Sunday, February 28, 2016

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C

In today's Gospel, taken from Luke 13:1-9, Jesus tells the parable of the unfruitful fig tree. The owner wants to cut it down, but the vinekeeper asks for more time: “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” His plea for mercy resonates with this Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis.

St. Bernard, commenting on the Beatitudes, talks about mercy:
Blessed are the Merciful, Marble relief
Church of St. Charles Borromeo, Antwerp, Belgium
The sequence of beatitudes given in the Sermon on the Mount places the merciful before the pure in heart. The merciful are those who are quick to see truth in their neighbour; they reach out to others in compassion and identify with them in love, responding to the joys and sorrows in the lives of others as if they were their own. They make themselves weak with the weak, and burn with indignation when others are led astray. They are always ready to share the joys of those who rejoice and the sorrows of those who mourn....
Just as pure truth can only be seen by the pure in heart, so the sufferings of our fellow men and women are more truly felt by hearts that know suffering themselves. However, we cannot sympathize with the wretchedness of others until we first recognize our own. Then we shall understand the feelings of others by what we personally feel, and know how to come to their help. Such was the example shown by our Savior, who desired to suffer himself in order that he might learn to feel compassion, and to be afflicted in order that he might learn how to show mercy. Scripture says of him that he learned the meaning of obedience through what he suffered. In the same way he learned the meaning of mercy. Not that the Lord whose mercy is from age to age was ignorant of mercy’s meaning until then; he knew its nature from all eternity, but he learned it by personal experience during his days on earth.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C

In his Angelus talk in St. Peter's Square two years ago, Pope Francis spoke about today’s Gospel, in which Jesus “took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart” (Mt 17:1). Here are some of his words:
Mosaic, Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Israel
The mountain in the Bible represents a place close to God and an intimate encounter with Him, a place of prayer where one stands in the presence of the Lord. There up on the mount, Jesus is revealed to the three disciples as transfigured, luminescent and most beautiful. And then Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Him. His face is so resplendent and his robes so white that Peter, awe-struck, wishes to stay there, as if to stop time. Suddenly from on high the voice of the Father resounds proclaiming Jesus to be his most beloved Son, saying “listen to him” (v. 5). This word is important! Our Father said this to these Apostles, and says it to us as well: “listen to Jesus, because he is my beloved Son”. This week let us keep this word in our minds and in our hearts: “listen to Jesus!” And the Pope is not saying this, God the Father says it to everyone: to me, to you, to everyone, all people! It is like an aid for going forward on the path of Lent. “Listen to Jesus!” Don’t forget....
From the event of the Transfiguration I would like to take two significant elements that can be summed up in two words: ascent and descent. We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer. But we cannot stay there! Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain where we meet many brothers weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual. To these brothers in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received. And this is curious. When we hear the Word of Jesus, when we listen to the Word of Jesus and carry it in our heart, this Word grows. Do you know how it grows? By giving it to the other! The Word of Christ grows in us when we proclaim it, when we give it to others! And this is what Christian life is. It is a mission for the whole Church, for all the baptized, for us all: listen to Jesus and offer him to others.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

1st Sunday of Lent, Year C

After Jesus's baptism, St. Luke tells us in today's Gospel, he was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil. A perfect Gospel for the beginning of our own forty day's journey towards Easter! In his commentary on Psalm 60, St. Augustine tells us we are not alone: Jesus suffered temptation for our sakes. In him we suffer temptation and are victorious:
Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.
The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.
Temptation of Christ, historiated Bible illumination, Naples ca. 1350
Bibliothรจque nationale de France.
He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday, Year C

Pope Benedict gave the last public homily of his pontificate in a moving Ash Wednesday ceremony in St Peter’s basilica on February 2, 2013. Here's a portion of it for reflection:
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death.... The Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2.12). Please note the phrase "with all your heart," which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. 
...The "return to God with all your heart" in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

On September 22, 2013, Pope Francis addressed a large meeting of young people from Sardinia. He commented on today's Gospel, in which Jesus addresses the crowd on the shore from Simon Peter's boat, and then tells Simon to launch out into the deep and let down his nets. The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. This gospel scene holds a lesson for all of us:
Peter, in that critical moment, takes a risk. What could he have done? He could have given in to weariness and to discouragement, thinking that it is pointless and that it is better to withdraw and go home. Instead, what does he do? With courage, he steps out of himself and decides to trust Jesus. He says: “Well, alright! At your word I will let down the nets.” Be careful! He does not say: at my strength, my calculations, my experience as an expert fisherman, but rather “at your word,” at the word of Jesus! And the result is an incredible catch, the nets are filled to the point that they almost tear.
The Miraculous Draught of Fish
...When everything seems to be standing still and stagnant, when personal problems disturb us and social hardships do not meet with the right responses, it is not good to consider oneself vanquished. Jesus is the way: get him to embark on our “boat” and put out into the deep with him! He is the Lord! He changes the prospect of life. Faith in Jesus leads to a hope that goes further, to a certainty based not on our qualities and skills alone, but on the word of God, on the invitation that comes from him. Without making too many human calculations and without worrying about checking whether the situation that surrounds you coincides with your points of security. Put out into the deep, go out of yourselves: go out of our small world and open ourselves to God, to open ourselves increasingly also to our brethren. Opening ourselves to God is opening ourselves to others. Take a few steps outside ourselves, little steps, but take them. Little steps, going out of yourselves toward God and toward others, opening your heart to brotherhood, to friendship and to solidarity.