"Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up to the hill". Jesus escapes. He is the new fashion. He is giving out bread and going around curing people. He is very popular. But he is not at ease with this. He knows that he is being followed so much because he is curing people, but they are not really curious about who he is, and so he escapes.
Today the liturgy suggests that everything changes in life when we begin to have contact with God. To explain this the liturgy uses the image of the light. The first reading says:
Dearest People of God, The Church has now begun the cycle of Ordinary Time, in which we follow the life and teaching of Jesus, this year according to the Gospel of St. Matthew.1 Today we stand on the banks of the Jordan, listening to St. John the Baptist saying he saw “the Spirit coming down on Jesus from heaven like a dove and resting on him.”2 This descent of God the Holy Spirit makes us reflect on the Sacrament which gives the gift of that Spirit, and which this Eastertime many of our young will be receiving, namely, the Sacrament of Confirmation.
What way does God use to meet us, inaugurated by Mary? To use a human person to take a human shape and so to meet us in the most simple way: as two persons meet and become friends. God becomes man and people can walk with him, eat with him, drink with him, chat with him, joy and suffer with him, wonder with him, discuss and make objections with him. In one word, now it is possible to live with God as people live together.
Why is this so important? Because God’s method to convey himself was not a one off, but once for ever. God has inaugurated a way to keep in touch with us through people taken by him. First with Mary, who was then the first Church, the first human shape used as a means of the presence of God. Then with the apostles and the disciples and so on through different generations.
God is almighty, powerful. In order to make us happy - a word, a helping hand or sending something or someone to sort out our issues would have been enough.
"His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this."
Do you remember going into your room as a kid, finding it all tidied up and immediately thinking, “My mum has been in here”?
1. We are in wait when we are lacking something. What are we waiting for? What do we lack? What do we think of when we feel this lack? What is it that we are lacking? What do we need? What is missing? This question would be enough to start the time of Advent.
The widow of Nain had nothing left. No husband and now no child. The only child. No social system. Condemned to starve. Jesus is moved with compassion and says: woman no cry. Who can say that? He did out of compassion, but also because He has the power to give to her the son back. So the Lord wipes away the tears of her cheek. The widow is now filled with joyful trust in God though our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we are suffering afflictions, we do not to know how to pray as we ought. Because they are hard to endure and painful, because they are contrary to our nature (which is weak) we, like all mankind, pray to have our afflictions taken from us.
The readings today teach us to pray with insistence. Why should we pray insistently?
Jesus cures ten lepers. One of them, seeing himself cured, turns back to Jesus praising God and throws himself at Jesus' feet.
A parable is a short symbolic (but not literal) story designed to teach some principle or lesson. It is a teaching method that involves a comparison. The parable uses situations, events and circumstances known to those being taught, like a bridge, to teach them a principle or convey a new meaning. In Jesus' case, he used it to convey, in the case of the rich person and Lazarus, as a correction. By their very nature they are NOT to be taken literally in every detail.
The Gospel today concludes with a genial sentence: ‘You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
"Man has passed straight away from a Father-God in whose arms he had played like a child, to a Judge-God from whose face he flees. Does this mean that God has changed towards man? I think not, at least not principally. The change has come about principally in the mind of man himself. After his sin, man said to himself: What is God going to think about this? And to figure out what God might think about it, his imagination is guided by his own heart, a heart already shrivelled by sin, by the act of rebellion. In his shrivelled heart, he says, “How should I myself react if somebody had rebelled against me in this way?” And from now on man’s “I” signifies something different from what it was before since, by asserting himself against all manner or dependence, ha has taken up a wholly new position. And this is the man, barely established in his autonomous independence, who says: What would I do if somebody rebelled against me, as I have done against God?” Obviously such a man would nurture in his ungenerous heart sentiments of rancour and spite against the own who had rebelled against him. All relations would be severed, and humiliating reparation would be demanded before there could be any question of gradually opening the door again.
Today we have woken up to a different United Kingdom, a different Europe; indeed, a different World. For the supporters of Brexit, there is nervous hope for an independent future; for ‘Remain’ voters all is doom and destined to crumble. Common to all, both in the United Kingdom and on the Continent, is a growing sense of disorientation and a divided society.
I’m happy to be with you today for this Pastoral Visitation, and I thank Fr. Pepe and all of you for your warm welcome. I thank you for all you do here in Maidenhead to witness to the Catholic Faith. It’s 31⁄2 years since I became the bishop. Originally I come from Altrincham, Cheshire (up-north). This is not a part of the world I know (the deep south)! Our Diocese of Portsmouth is big, from here to the Channel islands, but as I get to know all the clergy and people, I feel very much at home.
"Come Holy Spirit, dwell in the souls of your faithful". A very old prayer starts like this, invoking, begging the Spirit of Jesus to come into our lives. If we look at the day of Pentecost about 2000 years ago, we can see an irruption of the Spirit in the College of the Apostles. A big surprise and a very visible change in their lives. Everybody could see the presence of the Spirit in the inflamed apostles.
After the first weeks living under the shock of the great joy of finding what the heart didn't dare to long for any more, after the first months of realising that the whole surprise was not a dream, after three years living on a daily basis with Him, after the last month where the hostility was surrounding Him with increasing aggressiveness, after all this came the peak: the passion, the death, the silence of the nothingness and the greatest joy: He is risen, He is alive, He is exalted as Lord precisely because He has accepted to suffer, to give up His life until the very end, until torture and death, abandoned by his friends.
The most striking consequence of the resurrection of Christ is that being alive, he is here. A man living 2000 years ago can cross, can get across, can pass through all barriers of space and time and reach me and you now.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Why (would) the cross and the atonement? Why did God decide to submit himself to such a torment? Pope Benedict says: "Somehow today, in the contortions of modern thought, the answer to these questions can be formulated in a new way."
A flow. A new flow. A new human flow. The divine life, God's life, enters into the history of man, in our stories with all their joys and sorrows, as a new human flow.
During Lent I’ve been reading two fine books, English Catholic Heroes and English Catholic Heroines: 40 brief biographies of outstanding laity, priests and religious, from St. Aidan, Richard Challoner, Leonard Cheshire to Lady Margaret Beaufort, St. Anne Line, Caryll Houselander. What unites these different people from different eras is their impressive holiness: the gift of deep faith, a personal-passionate love for Jesus, a real determination to put Catholicism into practice, however countercultural, with bravery, even martyrdom. Meanwhile, we’ve begun updating our Diocesan Liturgy Supplement. Our Diocese of Portsmouth is itself blessed with numerous saints, holy women and men, holy bishops, abbesses, martyrs, not to forget the great St. Edmund himself, nor the many un-canonised saints from our schools and parishes. You and I today, we are heirs to a glorious Tradition, one we need to be much more in touch with, if we’re effectively to respond to the new evangelisation. But more on this in a moment.
“Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.”
1. Leadership: Leading is God! He makes things happen. We have only to second, to come along, to make space for His work. Our main function is to identify Him happening - to remain open to recognise Him in events, people, facts and enlightening the perceptions of others.
Dear People of God, As we begin this holy Season of Lent, hearing in today’s Gospel how Satan tempted Jesus,1 I need to speak to you about something serious that some of you will no doubt find provocative. Pope Francis, in the document establishing the Year of Mercy, said: “During the Jubilee Year, the season of Lent should .. be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.” 2 Now my question to you is this: When did you last go to Confession? How on Earth can we be sure to experience personally One-to-one the mercy of God, without at some point – and I would say regularly, even once a month – celebrating this Sacrament?
It is increasingly common that people are surprised by simple gestures of humanity. We give these gestures almost no value, because we consider them to be normal, usual.
Today is the so called gaudete Sunday in advent. The antiphon at the beginning said: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." Then the Collect: "enable us to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate glad rejoicing". The first reading: "shout for joy" and "He will exult with joy over you". The second: "I want you to be happy".
A main street. The only one. Around a jungle of tents and rubbish.
End of the year. Balance of good and bad deeds? I don't know how useful a list of achievements or failings can be... Perhaps it would be better to find out what interesting things happened in our lives last year. What did I learn for my life? What will last forever from last year?
1. The first reading shows us happiness in a language that is, for us, unfamiliar. But here it is all about this what we really desire, about happiness, about our Destiny.
The Collect on Sunday is a prayer that the church repeats every single day of the week at the beginning of the mass. It is a small prayer aiming to give us a leitmotif for the whole week. A small but intense sentence to keep in mind during the week so that we can face everything happening during the week from that point of view.
The young man has seen the truth. The truth is like the face of a beautiful woman. You cannot say that she is not handsome. This is the spark of attraction.
Last week someone came to propose to me some changes to a youth activity. Not the usual people who like to tell others how to do what they don't do. No. Someone who collaborates effectively. My first thought was: "No! My idea is better". But I did not say anything. Afterwards, when considering the proposal, I realised that it was not that bad at all, and we incorporated it into the educational youth activity.
Grant that we may use the good things that happen in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.
The last substance of our being is not performance, appearance or fashion but relationship. We are born from a relationship. At the origin of everyone is a you, or even two. No science of the future can modify this.
Some of you could say: "It is just my will". Or: "I love someone". And that is right. But it is not enough. It doesn't explain everything. It is true that we want to be here because of a love. But what love? Actually if I am here, then I must have heard or at least felt, an invitation. It is not just my initiative. It is my will, but it is my will upon another will, it is my response to an invitation.
"Peter said: Israelites, you handed over Jesus and then disowned Him in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One. Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing."
His resurrection from the dead is the great newness. He wants to touch in the soul of every one of us with His resurrected life. He wants to tell us about the positivity of everything: "My dear, what is born is not born in order to be destroyed."
The women had heard this twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “go to Galilee”.
Everything in our life, today as in the time of Jesus, starts with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like everyone else and at the same time different. Think of the Gospel of John, where it tells about the disciples’ first encounter with Jesus (cf. 1:35-42). Andrew, John, and Simon felt themselves looked at deep down, known intimately, and this generated in them a surprise, a wonder that immediately bound them to Him. Or when, after the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” (Jn. 21:15), and Peter responded, “Yes.” That yes was not the product of an effort of will, did not come only from the decision of the man Simon: it came even before, from Grace. It was that “anticipate,” Grace that precedes. This was the crucial discovery for Saint Paul, for Saint Augustine, and many other saints: Jesus Christ is always first. He “anticipates” us; He awaits us; Jesus Christ always precedes us, and when we arrive, He is already there waiting. He is like the flower of the almond tree, the one that flowers first, and announces springtime.
Today we have some people among us elected by Christ to be received into the Church and to be confirmed. Christ elects them as He elected a Samaritan woman about two thousand years ago.
Yesterday I was jogging at the Tilburg University in Holland. I saw on the wall a text: "The question remains: is there anything outside of our heads?" We don't know any more if things are real. Are things real? Is Jesus real? Is Jesus God? The first reading says: "Why should it be said among the nations”, “where is their God?” The world believes less and less in life, and much less in God. Why does the world believe less and less in God?
The Collect today says let us pray like this: "Direct our actions, Lord, according to your good pleasure." But what is the direction of our actions? What is the intention behind our actions? What do we really want?
1. As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do. (First reading)
The midnight Mass at Christmas evokes and brings to mind the intensity, the density of a moment.
In the saints, both those who live in heaven and those who live on earth, we see authentic people, realised, because they are entirely dedicated to God and the good of their brothers. Man alive would say Chesterton, who lived not far away from here, in Beaconsfield. They show us how we can live today, how every circumstance can be the place of our yes to the Lord.