Cycle C

 
 

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 8

Mary – a sign of victory over a serpent

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

There is a way to present the figure of Mary that discourages instead of animating. She is referred to as the absolutely exceptional woman, exempted from original sin and its tragic consequences—and that’s not because of her own merit, but for a unique divine privilege—confirmed in grace, preserved from making mistakes, blessed in all her works … We wonder what this wonderful woman has in common with us. We, the poor descendants of Adam, forced to endure, through no fault, a punishment of sin that we have not committed. We feel envy for her but hardly love. She is too far away from our condition; she is not our traveling companion in the journey of faith that, with hard work, we tread. She does not share with us doubts, uncertainties, and also moments of bewilderment before the will of God.

 

This image of the mother of Jesus—derived from affection rather than from the profound meditation of sacred texts—divides the brothers of faith, instead of uniting them. It is a source of friction in the ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Protestants and the Orthodox.

 

Today’s feast offers us an opportunity to approach the authentic figure of Mary. She clearly shines in the Gospel accounts, free from fouling of a not always healthy devotion that gave rise also to several misunderstandings.

 

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception—defined by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854—has been formulated with a language linked to the philosophical and theological categories of time, a difficult to understand language for the twenty-first century man and woman. If the dogma wants to have something to say to us today, we must re-read it in the light of biblical revelation.

 

The Mary of the Gospel is very close to us: a girl born in the mountains of Lower Galilee, in love with the young Joseph with whom she designed a family according to the tradition of her people. Then she is a mother, woman of faith, who each day had to confront difficulties and temptations similar to ours. She is not an exception but a particular person in whom God has found the full availability to realize his plan of salvation.

 

God does not bestow his gifts to arouse in the favored one the narcissistic pleasure of feeling privileged, but to give her a mission to carry out. Mary was filled with grace because we had to become rich in grace. In her, the Lord has manifested his good will because he wanted to fill us with every blessing.

 

She is perfectly inserted in this design. She used all the gifts she has freely received from God so that we might attain salvation. She gladly accepted the word of the Lord and accomplished her difficult vocation. The Gospels remind us of her doubts, questions, and moving journey of faith. Like us, like her son, she has been tried, but at all times she has been able to always say, like Jesus (2 Cor 1:19), “yes” to God.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“You were not different from us, Sister Mary. You are blessed because you believed and you remained faithful.”

 

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2nd Sunday of Advent – Year C – December 9, 2018

I will call you with a new name

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

Statistics say that 98% of women do not like how they are and try in every possible way (imposing diets, doing aerobics, choosing a new look, resorting to cosmetic surgery) to improve their image. The ancients—for whom the name formed one with the person—would have called these efforts seeking to give oneself a new name, attempts to rebuild the name. God loves to change connotations and name to persons, cities and peoples. He called Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Simon, and gave them a new name. He transformed Jerusalem—the city in ruins, “the slave”, “the sad and withered widow”—into a town called “Graceful”, “Jewel”, “Peace of righteousness and glory of godliness.”

 

We perhaps feel hopelessly chained to a name that we know we deserve, even though nobody has ever given it to us: “Alcoholic”, “Addict”, “Slave of the game”, “Sexually Corrupt”, “Unfaithful”, “Dishonest”, “Unreliable” … It is the unfortunate condition from which God wants to free us. He comes to reveal to us the name by which he calls us from all eternity.

 

By what name can we call our nation, our Christian community, our family? We would call them: a place of peace, sharing, justice, brotherhood or should we expect the Lord to visit and give them a new name? God has risked a lot in giving people freedom. He is placed in the state and in the event of seeing his love rejected. But if he decided to play this game it is hard to imagine that he can get out of it defeated. One day he will call every person with a new name that his love will have indicated.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Every man shall see the salvation of God.”

 

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3rd Sunday of Advent – Year C – December 16, 2018

Joy—A Gift to be Received

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

What does man ask of life if not happiness? The Hebrew Bible uses something like twenty-seven synonyms to express the feeling of joy. Nothing could be more contrary to the Bible, therefore, than the religion of suffering, moroseness, frowning faces that are seen even in our Sunday assemblies.

 

But how to achieve happiness? Is wealth, good health, success enough? Who can be considered truly blessed?

 

The Israelite of the earliest times answered this question: happy is the one who enjoys the fruits of his field (Is 9:2), who cheers his heart with wine (Jdg 9:13), who has a close family (Dt 1:7) and has many children (1 S 2:1,5). Happy are the people who obtain a military victory (1 Sam 18:6), who contemplates their rebuilt city (Ne 12:43), who celebrates with hymns, music and dance the abundant harvest that God has given him (Dt 16:11). We know that these are not enough.

 

With our cunning, devices and efforts we can achieve happiness, good mood, euphoria, exhilaration, enjoyment, fun, but not joy. This is the fruit of the Spirit and we can only welcome it as a gift.

 

We can, however, place obstacles: today’s readings will help us to identify and remove them.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“Alleluia, the God of joy is among us.”

 

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4th Sunday of Advent – Year C – December 23, 2018

Poor but Rich

 

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

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

The Psalmist prays: “Answer me, because I am poor” (Ps 86:1). The reason with which he plans to convince God to intervene in his favor is surprising: I am poor. 

 

To gain access to the palaces of the kings, the rulers of this world, solid recommendations are needed. One needs to produce titles of merit; credentials and merits are required. With God it is not so; the only certificate required to be received in audience is the state of poverty.

 

His sympathies are for small ones, the helpless, the derelict. He is “the father of orphans and protector of widows” (Ps 68:6) who prefers one who does not count for anything, despicable in the eyes of people. “The Lord has chosen you—says Moses to the Israelites—not because you are the most numerous among all the peoples (on the contrary you are the least), but because of his love for you” (Deut 7:7-8).

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways” (Is 55:8), so they are difficult to understand. Gideon called to make an arduous job, was amazed and objects: “Pardon me, Lord, but how can I save Israel? My family is the lowliest in my tribe and I am the least in the family of my father” (Jdg 6:15).

 

Today’s readings present us with a series of situations and insignificant characters in which God has done wonders. They are an invitation to recognize—as Mary did—our poverty and to dispose ourselves to receive the work of salvation which the Lord comes to realize.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“The Lord will do great things for the poor who trust in him.”

 

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