Monthly Archives: September 2018

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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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – September 23, 2018

Who Serves is Worthier than Who Prevails

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

Who is in love is always “beside himself with joy.” He comes out of himself, forgets himself because to encounter the other proves to be an irresistible impulse. Even the mystical experience of ecstasy, from the Greek word existánai means “to be beside oneself” and caught up in God.

 

Who loves cannot remain in oneself. He has to come out and surrender to the beloved. It also happens to God, infinite love and therefore completely “out of himself.”

 

In Christ he revealed his ecstasy. He left heaven and came among us: “As I came from the Father—Jesus says—and have come into the world” (Jn 16:28). His destiny is to return to the Father, but does not leave people to whom he is united in an indissoluble love: “I shall come and take you to me—he assures—so that where I am, you also may be… I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 14:3; 16:22).

 

The Lord who comes out of himself and comes among people is a call to ecstasy, to get out of oneself to go toward the brethren. Who stops thinking of himself, his own advantage, self-affirmation and makes oneself, as the Lord, the servant of all, meets God. “How did the love of God appear among us?” God sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him.

 

“It’s not that we love God but that God first loved us, so we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us and his love comes to perfection in us.” (1 Jn 4:9-12).

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

It’s not who prevails, but who makes oneself a servant is great in the sight of God.

 

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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – September 16, 2018

Peter Followed Jesus but had Misunderstood the Goal

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

The question we now turn to whoever asks us to follow him is: “Where do you want to lead me?”

 

The disciples forgot to put it to Jesus when, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, they heard his call, “Follow me!” (Mk 1:17). Fascinated by his word and by his look, they immediately left their nets and their father, the hired servants, and went with him, without objections, without asking questions, and were involved in a misunderstanding. Convinced that they had chosen a successful man as guide, they found themselves in front of an executed man, unable to come down from the cross.

 

The decision to accept the offer of a trip depends on the goal which is proposed, on the strength that we feel we have, from the budget we can count on, the interest that we are fond of. It is a test that should be done and even Jesus suggests it to those who want to go with him, “Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost to see whether you have enough to complete it?” (Lk 14:28).

 

On the Way to Rome, where he was thrown into the arena and would shed his blood to bear witness to his faith, Ignatius of Antioch, in A.D. 110, wrote to the Christians in the capital of the empire, “Now I begin to be a disciple.” He devoted many years of his life animating, as a bishop, the churches of Syria, and yet, only at that time, along the road that led him to martyrdom, he began to feel himself a disciple. He was sure not to be mistaken: he was going with the Master, towards Easter.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

Only when I follow the footsteps of Christ, I walk safely.”

 

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