Listening to Jesus

A+Prayer+for+those+at+seaWe are happy to share with you today’s homily from our friend Fr. Matthew Furgiuele, priest of the Diocese of Gaylord.  Today’s Mass readings can be found here.

There is a very important lesson for us in today’s readings, especially in light of the ongoing Synod on the Family, as well as the upcoming changes to the process for a declaration of nullity. If you get your information about the Church from the media, and even if you listen to some priests, bishops and cardinals, you might get the impression that things are in flux, and that great changes are upon us. This is not the case and it cannot be the case. As Benedict XVI said, and as Pope Francis himself has repeated numerous times, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Christianity is not a theory, it is not an ideology, it is a way of life, but it is one which is based on a concrete, living, breathing model: Jesus Christ. As we were reminded during the great Jubilee of 2000, Jesus Christ is the same ‘yesterday, today and forever’. The truth cannot change because it is not an abstraction, it is a person. For our faith to have meaning, both for ourselves and for our society, we need to return always to the source: Jesus.

Wisdom is very much linked to prayer, as we see in our first reading, the sacred author prays for wisdom and receives it as a gift. Prayer is necessary for wisdom because Christ is the source of wisdom, and so, we obtain wisdom not by great learning, and not even by experience, but through a relationship. Prayer at its core is dialogue with God, and, most especially with the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. The more we know Jesus, the wiser we become, for it is in knowing Him that we grow in wisdom. As we grow closer to Christ, we see more clearly how everything else pales in comparison, and we see that He alone can satisfy the longing of our hearts. All of creation is good, but nothing created can compare to the Creator. It is not that things lose their value, it is that we value them in the proper perspective: can this or that bring me closer to Christ?  If so, it is not merely good, but good for me.  If it cannot, then, while it may retain its inherent goodness, it is not good for me. There are very few things that are bad in and of themselves; it is usually not the thing itself which is bad, but the inappropriate use of it. Jesus is the One who can teach us how to make proper use of the goods He has provided us in creation.

Deep down we all know that we cannot fool God, but, instinctively, we also know that we cannot fool ourselves. The author of Hebrews knew this so well, and he warned his audience not to play games. This reminds me a lot of the Sheryl Crow song “If It Makes You Happy” in which she says, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. If it makes you happy, then why are you so sad.” I also think of a poster that one of my co-workers has in her cubicle in Gaylord: “People be like, ‘Only God can judge me.’  I be like, ‘That should scare you.’” There is a great crisis facing the Church, the family and the world, and it is a crisis of listening. We are all so afraid to listen, because deep down we know what God has to say to us. Again, it comes back to the need for prayer: if you don’t spend time with Jesus, then you cannot hear what He is saying, or, if you hear it, you distort it. God is not like we are, He is able to reconcile opposites: in Jesus Justice and Mercy come together: the Cross was the Justice of God, but Christ suffering it became the Mercy of God. In Christ Paul was able to say that when he was weak, then he was strong. One of the most consoling things of all time are the words of today’s Gospel: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.

All things are possible for God.” Nothing is impossible for God, so, if it does not happen, it means that we are getting in the way. It is amazing how difficult it is for us to let go and to trust in God, instead of ourselves. I see this in confession all the time, people who struggle and struggle and never seem to make any progress, because they continue to try to do it alone, and so experience over and over the sad reality that, by their own strength, holiness is impossible.

In our Gospel today we see a wonderful example of someone who talks to Jesus but is not able to listen to Him. The rich young man is a good man, he does keep the commandments, and he even recognizes that avoiding sin is necessary, but not enough, and so, he approaches Jesus and he asks Him what must he do to have eternal life. Jesus knows that the man speaks truthfully, and so He looks lovingly upon him, and He tells him “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” We have a tendency to think that this was something extraordinary on the part of Jesus, that it is not meant for everyone, but that is not true. Each and every one of you, if you truly speak to Jesus, will hear Him tell you exactly the same thing. Riches are not necessarily material goods, each and every one of us has riches, because we have so many graces and talents from Jesus. The point is not that we have to get rid of our gifts and talents, that would be absurd; rather, the point is that we are all, each and every one of us, called to listen to Jesus and to make sure that every thought word and deed of ours flows from our relationship with Him, and so is according to His desire for us. This is different for each and every one of us, because we are all unique; however, what is common is that we are all called to be disciples of Christ, and to make sure that nothing we do is contrary to that. This is where change is not possible: because Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, it cannot be the case that something which was Christ-like two hundred years ago is no longer so; neither could it be the case that something which was once an obstacle to being a disciple is now a means of fidelity to the Gospel.

He has entered our history, shared our journey

Last night, Pope Francis celebrated Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s, which is always one of the most watched religious events in the world.

Here is Pope Francis’ homily from Midnight Mass:

1. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).
This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of Continue reading

Pope’s Meditation at Prayer Vigil

Here is the meditation given by Pope Francis this evening in Rome at the Vigil of Prayer and Fasting in Saint Peter’s Square:

“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:12, 18, 21, 25). The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: “It is good”. This allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message. We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?

1. It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the “house of harmony and peace”, and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel “at home”, because it is “good”. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

2. But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war”. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness. When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (cf. Gen 3: 10), he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear ….
It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!

3. At this point I ask myself: Is it possible to change direction? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! Amen.

Called to confirm – Pope Francis’ homily for Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul

Aside

Not many people in the course of history have been able to celebrate and pray for two popes – at least, not without a schism.  But here we are, thanking God today for two pontiffs, both living, both at the Vatican.  That’s pretty incredible!

Here is Pope Francis’ homily for today, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul:

Your Eminences,My Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, principal patrons of the Church of Rome: a celebration made all the more joyful by the presence of bishops from throughout the world. A great wealth, which makes us in some sense relive the event of Pentecost. Today, as then, the faith of the Church speaks in every tongue and desire to unite all peoples in one family.

I offer a heartfelt and grateful greeting to the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis. I thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I for this renewed gesture of fraternity. I greet the distinguished ambassadors and civil authorities. And in a special way I thank the Thomanerchor, the Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig – Bach’s own church – which is contributing to today’s liturgical celebration and represents an additional ecumenical presence.

I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word “confirm”. What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm?

1. First, to confirm in faith. The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven. Because of this confession, Jesus replies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (v. 18). The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms. When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him … This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus’ response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

2. To confirm in love. In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom. Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church. The Bishop of Rome is called himself to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers.

3. To confirm in unity. Here I would like to reflect for a moment on the rite which we have carried out. The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church’s communion does not mean uniformity. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). And it continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22). In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: this is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.

To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God; to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel; to be servants of unity. These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian. May the holy Mother of God guide us and accompany us always with her intercession. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

Pentecost Sunday – Be open to “God’s surprises”

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on Pentecost Sunday with members of Lay Ecclesial MovementsToday the Holy Father celebrated the Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which was filled with members of Lay Ecclesial Movements.  Members of about 150 different groups from around the world, numbering 120,000 people, made the pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate Pentecost during this Year of Faith.  Below is the Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.
But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.

Continue reading

Evangelical, Ecclesial, Missionary

“I see a great variety, first of umbrellas, and then of colours and signs”… 

Surrounded by a sea of colorful umbrellas, Pope Francis greets the faithful after Sunday Mass today, which was dedicated to Confraternities.

Members of various confraternities from all over Europe packed St. Peter’s Square despite the rain.

Below is the Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ homily for this Sixth Sunday of Easter:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, you were very courageous to come with this rain. . . . May the Lord bless you very much!

As part of the journey of the Year of Faith, I am happy to celebrate this Eucharist dedicated in a special way to confraternities: a traditional reality in the Church, which in recent times has experienced renewal and rediscovery. I greet all of you with affection, particularly the confraternities which have come here from all over the world! Thank you for your presence and your witness! Continue reading

Pope Francis’ Holy Thursday Homily

Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at Casal del Marmo, Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Below is the translation of Pope Francis’ unscripted homily from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

This is moving. Jesus, washing the feet of his disciples. Peter didn’t understood it at all, he refused. But Jesus explained it for him. Jesus – God – did this! He himself explains to his disciples: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).

It is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign, right? Washing feet means: “I am at your service”. And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other … but… let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favour, do it.

Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty which comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another: help one another always. One another. In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good.

Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: “Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?”. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.