Exaltation of the Cross – September 14

A symbol often misunderstood

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

The cross is the symbol of which Christians show their faith. Yet, for three centuries, they intentionally did not use the cross as a symbol of their faith. They were recognized in other symbols—the anchor, the fish, the loaves, the dove, the shepherd—but they were reluctant to depict the cross. It evoked the infamous death of their Master, death reserved for slaves and brigands, and that was one of the motives they were ridiculed by the pagans.

 

Around 180 A.D., the polemicist Celsus—who knew the mythological stories in which the gods always appeared beautiful and clothed in splendor—objected to the Christians: “If the spirit of God became incarnate in a man, he must at least excelled among all in built, beauty, strength, majesty, voice and eloquence. Instead, Jesus had nothing more than the others. He was an overstrained wanderer; he is seen stunned, bewildered, traveled through the country in the midst of publicans and sailors of ill repute. We know how he ended, we recognize the defection of his disciples, the condemnation, the abuse, the insults, the sufferings of his torture … and his scream from the top of the scaffold before expiring.”

 

The graffito found in the Palatine school, where pages destined to serve in the imperial court were taught, is famous. It dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a young man in the act of worshiping a crucified man with a donkey’s head; the inscription reads: “Alexamenos adores his God.” An obvious caricature of Christian worship, probably made by a slave who wanted to mock a colleague who converted to the new faith.

 

“We proclaim a crucified Messiah. For the Jews, what a great scandal. And for the Greeks, what nonsense”—wrote Paul (1 Cor 1:23). But the Christians were reluctant to translate this truth into a symbol.

 

An exact date marks the transition to the worship of the cross: on September 14, 335 A.D., a huge crowd of pilgrims flocked from all over the world in Jerusalem. They celebrated the feast of the dedication of the basilica built by Constantine on the site the holy sepulcher. On the rock of Calvary, the emperor had placed a wonderful jeweled cross to mark the place of Christ’s sacrifice. From that day the cross became a Christian symbol par excellence. They started to manufacture it with the most precious metals, was embedded with pearls, appeared everywhere, on churches, on banners, on the helmet of the Prince, on the coins….

 

Throughout the centuries, unfortunately, from an emblem of love and a sign of the rejection of all violence, it was commuted to, at times, a banner to impose by force the “political” rights of God and often was reduced to amulets, necklaces, superstitious gesture.

 

Today’s feast wants to remind us of the true meaning of the cross. For seventeen centuries the Christian community loved this symbol, but not idolized it. They are aware that, the showing of crosses does not make a society Christian, but the life of Christians does. They are “crucified” and persecuted because they refuse to idolize money and power and become peacemakers.

 

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

May whoever meets a Christian always see in him the Crucified One willing to offer his life.”.

 

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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 15, 2019 – Year C

A lost person would be God’s defeat

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

“For love is strong as death; its jealousy lasting as the power of death … . No flood can extinguish love nor river submerge it” (Song 8:6-7). With these famous images, the irresistible force of love is described in the Song of Songs. One always runs a big risk—we know it—who gets involved in an emotional bond: love presupposes freedom and entails the possibility of rejection and failure. They are part of the game even jealousy, torment, anxiety, and fear of abandonment and all the emotions that we call heartbreak. “Love makes me sick”  ​​repeats the bride of the Song of Songs (Song 2:5; 5:8).

 

God wanted to take this risk: he has agreed to be weak and put into account the possibility of defeat. We always imagined him all-powerful, but in love, this prerogative is excluded from the rules of the game. This term is never attributed to God in the Bible, and rightly so, because, since he created the universe with its own laws and has given life to a free man, he has somewhat restricted his power. It is what the rabbis called contraction, concealment, auto-limitation of God.

 

God cannot force; he must win the loved person over. If he’d play on the effect fear or would threaten punishments, he would have lost the game; he would not create love, but hypocrisy.

 

In Jesus, God has experienced failure several times. Jerusalem has not corresponded to his love: “How often have I tried to bring together your children as a bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused” (Lk 13:34). In Nazareth he could not perform any miracle (Mk 6:5-6); the rich young man responds with a refusal (Mt 19:16-22).

 

In Revelation, God is not called omnipotent, but Pantokrator, which means One who has in hand all. Men are free to make their play, but in the challenge of love, it is God who runs the game, with unparalleled skill. It is hard to imagine that he lets it get out of hand.

 

Now we can understand the words of Jesus: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety decent people, who do not need to repent” (Lk 15:7). The greatest joy of the lover is the reconquest of the beloved, and hearing her repeat: “I will go back to my husband for I was better off then than now!” (Hos 2:9).

 

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“We have known and believed in the love God has for us.”

 

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 22, 2019 – Year C

Administrators only, not owners

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

“The earth and all it contains, the universe and its inhabitants are of the Lord (Ps 24:1). Man is a pilgrim, lives as a stranger in a world not his own. He is a wanderer who traverses the desert. He owns a lot of land as much as his feet trod. But as he steps forward then it’s not his anymore.”

 

People are not owners but administrators of God’s goods. This is an often insistently repeated affirmation of the church’s fathers. We recall one, Basil. “Aren’t you a thief when you consider your own the riches of this world; riches are given to you only to administer?”

 

The administrator is a person who appears often in the parables of Jesus. We have one “faithful and wise” who does not act arbitrarily, but uses the goods entrusted to him according to the will of the owner. We also have another one who, in the absence of the Lord, takes advantage of his position to “make himself the owner” and getting drunk and dishonors the other servants (Lk 12:42-48).

 

There is the enterprising administrator, who commits himself, has the courage to risk and makes the master’s capital gain profit and one who is a slacker and a sloth. The most embarrassing one is the shrewd administrator spoken of in today’s gospel.

 

The Lord puts a treasure in the hand of each person. What to do to administer it well?

 

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Do not attach the heart to riches, even if it abounds.”

 

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 29, 2019 – Year C

To enjoy life is to renounce the superfluous

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

There was a time when God seemed an ally of the rich. Well-being, luck, abundance of goods were considered signs of his blessing.

 

The first time the Hebrew word kesef (which means silver or more commonly, money) appears in the Bible, it is referred to Abraham. He “was very rich in cattle, silver and gold” (Gen 13:2). Isaac “sowed crops and in that year harvested a hundredfold” (Gen 26:12-13). Jacob owned countless “oxen, asses, flocks, men-servants and maidservants” (Gen 32:5). The Psalmist, too, does not know better than to promise to the just one, saying: “Abundance and wealth will be in your home” (Ps 112:3).

 

Poverty was a disgrace. It was believed to be the result of laziness, idleness, and debauchery. “A little sleep, a little drowsiness, a little folding of the arms to rest, poverty will come” (Pro 24:33-34).

 

A change of perspective comes with the prophets. One begins to understand that the assets accumulated by the rich are not always the result of their honest work and the blessing of God, but often of cheating, violations of the rights of the most vulnerable.

 

Even the wise men of Israel denounce the rich; “But the rich man who has had his fill cannot sleep” (Eccl 5:11). “Gold has ruined many” (Sir 8:2).

 

Jesus considers both greeds of goods of this world and honestly earned wealth as almost insurmountable obstacles to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The deceitfulness of wealth chokes the seed of the Word (Mt 13:22); it tends to gradually conquer the whole human heart and leave no space for God nor for the neighbor.

 

Blessed is he who makes himself poor, who is no longer anxious about what he will eat or drink, who does not worry about clothes and does not get restless for tomorrow (Mt 6:25-34). Blessed is he who shares all that he has with the brothers/sisters.

 

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Christ, though he was rich, became poor to make us rich.”

 

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