Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us in today's gospel (Matthew 10: 26-33). “You are worth more than many sparrows.” If God cares for a single, simple bird, how much more does he care for us? Even the hairs on our heads are counted. This trust in God's loving care is the perfect response to fear, no matter what form fear may take in our lives.

Julian of Norwich, an English solitary who lived in the late fourteenth century, wrote these wise words on trust in God:
During our lifetime here we have in us a marvellous mixture of both wellbeing and woe. We have in us our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in us the wretchedness and the harm of Adam’s falling. Dying, we are constantly protected by Christ, and by the touching of his grace we are raised to true trust in salvation. And we are so afflicted in our feelings by Adam’s falling in various ways, by sin and by different pains, and in this we are made dark and so blind that we can scarcely accept any comfort. But in our intention we wait for God, and trust faithfully to have mercy and grace; and this is his own working in us, and in his goodness he opens the eye of our understanding, by which we have sight, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the ability God gives us to receive....
And even so, when this sweetness is hidden, we fall again into blindness, and so in various ways into woe and tribulation. But then this is our comfort: that we know in our faith that by the power of Christ who is our protector we never assent to [spiritual and bodily sin], but we complain about it, and endure in pain and in woe, praying until the time that he shows himself again to us. And so we remain in this mixture all the days of our life; but he wants us to trust that he is constantly with us in three ways. He is with us in heaven, true man in his own person, drawing us up. And he is with us on earth, leading us. And he is with us in our soul, endlessly dwelling, ruling and guarding.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi, Year A

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Corpus Christithe Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. (The US Conference of Catholic Bishops allows us the option to move it from Thursday, in order that more of the faithful can celebrate it.)
Last Supper,.14th c. Dominican gradual. (Karlsruhe, Germany.)

This is a great feast day! It is the day we thank God for the gift Jesus gave us of the Eucharist. On the night before he died he instituted this Sacrament that allows us to be one with him in a sublime and mysterious way. Our union with Jesus in Holy Communion is beyond our imagination and it yet it is not our imagination; the whole of Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity - is present within us. He hears our deepest thoughts, love, worries and desires with all the interest, concern and love that only a parent or lover has for another but even more. How blessed we are!

St. Thomas Aquinas, who composed the liturgy for this day, wrote the beautiful sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem. Here it is sung by the Benedictine monks of Clervaux, and here's an English translation.

And finally, here is a reflection of this great feast from  St. Thomas himself:
No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion. 
It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Holy Trinity, Year I

Blessed Feast of the Holy Trinity! This great mystery is beyond our understanding, yet God longs for us to know how deeply he loves us as the individuals we are. Pope Francis, reflecting on the unity of the Trinity, said that “The relationship between Jesus and the Father is the 'womb' of the link between Christians. If we are rooted in that womb, in this burning fire of love which is the Trinity, we can become able to possess one heart alone and one soul alone, because the love of God scorches our selfishness, judgments and divisions.”

Icon of the Trinity, Andrei Rublev (1425)
And last year on this feastday, the Holy Father said:
Our being created in the image and likeness of God-Communion calls us to understand ourselves as beings-in-relationship and to live interpersonal relations in solidarity and mutual love.

Such relationships play out, above all, in the sphere of our ecclesial communities, so that the image of the Church as icon of the Trinity is ever clearer. But also in every social relationship, from the family to friendships, to the work environment: they are all concrete occasions offered to us in order to build relationships that are increasingly humanly rich, capable of reciprocal respect and disinterested love.

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in daily events to being leaven of communion, consolation and mercy. In this mission, we are sustained by the strength that the Holy Spirit gives us: he takes care of the flesh of humanity, wounded by injustice, oppression, hate and avarice.
We pray that the deep love and relationship that is within God may bear fruit in all our lives and relationships!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year 1

A glorious and grace-filled feast of Pentecost to you! Today ends the Paschal season, and we sing the Veni Creator Spiritus for the last time. This beautiful hymn is attributed to the Benedictine monk Rabanus
Pentecost, 14th c. Missal (Natl. Library of Wales
Maurus (776-856). It is a tradition to sing it as a novena in the evening at Vespers, begging for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to transform all of us and bring us to the fullness of the life that God so desires us to have. May there be an outpouring of his grace and peace on all the world!

Here's a recording of the Veni Creator Spiritus, sung by the Schola Gregoriana Mediolansis under the direction of Giovanni Vianini, and here's a translation of it (the choir sings it first with women's voices, and repeats it with men and women):

COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

As we near the feast of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the sublime prayer of Jesus to his Father at the Last Supper (John 17:20-21) is given us as the gospel reading: Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

That unity of charity which is the mark of a Christian is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Here are some words of St. Augustine, taken from his commentary of the First Letter of St. John:
Descent of the Holy Spirit, Syriac Rabulla Gospel (6th c.)
Whoever carries out his commandment abides in God and God in him. And we can tell that we are dwelling in him by the Spirit he has given us. If you find charity in yourself, you have the Spirit of God to give you understanding, a thing most necessary.
How can we know whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit? Let each one question his own heart. If he loves his brothers then the Spirit of God dwells in him. Let him examine and test himself in God’s sight, to discover whether he harbors in his heart a love of peace and unity, a love of the Church as it extends throughout the length and breadth of the world. Let him not look for love only of the brother who is present, for we have many whom we do not see, but with whom we are united in the Spirit.
There is nothing strange in that. They are not all here with us, but we all belong to the one Body and have a single Head in heaven. So then, if you would know whether you have received the Spirit, ask your own heart: do you perhaps have the outward sign of the sacrament without the virtue of the sacrament? Ask your heart: if the love of your brothers is there, you can be at peace. There can be no love without the Holy Spirit, for Paul cries out to us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Feast of the Ascension, Year I





The Church allows the faithful to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension either on the traditional Thursday, or on the following Sunday in order that more of its members can participate. Here in the monastery we celebrate it today, so we’d like to share with you part of the reading we hear at Vigils. It's from a homily by St. Augustine:
Ascension, Giotto (c. 1305)
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter.’
...My friends, you have Christian hearts. Think, then; if the words of one who is on the way to the grave are so sweet, so precious, so important to his heirs, what must the last words of Christ mean to his heirs as he departs, not for the grave but for heaven! When a person has lived and died his soul is borne away to another place while his body is laid in the ground. Whether his last request is carried out or not, it matters little to him now. He has other things to do or suffer. His corpse lies in the grave, feeling nothing. And yet his dying wishes are carefully obeyed! If that is so, what will be the lot of those who fail to observe the parting words of the one who is seated in heaven and who looks down to see whether they are flouted or not – the words of him who said: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? and who reserves for the Day of Judgement all that he sees his members suffer?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples (and that includes us) not only for his Passion and Resurrection, but also for his Ascension to the Father (Jn. 14:15-21). Yet he promised he would not leave us orphans. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.

Pope Francis spoke about this gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 2013:
Holy Spirit, Bernini (St. Peter's Basilica)
The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

Nine years ago, on April 20, 2008, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium while visitng the United States. He commented on the Mass readings, drawing a parallel between the increase in numbers of the early Church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-7) to the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States. The full text is given on the Vatican website; here's a small selection of his words:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
Authority” … “obedience.” To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words.
The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace.”
 Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

“I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 10:1-10). “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This Gospel passage continues the Easter celebration of the central mystery of Christianity: Jesus saved us from our sins by giving his life for us on the Cross and rising from the dead. Here's part of a commentary from the early Church Father St. Clement, a convert from paganism and bishop of Alexandria, who lived  ca. 150-215:
In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!
Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the Church on high, touching the heavens....
How bountiful the giver who for our sake gives his most precious possession, his own life! He is a real benefactor and friend, who desired to be our brother when he might have been our Lord, and who in his goodness even went so far as to die for us!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

In today's Gospel (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus once again reveals himself after his resurrection to his disciples, this time on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples don't recognize him, and they unburden their heavy hearts to this “stranger”: The chief priests and our rulers handed [Jesus] over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:20-21). Jesus comforts them, and “breaks open” the Scriptures for them: Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:26-27). In the end, their eyes are opened and they recognize him when he breaks bread.

Here is a meaninful interpretation of this passage by a twelfth century monastic author:
Christ at Emmaus, Rembrandt (1648)
Their eyes were opened, and they knew him when he broke the bread. When bread is broken, it is in a way diminished, or “emptied.” By breaking understand the virtue of humility, by which Christ—even he who is the bread of life— broke, diminished, and emptied himself. And by emptying himself he gave us knowledge of himself. 
The hidden Wisdom of the Father, and a treasure whole and concealed—what use are they? Break your bread for the hungry, Lord, the bread that is yourself, so that human eyes may be opened, and it may not be regarded as a sin for us to long to be like you, knowing good and evil. Let him who from the beginning wished to strive after or grope for you in your undiminished state, know you through the breaking of bread.....
Break yourself, then, by the labor of obedience, by the humiliation of repentance. Bear in your body the marks of Jesus Christ by accepting the condition of a servant, not of a superior. And when you have emptied yourself, you will know the Lord through the breaking of bread.
True humility opens our eyes, “breaking” and diminishing the other virtues which might blind us with a spirit of pride, and teaching us that of ourselves we are nothing. And when we humble ourselves by self-contempt, so much the more do we grow in the knowledge of God.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Second Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

On April 30, 2000, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II canonized Sr. (now Saint!) Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy.” That same Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter was designated as the Sunday of the Divine Mercy. The popes have given so many wonderful homilies on this feastday. This is just part of Pope Francis', given in 2016. (Here's a link to the full text; it's well worth reading and praying over.)
Sacred Heart, Charles Bosseron Chamber
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us.
So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return....
In the responsorial Psalm we heard these words: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117/118:2). Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we find impossible to grasp. Let us ask for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world: let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, Year I

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) (ca. 1304-06), Giotto
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! This familiar greeting reminds us of our hope for salvation: Jesus’ suffering and death, and three days in the tomb was not in vain: his victory over death is our hope for salvation, and for our own resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

Victimae paschali laudes is an 11th century sequence (an early hymnic form of Latin poetry) sung at Mass on Easter Sunday and during the octave. It captures the Christian’s joy at Christ’s resurrection. It’s generally believed to have been writen by Wipo of Burgundy, chaplain to German Emperor Conrad II, although it has also been attributed to other authors. Its dialogue between the faithful and Mary Magdalene played a part in the development of medieval mystery play. It’s sung here by the Capella Sistina, with the boys singing Mary’s parts. Here's a translation:

Let Christians offer sacrificial
praises to the passover victim.

The lamb has redeemed the sheep:
The Innocent Christ has reconciled
the sinners to the Father.

Death and life contended
in a spectacular battle:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns alive.

Tell us, Mary, what did
you see on the road?

I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of his rising,

The angelic witnesses, the
clothes and the shroud.

Christ my hope is arisen;
into Galilee, he will go before his own.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday, Year I

On this sacred day commemorating the Last Supper of the Lord, we offer this reflection from St. Augustine:
In this way Christ showed that as he suffered for our sake in his mortal body in order to ransom us from eternal death and prepare our way to the heavenly kingdom, so, in order to have us as his companions in eternal life, he would be willing to undergo the same things daily for us whenever we celebrated the sacramental reenactment of these sacred mysteries. For this reason he told his disciples: “Take this, all of you; this is my body, and this the chalice of my blood which is shed for all for the forgiveness of every sin. Whenever you receive it, you do so in memory of me.”
On the altar, therefore, Christ is present; there he is slain, there he is sacrificed, there his body and blood are received. Christ who on this Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper day gave his disciples the bread and the cup is the same Christ who today consecrates these elements. It is not the man who handles the sacramental species who consecrates Christ's body and blood; it is Christ himself, who was crucified for you. By the lips of the priest the words are pronounced; the body and blood are consecrated by the power and grace of God.
And so in all things let the purity of our mind and thought be evident, for we have a pure and holy sacrifice and must train our souls in a corresponding holiness. Having done all that needs to be done, we may then celebrate these sacred mysteries with all simplicity. Let us therefore approach Christ's altar in a fitting manner, so that we may be counted worthy to share eternal life with Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Passion (Palm) Sunday, Year I

Palm Sunday! Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, the crowds stretch out their garments in his path and sing praises: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38).

On the 28th World Youth Day (which is held on Palm Sunday), in 2013, Pope Francis, fresh from his election, spoke to the crowd:
Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, Hippolyte Flandrin (c. 1842)
This is Jesus. This is his heart which looks to all of us, to our sicknesses, to our sins. The love of Jesus is great. And thus he enters Jerusalem, with this love, and looks at us. It is a beautiful scene, full of light – the light of the love of Jesus, the love of his heart – of joy, of celebration.
At the beginning of Mass, we too repeated it. We waved our palms, our olive branches. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. Jesus is God, but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. He illumines our path here. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (Jn 11:25). How much comfort Christ’s words to the mourning sisters of Lazarus bring to anyone who has lost a loved one. And how much hope they bear to each of us, as we journey through this life to our eternal homeland! The Church gives us today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45) prepares us for the approaching celebration of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, as he gives his life in order that we might have Life.

In 2015, Pope Francis gave a beautiful talk on this Gospel. Here's part of it:
The Raising of Lazarus, Duccio (1310–11)
Before the sealed tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth” (vv. 43-44). This peremptory cry is addressed to every human person, because we are all marked by death, all of us; it is the voice of One Who is the master of life, one who will all “should have [life] more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Christ is not resigned to the sepulchres that we have constructed with our choices of evil and death, with our mistakes, with our sins. He is not resigned to this! He invites us, almost orders us, to come out from the tombs into which our sins have plunged us. 
He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of the prison in which we are enclosed, contenting ourselves with a false, selfish, mediocre life. “Come forth!” He says. “Come forth!” It is a beautiful invitation to true freedom, to allow us to grab onto these words of Jesus that He repeats to each one of us today, an invitation that allows us to free ourselves from the “bands,” from the bands of pride. Because pride makes us slaves, slaves of ourselves, slaves of so many idols, slaves of so many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey the commands of Jesus to come into the light, to life; when the masks fall from our faces — so many times we are masked by sin: the masks must fall! — and we rediscover the courage of our original faces, created in the image and likeness of God. 
The act of Jesus by which He raised Lazarus demonstrates the end to which the power of the Grace of God can arrive, and the end, therefore to which our conversion, our change can arrive. But listen well: there is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! Remember this phrase. And we can all say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” Let us say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” The Lord is always ready to take away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

4th Sunday of Lent, Year A

“Laetare, Jerusalem” - “Rejoice, Jerusalem!” These first words of the Introit today set the tone for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Halfway through the penitential Lenten season, the Church invites us to rejoice, emphasizing the themes of joy and light, and giving us the Gospel story of the man who was born blind (John 9:1). In 2002, St. (Pope) John Paul II spoke on this Gospel in his Angelus address in St. Peter´s Square:
Icon, Healing the Blind Man
The man born blind represents the man marked by sin, who wishes to know the truth about himself and his own destiny, but is impeded by a congenital malady. Only Jesus can cure him: He is “the light of the world” (John 9:5). By entrusting oneself to him, every human being, spiritually blind from birth, has the possibility of “coming to the light” again, that is, to supernatural life.... 
For whomever encounters Christ, there is no other way: Either one recognizes one´s need of him and of his light, or one chooses to ignore him. In the latter case, the same presumption impedes both the one who thinks he is just before God, as well as the one who considers himself an atheist, to be open to an authentic conversion.
May no one, dear brothers and sisters, close their spirit to Christ! He gives the light of faith to the one who receives him, light that is able to transform hearts and, consequently, mentalities, social, political and economic situations dominated by sin. “… I do believe, Lord!” (John 9:38). With the man born blind, may each one of us be ready to humbly profess our own adherence to him.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A

The Gospel for the Sunday of the Third Week in Lent is from John 4:5-42. Jesus, sitting at a well, asks a Samaritan woman for water, and has a conversation with her about water and eternal life: Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him,” Jesus said, “will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Jn 4:14).

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Angelus talk of March 27, 2011  spoke on this Gospel passage:
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well
God the Father sent him to quench our thirst for eternal life, giving us his love, but to give us this gift Jesus asks for our faith. The omnipotence of Love always respects human freedom; it knocks at the door of man’s heart and waits patiently for his answer....
This water represents the Holy Spirit, the “gift” par excellence that Jesus came to bring on the part of God the Father. Whoever is reborn by water and by the Holy Spirit, that is, in Baptism, enters into a real relationship with God, a filial relationship, and can worship him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23, 24), as Jesus went on to reveal to the Samaritan woman. Thanks to the meeting with Jesus Christ and to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the human being’s faith attains fulfilment, as a response to the fullness of God’s revelation.
Each one of us can identify himself with the Samaritan woman: Jesus is waiting for us, especially in this Season of Lent, to speak to our hearts, to my heart. Let us pause a moment in silence, in our room or in a church or in a separate place. Let us listen to his voice which tells us “If you knew the gift of God…”.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A

After six days Jesus took Simon Peter with James and his brother John and let them up a high mountain, where he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became white as light.

This Gospel, taken from Matthew 19:1-9, shows Jesus on his journey toward his suffering and death in Jerusalem. His full adherence to God’s will, said Pope Francis in 2015, renders his humanity transparent to the glory of God, who is love. Here is more of his talk:

Transfiguration, Alexandr Ivanov (1824)
Jesus thus reveals Himself as the perfect icon of the Father, the radiance of his glory. He is the fulfillment of revelation; that is why beside Him appear transfigured, Moses and Elijah appear; they represent the Law and the Prophets, so as to signify that everything finishes and begins in Jesus, in his passion and in his glory.

Their instructions for the disciples and for us is this: “Listen to Him!” Listen to Jesus. He is the Savior: follow Him. To listen to Christ, in fact, entails taking up the logic of his Pascal Mystery, setting out on the journey with Him to make of oneself a gift of love to others, in docile obedience to the will of God, with an attitude of detachment from worldly things and of interior freedom. One must, in other words, be willing to “lose one’s very life” (cf. Mk 8:35), by giving it up so that all men might be saved: thus, we will meet in eternal happiness. The path to Jesus always leads us to happiness, don’t forget it! Jesus’ way always leads us to happiness. There will always be a cross, trials in the middle, but at the end we are always led to happiness. Jesus does not deceive us, He promised us happiness and will give it to us if we follow His ways.

With Peter, James and John we too climb the Mount of the Transfiguration today and stop in contemplation of the face of Jesus to retrieve the message and translate it into our lives; for we too can be transfigured by Love. In reality, love is capable of transfiguring everything. Love transfigures all!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1st Sunday of Lent, Year I

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is taken from St. Mark, and is on the temptation of Christ in the desert. Here is a talk on it given by Pope Francis in 2015 (here's a link to the full version):
This is the meaning of this First Sunday of Lent: to place ourselves decisively on the path of Jesus, the road that leads to life. To look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus has done and go with Him.
The Temptations of Christ (12th c. , St. Mark's Basilica, Venice)

This path of Jesus passes through the desert. The desert is the place where the voice of God and the voice of the tempter can be heard. In the noise, in the confusion, this cannot be done; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead we can go deeper in the desert, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in his Word. For this reason, it is important to know Scripture, because otherwise we do not know how to react to the snares of the Evil One. And here I would like to return to my advice of reading the Gospel every day. Read the Gospel every day! Meditate on it for a little while, for ten minutes. And also to carry it with you in your pocket or your purse.... But always have the Gospel at hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say ‘no’ to worldliness, to the “idols,” it helps us to make courageous choices in accordance with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with the brothers.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, Year I


As we enter the time of Lent, we would like to share the message of Pope Francis given this Ash Wednesday, 2017. The full text is well worth reading and meditating on in the coming days.
All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).
We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts....
Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow Jesus tells his disciples (Matt. 6:24-34): they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? How comforting these words are! Do not be anxious. God will take care of us.

Here's a lovely mediatation on this Gospel by St. John Chrysostom:
If spiritual things hold first place in our lives, material needs will cause us no concern, for God in his goodness will give them to us in abundance. On the other hand, if we devote ourselves entirely to earthly pursuits and neglect our spiritual life, if we are always concerned with what this life has to offer without any care for our souls, then we shall forfeit not only spiritual graces but worldly profit as well.
God wishes us, then, to be free from every anxiety regarding temporal affairs, and to have all possible leisure for the things of the Spirit. He says: “Your part is to seek spiritual blessings, and I myself will provide amply for your material needs. Look at the birds in the sky. They neither sow nor reap nor gather crops into barns, and yet your Father feeds them.” In other words, “If I take such care of irrational birds as to supply them with all they need without ploughing or sowing, I will take much greater care of you who are endowed with reason, if only you make up your minds to put spiritual things before temporal ones. If I made these creatures for your sake, as well as the whole of creation, and if I take such care of them, of what great care will I not deem you worthy – you for whom I created all of this?”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well, Christ tells his disciples in today's Gospel (Matthew 5: 38-48). Jesus is our supreme example of charity and self-giving: not only was he stripped of his clothes during his Passion, but he gave his very life for us.

Here are some words by St Cyprian on imitating Christ. (The image is of St. Martin of Tours, the soldier in the Roman army who cut his military cloak in two and gave half to a beggar in rags.):
St. Martin and the Beggar, Simone Martini
To assume the name of Christ without following the way of Christ – what else is that but to make a sham of the divinely given name and to abandon the path of salvation? When Christ himself teaches that the person who keeps his commandments will have life and that wisdom belongs to the one who not only listens to his words but acts on them, that the distinction of being called the greatest teacher in the kingdom of heaven is awarded to the one who not only teaches but acts in accordance with his teaching, then he means that if anything good and useful has been preached it will benefit the preacher only insofar as he lives by what he preaches....
We cannot bear the heavenly image within us unless we show a likeness to Christ in the life upon which we have now entered. This means changing from what we used to be and becoming something altogether new, so that our divine birth may be seen in us, so that we may imitate the Father by our holy way of life, and so that our lives may give honour and praise to God and he may be glorified in us. This is what he himself has taught and urged us to do, promising that those who glorify him will be rewarded. I will glorify those who glorify me, he says, and those who despise me shall be despised. To instruct us and prepare us for this glorification and produce in us a likeness to God the Father, our Lord, the Son of God, says in his gospel: You have heard it said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In today's gospel (Matthew 5:17-37), Jesus has strong words about anger and forgiveness: Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. St. John Chrysostom, who pulled no punches in his homilies, has these powerful words to say, that sound suprisingly modern:
Crucifixion, drawing by St. John of the Cross
Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing?
If you refuse to forgive your neighbor’s offence your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, and the rest? Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself.... 
Listen to the Lord’s words: If you are bringing your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled with your brother. Then come and offer your gift. What do you mean? Am I really to leave my gift, my offering there? Yes, he says, because this sacrifice is offered in order that you may live in peace with your brother. So if the attainment of peace with your neighbor is the object of the sacrifice and you fail to make peace, even if you share in the sacrifice your lack of peace will make this sharing fruitless. Before all else therefore make peace, for the sake of which the sacrifice is offered. Then you will really benefit from it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples, You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5: 13-16). Here are some words on this Scripture passage from Jean Mouroux's book, “The Christian Experience”:

Sermon on the Mount, Fra Angelicao
This love of the neighbor means means bearing witness. Being a Christian means serving as Christ served, and with Christ. Christ’s essential service is the bringing of truth, salvation, joy. Christians must take part in this service, and this they do by bearing witness. There are two images that express one aspect of this Christian function. First, You are the salt of the earth. Like salt, Christians act by contact. The power of purity and faithfulness and charity that is in them elevates their life, saves it from egoism, and gradually delivers it up into God’s hands; it gives a spiritual savor to all their actions and makes them an agent of purification and preservation.

Then, You are the light of the world. Like light, Christians act by presence. The light of faith, which produces every kind of good work dissipates prejudices, lightens the way, leads to God. It comes and awakens that power of desire and admiration and “graceful” action that slumbers in every Christian soul, and thus, by its mere presence, it causes us to glorify God. This gospel affirmation is complementary to another. We must never act so as to be noticed by human beings, but only to please God. The purer the intention, the deeper the inwardness of our acts, the more direct and detached will be our search for God and his kingdomand the more will our light shine before all.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew tells us in the gospel this morning that Jesus went up onto a mountain and taught his disciples (Matthew 5:1-12). The Sermon on the Mount, as it's called, records his words: Blessed are the poor in spirit ... Blessed are the meek ... the merciful ... the pure in heart.... In one of this morning's long readings at Vigils, we hear part of a homily by St. Chromatius on this gospel:
Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch (detail)
Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God. If you can see how great the merit of peacemakers is, when they are no longer called servants but children of God. This reward is fully justified, since the lover of peace loves Christ, the author of peace, to whom Paul the Apostle even gives ‘peace’ as a name: He is our peace, he says. Someone who does not love peace goes in pursuit of discord, for he loves its author, the devil. In the beginning the devil caused discord between God and the human race by leading the first man to violate God’s precept. The reason why the Son of God came down from heaven was to condemn the devil, the author of discord, and to make peace between God and the human race by reconciling its members to God and making God propitious to them.

We must therefore become peacemakers so that we may deserve to be called children of God. Without peace, we lose the name not only of children but even of servants, since the apostle says to us: Love peace, for without it none of us can be pleasing to God.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In today's Gospel (Matthew 4: 12-23), Jesus sees Simon Peter and Andrew fishing and says to them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And “immediately they left their nets and followed him.” How amazing is that, and how much can we learn from their example? You have heard how, at a single command, St. Gregory the Great tells his congregation,
Calling of St. Peter Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew
ca. 1160, Sant Pere de Rodes monastery
Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed our Redeemer. They had not yet seen him work one miracle, or heard any mention of an eternal reward, and yet one word from the Lord was enough to make them forget all their possessions.
....But the perhaps someone is saying to himself: How much did these two fishermen give up at the Lord’s bidding? They had practically nothing! That maybe so, but in this matter what counts is motive rather than wealth. Those who keep nothing back for themselves give up much; those who abandon all they have, even if it is very little, give up a great deal. We, on the other hand, are possessive about the things we have and covetously try to obtain those we do not have. Peter and Andrew gave up a great deal because they gave up even the desire to possess anything.
Therefore let none of us who see other people giving up great possessions say to ourselves: I should like to imitate people like these who have such contempt for the world, but I have nothing to give up. You give up much if you give up the desire to possess. The Lord looks at your heart, not your fortune; he considers the love that prompts your offering, not its amount.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

The very first Sunday after the Feast of the Baptism again features St. John the Baptist, witnessing to Jesus: I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One (John 1:33-34). Heres part of a commentary on this Gospel by St. Cyril of Alexandria, read at Vigils this morning:
St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness (detail), Annibale Carracci
When he saw Jesus coming toward him John said: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ ...One Lamb died for all to restore the whole flock on earth to God the Father; one died for all to make all subject to God; one died for all to gain all so that all might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.
...Once sin had been destroyed how could death, which was caused by sin, fail to be wholly annihilated? With the root dead how could the branch survive? What power will death have over us now that sin has been blotted out? And so, rejoicing in the sacrifice of the Lamb let us cry out: O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? All wickedness shall hold its tongue, as the Psalmist sings somewhere. Henceforth it will be unable to denounce sinners for their weakness, for God is the one who acquits us. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for our sake, so we might escape the curse brought down on us by sin.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany, Year A

Blessed Feast of the Epiphany! This day’s liturgical celebration (from the Greek epiphania, “manifestation,” of Christ, that is) has many layers: the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. The feast is so rich in meaning that it’s difficult to choose from among the wealth of commentaries, let alone edit out sections of the one selected. We hope this commentary by from St. Basil the Great isn’t too long, but we couldn't bear to cut any of it! Perhaps you might read parts of it throughout the coming week:
Journey & Adoration of the Magi
Codex Bruschal, ca 1220
The star came to rest above the place where the child was. At the sight of it the wise men were filled with great joy and that great joy should fill our hearts as well. It is the same as the joy the shepherds received from the glad tidings brought by the angels. Let us join the wise men in worship and the shepherds in giving glory to God. Let us dance with the angels and sing: To us is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us, not as God which would have terrified us in our weakness, but as a slave in order to free those living in slavery. Could anyone be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join us in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy? This feast belongs to the whole universe. It gives heavenly gift to the earth, it sends archangels to Zechariah and to Mary, it assembles a choir of angels to sing, Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.” It is no longer, In sorrow you shall bring forth children, but, “Blessed is she who has borne Emmanuel and blessed the breast that nursed him.” For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and dominion is laid upon his shoulder.

Come, join the company of those who merrily welcome the Lord from heaven. Think of shepherds receiving wisdom, of priests prophesying, of women who are glad of heart, us Mary was when told by the angel to rejoice and as Elizabeth was when John leapt in her womb. Anna announced the good news; Simeon took the child in his arms. They worshipped the mighty God in a tiny baby, not despising what they beheld but praising his divine majesty.
 Like light through clear glass the power of the Godhead shone through that human body for those whose inner eye was pure. Among such may we also be numbered, so that beholding his radiance with unveiled face we too may be transformed from glory to glory by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and power for endless ages. Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, Mary Mother of God

A happy and holy New Year to you! We pray that 2017 is a year of God's blessings for you and your loved ones, and that our world is filled with His peace. Today, on the feast of Mary Mother of God, we'd like to share with you some words about Our Lady from the Cistercian abbot Blessed Guerric of Igny (c. 1070/80-1157):
One and unique was Mary’s child, the only Son of his Father in heaven and the only Son of his mother on earth. Mary alone was virgin-mother, and it is her glory to have borne the Father’s only Son. But now she embraces that only Son of hers in all his members. She is not ashamed to be called the mother of all those in whom she recognizes that Christ her Son has been or is on the point of being formed. 
Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst (1622)
...Like the Church of which she is the model, Mary is the mother of all who are born again to new life. She is the mother of him who is the Life by which all things live; when she bore him, she gave new birth in a sense to all who were to live by his life.
Recognising that by virtue of this mystery she is the mother of all Christians, Christ’s blessed mother also shows herself a mother to them by her care and loving kindness. She never grows hard toward her children, as though they were not her own. The womb that once gave birth is not dried up; it continues to bring forth the fruit of her tender compassion. Christ, the blessed fruit of that womb, left his mother still fraught with inexhaustible love, a love that once came forth from her but remains always within her, inundating her with his gifts.