pearl merchant who eventually finds the most precious pearl, so long dreamt of. Yet, in each case the point is that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other possessions; and therefore when the farmer and the merchant discover them, they give up everything else in order to obtain them. They do not need to rationalize or think about it or reflect: they immediately perceive the incomparable value of what they’ve found and they are prepared to lose everything in order to have it.
This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: those who find it have no doubts, they sense that this is what they have been seeking and waiting for; and this is what fulfills their most authentic aspirations. And it really is like this: those who know Jesus, encounter Him personally, are captivated, attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all with great humility and simplicity. To seek Jesus, to find Jesus: this is the great treasure!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Sunday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Year A: Matthew 13: 24-43 or 13: 24-30

This Sunday the Church gives us another parableof sowing seeds, this one dealing with the good seed and the weeds, which the enemy sows. Here is a wonderful exposition on it from Pope Francis, given in 2014:

The teaching of the parable is twofold. First of all, it tells that the evil in the world comes not from God but from his enemy, the evil one. It is curious that the evil one goes at night to sow weed, in the dark, in confusion; he goes where there is no light to sow weed. This enemy is astute: he sows evil in the middle of good, thus it is impossible for us men to distinctly separate them; but God, in the end, will be able to do so.

And here we arrive at the second theme: the juxtaposition of the impatience of the servants and the patient waiting of the field owner, who represents God. At times we are in a great hurry to judge, to categorize, to put the good here, the bad there....

But remember the prayer of that self-righteous man: “God, I thank you that I am good, that I am not like other men, malicious” (cf. Lk 18:11-12). God, however, knows how to wait. With patience and mercy he gazes into the “field” of life of every person; he sees much better than we do the filth and the evil, but he also sees the seeds of good and waits with trust for them to grow. God is patient, he knows how to wait. This is so beautiful: our God is a patient father, who always waits for us and waits with his heart in hand to welcome us, to forgive us. He always forgives us if we go to him....

In the end, in fact, evil will be removed and eliminated: at the time of harvest, that is, of judgment, the harvesters will follow the orders of the field owner, separating the weed to burn it (cf. Mt 13:30). On the day of the final harvest, the judge will be Jesus, He who has sown good grain in the world and who himself became the “grain of wheat”, who died and rose. In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this Sunday's gospel, taken from Matthew 13: 1-23, Jesus tells the crowd the parable of the sower, who goes out to sow. Some seed falls on the path, some on rocky ground and some among thorns. It is the fruit that falls on good soil that brings forth grain "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Any dedicated gardener knows the frustration there can be in growing plants from seed, the need for the right kind of soil, and the satisfaction there is in seeing the seeds bear fruit.

Here's part of a homily by St. Gregory the Great, in which he talks about this parable:
Image result for jean francois millet the sower
The Sower (1850), Jean-Francois Millet
Be careful that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart. Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory.... The stony ground lacked the necessary moisture for the sprouting seed to yield the fruit of perseverance.
Good earth, on the other hand, brings forth fruit by patience. The reason for this is that nothing we do is good unless we also bear with equanimity the injuries done us by our neighbors. In fact, the more we progress, the more hardships we shall have to endure in this world; for when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase. This is why we see many people doing good works and at the same time struggling under a heavy burden of afflictions. They now shun earthly desires, and yet they are tormented by greater sufferings. But, as the Lord said, they bring forth fruit by patience, because, since they humbly endure misfortunes, they are welcomed when these are over into a place of rest in heaven.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward,”Jesus says in today's gospel (Mt. 10: 37-42). What a small thing a cup of cold water is! But it is the small things in our day-to-day existence that help make life liveable. Pope Francis knows this! Here's part of his homily given at the conclusion of World Meeting of Families in 2015. If you'd like to read the whole talk - well worth it! - you'll find it here.
These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, [by siblings]. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to [grow in] faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.