Saturday, March 30, 2019

4th Sunday of Lent, Year C

In today's Gospel, taken from Luke 15:1-3, 11-32, Jesus tells the moving parable of the Prodigal Son. In his weekly General Audience on this Sunday three years ago, Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square:
In recent months, more than once I have made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). The youngest son leaves the house of his father, squanders everything, and decides to return because he realizes he made a mistake, though he no longer considers himself worthy of sonship. He thinks he might be welcomed back as a servant. Instead, the father runs to meet him, embraces him, gives him back his dignity as a son, and celebrates. This parable, like others in the Gospel, shows well the design of God for humanity.
Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt van Rijn (detail), ca. 1699
What is this God’s plan? It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him – feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source. [The Church is] is not an organization founded by an agreement among [a group of] persons, but - as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI - is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realises itself progressively in history. The Church is born from the desire of God to call all people into communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed, as His children, to partake of His own divine life. The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means “convocation.”

God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, from the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C

As Jesus nears the time of his Passion, he tells the parable of the barren fig tree in today's gospel (Lk 13:1-9). How are we as Christians to bear fruit? Here are some words from St. Augustine:
Fresco, Christ curses the fig tree
 This is the Father’s glory, that we should bear abundant fruit and become Christ’s disciples, since it is only through God’s mercy in the first place that we can become the disciples of Christ.... 
In his first letter John the evangelist made this quite clear. “Let us love God, he wrote, because he first loved us.” The Father does indeed love us, but he does so in his Son; we glorify the Father by bearing fruit as branches of the vine which is his son and becoming his disciples.

“Abide in my love,” he says to us. How may we do that? In the words that follow you have your answer. “If you observe what I command you, then you will truly abide in my love.”

Saturday, March 16, 2019

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.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

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:
Temptation of Christ, historiated Bible illumination, Naples ca. 1350
Bibliothรจque nationale de France.
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.
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, March 6, 2019

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.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today's powerful Gospel (Luke 6:39-45), Jesus teaches his disciples this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the pit?” Here's part of a commentary by St. Cyril of Alexandria:

The Blind Leading the Blind, Sebastian Vrancx
The blessed disciples were to be the spiritual guides and teachers of the whole world. It had therefore to be clearly seen by all that they held fast to the true faith. It was essential for them to be familiar with the gospel way of life, skilled in every good work, and to give teaching that was precise, salutary, and scrupulously faithful to the truth they themselves had long pondered, enlightened by the divine radiance. Otherwise they would be blind leaders of the blind. Those imprisoned in the darkness of ignorance can never lead others in the same sorry state to knowledge of the truth. Should they try, both would fall headlong into the ditch of the passions....
With compelling arguments [Jesus] persuades us that we should not want to judge others, but should rather examine our own hearts, and strive to expel the passions seated in them, asking this grace from God. He it is who heals the contrite of heart and frees us from our spiritual disorders. If your own sins are greater and worse than other people's, why do you censure them, and neglect what concerns yourself? 
This precept, then, is essential for all who wish to live a holy life, and particularly for those who have undertaken the instruction of others. If they are virtuous and self-restrained, giving an example of the gospel way of life by their own actions, they will rebuke those who do not choose to live as they do in a friendly way, so as not to brea:k their own habit of gentleness.