Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – 29 September

Angel: anyone who is a mediator of God’s tenderness.

 

Introduction

 

In the collective imagination, the angel has a well-defined character and those who paint him must adhere to certain pre-established canons. An angel with hippy traits, tail, tattoo on his arm and jeans would have little chance of being accepted, not only by the more traditionalist parish priests but also by the less bigoted faithful. The angel has to radiate a bright light, has wings, flowing hair and the soft features, but still male because no angel has a woman’s name. Painting an angel with shoes would be the grossest error a painter would commit: an angel flies, not walk.

 

To us heirs of the Enlightenment and positivist culture, this ethereal figure appears more than a real being, a naive, archaic pre-modern legacy; a regression to the world of childhood fairy tales where gnomes, fairies, and elves enter the scene. In the era of science and technology, faith in angels would seem destined to a rapid decline. However, here it is re-emerging and fashionable again. Surveys show that 60% of Italians are convinced to be assisted by a guardian angel, 50% say they talk to him and 6% calls for their protection from accidents. 

 

“You are an angel!” We all have heard this compliment at least once: from a friend to whom we have given a hand at a difficult time; from an office colleague, delighted in seeing us react to an offense with a smile and calm words, by a married couple we helped to reconcile; by a wife to whom we brought coffee in bed caressing her as she sipped it. 

 

“You are an angel.” Is it just a figure of speech, an image, a metaphor? No, it is a reality—today’s readings tell us.

 

The angel was born to fill a distance. The Hebrew word mal’ak comes from the root la’ak that means to send and is attributed to anyone who is sent to convey a message, gather information or take a specific action in the name of an agent. The Bible does not make any distinction between people’s envoys and God’s. Anyone who goes between people or between distant communities or between God and people is called mal’ak—angel.

 

Even when the sacred text gives a name to the messengers of God, it is difficult to determine whether it points to real characters, to spirits who assumed human forms, or if one uses an image, a personification to describe the ineffable experience of divine intervention in people’s favor.

 

The feast of the archangels is an invitation for us to turn around and to recognize the angels who are at our side. They do not move with wings, but guide with caution; they are serene and kind even when the traffic is not flowing. They do not wear a bright robe, but the sari of Mother Teresa, the gown of the doctor, the worker’s suit or jeans of a young priest of the Oratory. And if they do not have shoes it is because they removed them to offer them to the poor.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Lordthat I may be your angel.“

 

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – September 30, 2018

We are Given the Spirit but not Exclusively

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

It is not always easy to distinguish a friend from a foe. Sometimes it’s deceiving: the most trustworthy person, the one chosen as a confidant, a day can betray, while the one we kept under control because we judge him dangerous in the end may prove to be the most loyal companion.

 

How to understand who is with us and who is against us?

 

The Christian, at times, gives the impression to proceed alone down the right path traced out by Christ and is caught by anxiety; but as soon as he raises his eyes and looks around, he unexpectedly sees many generous, sincere, well-arranged traveling companions walking at his side. He is astonished and asks why he had not noticed them before.

 

He did not see them because they were hidden by the thick veil of presumption of being the only true disciple spread over his eyes. Envy and jealousy prevented him from recognizing the good done by those who were different from him.

 

The apostles were silent when Jesus questioned them about the reasons for their contention along the way. They were ashamed because the Master had exposed their petty ambitions (Mk 8:34). Instead, not only were they willing to admit, but they felt proud to cultivate the pride of the group, a haughty presumption which led them to consider enemies of Christ and condemn those who do not think like them.

 

“The pride of the group” is very dangerous: it is subtle and makes one deem holy zeal that which is only disguised selfishness, bigotry and inability to admit that good exists outside of the religious structure in which one belongs.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

Jesus teaches to delight of the good whoever the author is.

 

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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – October 7, 2018

Indissolubility: A Necessity of Love, Not a Precept

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

There are situations in which both spouses are wondering, with good reason, whether it is still worthwhile to insist on trying to fix a relationship gone badly and that is proving to be irremediably broken. They don’t love each other anymore, there are character incompatibilities, annoyances, they speak only to offend and even the children are involved in the failure of the parents. What sense has it go on living together? Does God demand the extension of a living together which is a torture? Is it not better for everyone to go his/her own way and rebuild a life?

 

To these questions, the logic of the men replies without hesitation: divorce is better. If so many couples split up after a few years of marriage, is living together preferable? If things do not go well let one go without much trouble.

 

In no other field, as in that of sexual ethics, man is tempted to give his own morals, and so the salt of the gospel proposal is often made insipid by many “buts,” “ifs,” “howevers,” and “depends.”

 

“To become as little children” is needed to enter the kingdom of heaven, to understand the difficult, challenging proposal of Christ. Only one who feels little, who believes in the love of the Father and trusts him, finds himself in a right disposition to welcome God’s thoughts. Not everyone can understand them, “but only those who have received this gift” (Mt 19:11), not the wise and prudent, but the small ones (Mt 11:25).

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Only the narrow way that Jesus offers leads to life.”

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – October 14, 2018

Leave the Goods and You’ll Have the Good

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

Chosen as the arbiter of a musical contest between Pan’s flute and Apollo’s lyre, King Midas had attributed the victory to the first. Only an inexperienced, one with the musical sensitivity of a donkey could become unbalanced in such a judgment. He would grow donkey’s ears and would become the symbol of the reckless man. One day, Dionysus, grateful for a favor received, allowed him to express a wish, promising to fulfill it. Midas, without thinking, and guided by his proverbial folly, asked that everything he touched would change into gold. Thus it happened but from that time he was no longer in a position to either eat or drink.

 

Of these myths, only one who does not realize that they reflect our reality, and denounce our foolish choices, can smile.

 

It is we who, between the sound of the Apollonian lyre, a symbol of harmony, the balance of passions, moderation, and the melody of the flute, an instrument of seduction and stimulus to excesses, preferred the latter.

 

The insatiable longing for gold, the greed for the goods, the idolatry of money are causes for concern, anxiety, and shortness of breath. They take the breath away and make life impossible. They continue to be held objectives for which it is worth living. Everything that one touches—the profession, scientific research, friendships, family and, sometimes, religion—is appreciated … if it produces gold. This is madness.

 

“A man of donkey’s ears” was considered by the sages of antiquity, “crazy.” Who accumulates assets as the purpose of his existence is defined a fool by Jesus (Lk 12:20).

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“I do not want to bet life on the goods, but on the Good.”

 

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