Monthly Archives: August 2018

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – September 2, 2018

There is a Religion of the Lips and one of the Heart

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

In Egypt, there has never been a code of laws. The very word “law” was unknown because the pharaoh, the incarnation of the god Ra, established, by his word, what was just and right. He—the Egyptian texts recalled—“takes advice from his heart, dictates to the scribe excellent provisions” and orders the courts to enforce “his words.”

 

Nothing like this happened in Israel, where the law was not of the king, but of God. The king had only the executive and judicial power. His task was to establish peace and justice in the country (Ps 72:1-2), ensuring that all observe the law of the Lord to which he himself was subjected. On the day of his coronation, he was given a copy of the Torah to meditate upon every day of his life (Dt 17:18-20), resisting the temptation to introduce changes or additions dictated by political opportunism and human cunning, so different from the wisdom of God.

 

He who, like the Pharaoh, alludes himself of being “wise like God” (Gen 3:5) and decides to manage his life with the wisdom of this world is condemned to failure. To him, though intelligent and cultured, the Bible denies the title of “wise” (Ps 14:1), because “true wisdom” manifests itself only where there is the “fear of the Lord” (Pro 1:7). The “religion of the lips” is a discovery of human wisdom, is a ploy to mask the unfaithfulness to the Lord; only “that of the heart” is genuine, because it comes from the Word of God and is expressed in love.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to help the orphans and widows, and keep oneself free from the things of this world.

 

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – August 26, 2018

At times God asks too much

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

The results of histological examination, the response of an ultrasound, the results of amniocentesis, the diagnosis of a doctor can disrupt a person’s life. They can disrupt plans and dreams of a couple, placed in front of dramatic choices and the alternative is always between the wisdom of this world and that of Christ.

 

Making a gift of one’s own life is not easy or comfortable. It requires sacrifice, renunciation, asceticism. Accepting the will of God is willingness to follow “the true light that enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9), even when all would be led to consider it illogical and inconclusive.

 

It’s hard to listen to the promptings of the Spirit, to rise to God and to focus on the life that lives forever. Smoother, but still disappointing, is to enter through the wide gate and to choose the spacious path (Mt 7:13), to fall back on the material prospects, forgetting that “the order of this world is vanishing” (1 Cor 7:31) and that man profits nothing to gain the whole world (Mt 16:26). Making choices “in the flesh” seems reasonable although, in one’s inner self, one realizes that “all flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field” (Is 40:6).

 

The disciple who has “tasted the beauty of the Word of God and the wonders of the supernatural world” (Heb 6:5) remains subject to the temptation of turning away from Christ and being “in love with this present world” (2 Tim 4:9).

 

The Eucharist is a proposal. Who decides to receive it says yes to the light and rejects the darkness. This is the choice which qualifies the Christian.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

When all the reasons were on one side and Christ on the other, I would choose Christ.”

 

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – August 19, 2018

And the Word Became Eucharistic Bread

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

Caress is a way of saying to the other: you are my confidant and I’m glad you trust me. But if the other draws back, you feel rejected or misunderstood. The handshake, the flowers, the lighted lamp to the patron saint express feelings, emotions, and moods that no words can tell. The blowing out of candles, followed by the friends’ applause and song of greetings mark the climax of the birthday party.

 

Gestures alone are seemingly illogical. The ritual, even if different from the positivist reasoning, is loaded with meanings and messages.

 

How can friends manifest their joy at our birth, if they were not there when we gave out the first cry? That day, long gone, cannot be reached, but it is possible to replay it … through the ritual. The wind that blows out the candles cancels our years, brings us back to the time of birth, replays our first breath and offers the opportunity to celebrate our coming into the world. It would not make sense to just eat the birthday cake.

 

A human being is of the earth, is closely related to other living beings and material creatures with which he is called to build a growing harmony and feels a deep need to make the invisible and divine things concrete, perceptible by the senses.

 

The sacraments are God’s answer to this need.

 

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the rite with which to make present his supreme act of love, the total gift of life. The Word of God, bread from heaven, now can really be assimilated, not only with the mind and heart but also through the sacrament. Even with this visible sign we, as long as we are pilgrims in this world, will always be hungry.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“One does not live on bread alone, but also of the Word made bread.”

 

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Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15

The Lord of Life Has Done Great Things for Us

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

Mary is remembered for the last time in the New Testament at the beginning of the book of Acts: in prayer, surrounded by the apostles and the first Christian community (Acts 1:14). Then this sweet and reserved woman leaves the scene, silent and discreet as she entered. Then we don’t know anything about her. Where she spent the last years of her life and how she left this earth were not mentioned in the canonical texts. Many versions of a single theme—the Dormition of the Virgin Mary—spread among Christians from the VI century onwards.

 

These apocryphal texts handed down a series of news about the last days of Mary and on her death. These are folk tales, largely fictional, whose original nucleus, however, dates back to the second century and composed in the ambient of the mother church of Jerusalem. It also contains some reliable information.

 

After Easter, Mary, in all probability, lived in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion, perhaps in the same house where her son had celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles. Her time to leave this world came—and here the legendary aspect of the apocryphal stories begins—a heavenly messenger appeared and announced her coming exit. From the most remote lands, the apostles, miraculously transported on clouds, came to her bedside, conversed with her tenderly, staying next to her until the time when Jesus, with a host of angels, came to take her soul.

 

They accompanied her body in a procession to the brook of Kidron, and there laid her in a tomb cut into the rock. This is probably a historical detail. Since the first century, in fact, her tomb, near the grotto of Gethsemane, has been continuously venerated. In the fourth century, it was isolated from the others and enclosed in a church.

 

Three days after her burial—and here the legendary news resume—Jesus appears again to also take her body that the apostles had continued to watch. He gave orders to the angels to bring her on the clouds and the apostles to accompany her. The clouds made their way to the east, at the archway of paradise and, arrived in the kingdom of light. Among the songs of the angels and the most delicious scents, they took her down beside the tree of life.

 

These fictional details have evidently no historical value, however, they bear witness, through images and symbols, of the incipient devotion of the Christian people for the mother of the Lord.

 

The believers’ reflection on the fate of Mary after death continued to grow over the centuries. It led to the belief in her assumption and, on 1 November 1950, to the papal definition: “The Immaculate Conception Mother of God ever Virgin, finished the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

 

What does this dogma mean? Is it perhaps that Mary’s body did not suffer corruption or that only she and Jesus would be in heaven in flesh and blood, while the others would be dead in the heaven only with their souls, awaiting reunification with their bodies?

 

This naive and gross view of the ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary—besides being a legacy of Greek dualistic philosophy and that contradicts the Bible that considers man an inseparable unit—is positively excluded by Paul. Writing to the Corinthians, he clarifies that it is not the material body that is resurrected, but “a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44).

 

The text of the papal definition does not speak of “assumed into heaven”—as if there had been a shift in space or an “abduction” of her body from the grave to the dwelling of God—but it says: “assumed into heavenly glory.”

 

The “heavenly glory” is not a place, but a new condition. Mary did not go to another place, bringing with her the fragile remains that are destined to return to dust. She has not abandoned the community of disciples who continue to walk as pilgrims in this world. She has changed the way to be with them, as her Son did on Easter day.

 

Mary—the “handmaid of the Lord”—is presented today to all believers not as a privileged one, but as the most excellent model, as the sign of destiny that awaits every person who believes “that the Lord’s word would come true” (Lk 1:45).

 

The forces of life and death confront each other in a dramatic duel in the world. Pain, disease, infirmities of old age are the skirmishes that announce the final assault of the fearsome dragon. Eventually, the fight becomes one-sided and death always grabs its prey. Does God, “lover of life,” impassively assist this defeat of the creatures in whose face his image is imprinted? The answer to this question is given to us today in Mary. In her, we are invited to contemplate the triumph of the God of life.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“O God, lover of life, you do not abandon anyone in the tomb.”

 

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