Saturday, July 31, 2021

18th Sunday of OT, Year B

This Sunday the liturgy continues the reading of chapter six of the Gospel according to John ( (Jn 6:24-35). The people who were present at the multiplication of the loaves and fishes last week now go in search of Jesus, who tells them, “I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” Here's a commentary by Pope Francis:
Christ with the Host, Paulo di san Leocadio
They had not understood that that bread, broken for so many, for the multitude, was the expression of the love of Jesus himself. They had given more meaning to that bread than to its donor. Before this spiritual blindness, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of going beyond the gift, to discover, come to know the donor. God himself is both the gift and the giver. Thus from that bread, from that gesture, the people can find the One who gives it, who is God. He invites them to open up to a perspective which is not only that of the daily need to eat, dress, achieve success, build a career. Jesus speaks of another food. He speaks of a food which is incorruptible and which is good to seek and gather. He exhorts: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (v. 27). That is to say, seek salvation, the encounter with God.
With these words, he seeks to make us understand that, in addition to physical hunger man carries within him another hunger—all of us have this hunger—a more important hunger, which cannot be satisfied with ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for eternity which He alone can satisfy, as he is “the bread of life” (v. 35). Jesus does not eliminate the concern and search for daily food. No, he does not remove the concern for all that can make life more progressive. But Jesus reminds us that the true meaning of our earthly existence lies at the end, in eternity, it lies in the encounter with Him, who is gift and giver. He also reminds us that human history with its suffering and joy must be seen in a horizon of eternity, that is, in that horizon of the definitive encounter with Him. And this encounter illuminates all the days of our life.
... This “Bread of Life” is given to us with a task, namely, that we in our turn satisfy the spiritual and material hunger of our brothers, proclaiming the Gospel the world over. With the witness of our brotherly and solidary attitude toward our neighbour, we render Christ and his love present amid mankind.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

17th Sunday of OT, Year B

The multiplication of the loaves and fishes recorded in today's Gospel (John 6:1-15) includes an important detail: a young boy supplies five barley loaves and two fish. Not much to feel such a large crowd. But Jesus uses them to work the miracle.

Like the disciples in this scene, often in life we may feel that something is beyond our powers: we want to be generous, to love, but feel inadequate. Here's part of an Angelus talk Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave on this subject:
The Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372
A boy’s presence is also mentioned in the scene of the multiplication. On perceiving the problem of of feeding so many hungry people, he shared the little he had brought with him: five loaves and two fish (cf. Jn 6:9). The miracle was not worked from nothing, but from a first modest sharing of what a simple lad had brought with him. Jesus does not ask us for what we do not have. Rather, he makes us see that if each person offers the little he has the miracle can always be repeated: God is capable of multiplying our small acts of love and making us share in his gift....

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to enable us to rediscover the importance of feeding ourselves not only on bread but also on truth, on love, on Christ, on Christ’s Body, taking part faithfully and with profound awareness in the Eucharist so as to be ever more closely united with him. Indeed, “It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; he draws us into himself.”

Let us pray that the bread necessary for a dignified life may never be lacking and that inequalities may be demolished, not with the weapons of violence but rather with sharing and with love.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

16th Sunday of OT, Year B

They went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.... When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:32, 34).

At the Mass with the Papal inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI on April 24, 2005, he gave a deeply moving homily on the ministry of the pope. Its themes of desert and of the Good Shepherd are a fitting commentary on today's Gospel:
Jesus the Good Shepherd, tomb of Pius IX,
Saint Lawrence outside the Walls
The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. 
The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Solemnity of St. Benedict

We wish you all a blessed Feast of our Holy Father St. Benedict!

Today, along with other Benedictines, we celebrate the feast of our Holy Father St. Benedict. Here's a reflection from a Brief by Blessed Paul VI, who declared St. Benedict the Patron of Europe:
Saint Benedict has the reputation of being the messenger of peace, the maker of unity, the master of civilization, and especially the herald of Christianity and the author of monasticism in the West. When darkness seemed to be spreading over Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, he brought the light of dawn to shine upon this continent. For with the cross, the book, and the plough, Christian civilization was carried, principally through him and his sons, to the peoples who lived in those lands which stretch from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from Ireland to the plains of Poland.
St Benedict healing a leper.
Fresco fragment from the lower church of San Crisogono, Rome
With the cross, that is, with the law of Christ, he strengthened and developed the institutions of private and social life. Through the “Work of God,” that is, through the careful and assiduous conduct of prayer, he taught that divine worship was of the greatest importance in the social order. And so he sealed that spiritual unity of Europe in which the various nations of different ethnic origins and languages felt themselves to be united into the one people of God. And so this unity, learnt from so great a master, which the sons of Saint Benedict so faithfully strove to achieve, became the principal element in that period of history called the middle ages. All men of good will in our times must strive to recover that unity, which, as Saint Augustine says, is “the form of all beauty,” and which alas has been lost in the vicissitudes of history.
With the book, that is, with the culture of the mind, this venerable patriarch from whom so many monasteries have drawn their name and their spirit spread his doctrine through the old classics of literature and the liberal arts, preserved and passed on to posterity by them with so much care.
And lastly, with the plough, that is, through agriculture, he changed the waste and desert lands into orchards and delightful gardens; and joining work with prayer in the spirit of those words ora et labora, he restored the dignity of human labor. 
Not without reason, then, did Pope Pius XII call Saint Benedict the “Father of Europe,” for he inspired the peoples of this continent with the love of order upon which their social life depends. We pray he may look upon Europe, and by his prayer achieve even greater things in years to come.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

14th Sunday of OT, Year B

In this week's Gospel from Mark (6:1-6), we see the profound lack of faith of Jesus's own people. As a result, Christ works very few miracles in their midst. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily below, reflects on this scene and reinforces the relationship between faith and divine power.
Jesus preaching at Nazareth, unidentified icon
This reaction is understandable because familiarity at the human level makes it difficult to go beyond this in order to be open to the divine dimension. That this son of a carpenter was the Son of God was hard for them to believe. Jesus actually takes as an example the experience of the prophets of Israel, who in their own homeland were an object of contempt, and identifies himself with them. Due to this spiritual closure Jesus “could do no mighty work there [Nazareth], except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them” (Mk 6:5). 
In fact Christ’s miracles are not a display of power but signs of the love of God that is brought into being wherever it encounters reciprocated human faith. Origen writes: “as in the case of material things there exists in some things a natural attraction towards some other thing, as in the magnet for iron... so there is an attraction in such faith towards the divine power” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 10, 19).