26 April, 2014

2nd Sunday after Easter - very useful reflections

Second Sunday after Easter (A)

José Enrique Galarreta S.J.

Acts of the Apostles

The third gospel and the book of the Acts probably formed just one book, divided into two books later separated (before the year 150). There is a strong unity in them, not only thematic, but also literary, language, style etc.etc, which allows us to recognize a single author.

This author has been recognized by the tradition of the Church as Luke, and we have testimonies to the fact in documents of the second century. Internal analysis of the text shows us a Greek or very helenized Jewish Christian of the apostolic generation, who knows the Bible very well, with medical knowledge, a companion of Paul’s journeys (in the journeys he usually speaks in the first person plural).

With respect to the date and place of composition, we have no firm date from external data, and we must be careful with the dates the book itself gives us. Critics point out that it could not have been composed before the year 64 nor after the year 100. To recognize the intention and the method of working of the author let us remember the prologues of both books.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning it seems good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.......


FROM THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

Ch 1.v1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instruction through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion while he was eating with them, he gave them this command . Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. V6 So when they met...


For this reason , this book is something like “The Gospel of the Church”. Events (Acts) are narrated of the first Christian community, because they signify the presence of God, of the Spirit of Jesus in that community.



REFLECTION

Hence, we are dealing with an account of great value. The author’s facts are well documented – we can even appreciate in his style the presence of different sources – and on occasion, he is a witness of the facts he presents, or receives first hand accounts of events. But we are not dealing merely with a book of history. What is fundamentally narrated is “History in the Spirit”, that is, the development of the Faith of the first Christian community. In this field there are some fundamental ideas:


1.     The proclamation of Jesus as Messiah.

It is the fundamental theme of the discourses of Peter and Stephen, and the meaning of the “miracles”.   Jesus is the one “we were waiting for”, he is the Messiah, who had to suffer and who is alive through the victory of the power  of God.

2.     The awareness of the Church of her missionary vocation.

In this sense the expansion of the Church in some particular missions is being narrated (Peter, Philip, Paul...)



3.     The message to the pagans

It is the first problem. The Church as a continuation of the Old Law, subject to mosaic precepts, or the Church as the New Covenant, having superseded the Old. The proclamation to the pagans poses this problem for Peter (Ch. 10) so that he will have to justify himself before the brethren (Ch.11). Paul will pose the same problem, and it will be one of the basic themes of the so called “Council of Jerusalem” (Ch.15)

There is, therefore, in the book a clear apologetic intention of the policy of Paul: the proclamation to the pagans (“they will certainly listen”) and the freeing from the ritual obligations of the old Law.


In short

In the Book of the Acts we find three components of much interest to us:

1.      A history of the first Christian community and its expansion. But “history” of the “gospel” kind, with a similar intention to that of the “historical” books of the Old Testament: history to show how the Spirit acts in that first community.

2.      A Christology the most ancient expressions of faith in Jesus, anterior to those elaborated by John and Paul. It is – almost the first stage of the answer of the Church to the great question about Jesus: “Who is this man?”

3.      An ecclesiology: there is no doctrine on the Church, but we see how the Church functioned and what she thought of herself, how she prayed, organized herself, solved problems...It is very useful for us to reflect on what is permanent and what is transitory in the institutions of the Church.


IN TODAY’S TEXT

We have a fairly idealized description of the first community. From other texts – even of this same book – we know that not everything went smoothly: there were problems, serious problems, regarding doctrine and organization. Here we are shown only “the basic spirit” of that community: common prayer, the eucharist, life and property in common, the appreciation of the people, the slow spread of the Church. Later other problems will follow and the persecutions.

THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER

We do not know when Peter left Jerusalem. We do know that he died in Rome in the year 64, in the persecution of Nero. It is not clear either whether this letter is of Peter himself. The ancient Fathers of the Church, Irenaeus, Polycarp, attribute it to Peter. But there are many other facts, the style, internal data and other factors which make it difficult to admit. The specialists are agreed – at least – that this letter reflects the preaching of Peter and  was written by someone in the circle of his closest disciples. The same letter ( 5,12) tells us who was his disciple – secretary: Silvanus. Some continue to attribute it to Peter himself. The letter hardly has any thematic unity. It skips from one theme to another.

The text has been brought in today to “accompany” the gospel, connecting it with the saying of Jesus: “Blessed are they who have not seen but believe.” And here we are dealing with the “second generation” of Christians, those who believe in Jesus through the preaching of the witnesses. We are at the beginning of “tradition”, the long chain of people and generations which hand down faith in Jesus from one to another. Although it is not that human transmission that produces the faith: that human transmission is only the vehicle  of the “power of the Spirit”. Peter seems to admire that power: You have not seen him and you believe in Him!”.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

We are dealing with the “conclusion” of the fourth Gospel.(Later, as we know, a second conclusion will be added.)Let us remember that after the scene with Thomas, the Gospel ends thus: Jesus did many other signs in the sight of his disciples that  are not written down in this book. These have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”



John, therefore, finishes by inviting us to faith in Jesus, the basic purpose of the four Gospels. This clearly defines the subject matter of these texts. They are a history of the faith: the author is relating how faith in the Risen One arose. There is at the end of the fourth Gospel four “times” of access to faith in Jesus:

Ø  That of John himself: he reaches the sepulcher, enters, sees the linen cloths and the burial cloth and then sees and believes.”

Ø  That of Mary Magdalene: she does not recognize Jesus until Jesus calls her by her name.

Ø  That of the disciples: Jesus shows them his hands, and his side and they “rejoice on seeing the  Lord.”

Ø  That of Thomas. The witness of the others is not enough for him, he is not satisfied with seeing, he wants to touch. Jesus invites him to do so. The Body of the Risen One is “touchable”.


The faith of John offers us, in the mouth of Thomas, the most elaborate testimony of faith in Jesus of the New Testament:”My Lord and my God”, a formula taken from the Old Testament applied here to Jesus. Hence the fourth gospel closes with the same profession of faith with which it began (The Word made flesh), continuing with the expressions which link the whole of this gospel (so that all honor the Father...”when you raise on high the Son of Man, then you will understand that I AM ...”I am in my Father and the Father is in me...”He who has seen me has seen my Father...”As the Father sent me so I send you.”).


It is a matter, then, of a double message, simple and vital: on the one hand, an advanced profession of faith in Jesus. On the other, the conclusion of the gospel looking to all those who will believe without having seen Jesus, by the witness of others.

In this way the fact that John does not “describe” the departure of Jesus is explained. For John, Jesus “does not go”. He continues present in the disciples, in the Spirit and in the Mission. The physical, touchable presence of Jesus has no importance.


REFLECTION

Using the stories of the  resurrection as a point of departure, we can ask ourselves innumerable questions: How long did the manifestations of Jesus last? One day? As it seems to be in Luke, forty, as in Acts, a week as in the first letter of John ...?

That body that could be touched, could also eat (Luke)... had therefore all the normal organic functions of a normal body? Did he pass through walls? Was he visible to anyone who happened to be by chance there where he showed himself, or was he visible only to those to whom he wished to show himself? ... And so on, dozens of questions, all of them useless. On asking ourselves these kinds of questions we suppose that the preferred value of these texts is to be accounts of happenings, but it is not so: the preferred value is to be witnesses of faith. And this is the basic theme of all of them: they believed in Jesus.

It was not easy to believe in Jesus: they had believed in him, but they had believed badly. They had accepted him as the Messiah they were hoping for, but hoped for badly. The Zebedees had even hoped for thrones on his right and on his left, all hoped that he would restore the sovereignty of Israel, and the glorious times of King David would return, and that all nations would come to Jerusalem to adore God in his (their) holy temple. They had hoped for all this, and all of it died on the cross. The terrible Sabbath of the Pasch was a day of despair, of the death of all previous faith.

Later (a day, a week, forty days ... a whole life time, who knows?)they recovered faith, their faith was reborn, better said, another faith  was born, because the previous faith was dead, thoroughly dead, buried with the body of Jesus in the sepulcher and sealed with the tombstone. This faith could be born only because the old faith had died. The old Davidic messianic faith could not change, it had to die to make way for the faith. Just as neither could the Temple of Caiphas change and adapt itself to the style of Jesus. It had to be destroyed. Even before it was physically destroyed, the followers of Jesus went on abandoning it, because the new faith did not need it; it was enough for them to gather in houses to share the bread, to celebrate the supper of the Lord.

The new faith is powerful. A faith that affects the pocket is very true. It was capable of working miracles, above all that all would feel as brothers and would live as such. And the ancient rites were powerful only because they managed money and power, but they were not able to change hearts, they could not produce conversion.

And so we have dealt with all the keys we need to reflect on the resurrection. It’s a matter of knowing whether we too have faith in Jesus, of knowing what kind of faith we have in him, of knowing if already so many strange faiths have once for all died the ones that prevent us truly believing in him, of knowing in what our paschal experience consisted and consists.

Moved by a paleolitic (old Testament) faith we suppose that the disciples believed of a sudden, struck by a spectacular grace. We believe that Paul was literally struck down ( we even paint him thrown down from a horse), we think that people followed the apostles in large groups when they saw them perform miracles...This did not happen even to Jesus; the people who followed him because of his miracles did not follow him in the conversion of their hearts. But it suits us a lot to  believe all those things because in this way we justify ourselves: they had an extraordinary experience, therefore  they believed in him and changed their lives. We have not had one, so we believe in the Jesus that suits us more and we hardly change our lives.
But we can ask ourselves: all those people who have changed their lives, who share and are compassionate, who work for peace, who do not serve money, nor status nor prestige, who are not slaves of the values of our “culture” of having a good time, who are truthful, who know how to forgive...and who live in this way because they follow Jesus, what paschal experience have they had? Has the Risen One appeared to them? And have they put their hand in his side?
The answer is NO. And it cannot be otherwise. God does not show himself from the outside, from above, with spectacular appearances, as a blinding exception. To experience God there is no need to look for spectacular events. The threatening lightening is not a good image of God. A good image of God is leaven. From within, slowly, in silence.
Something, from within, in silence, insistently, unstoppable, has led us from a mediocre knowledge to a profound intimacy, from a feeling of distant attraction to personal adhesion, from a mythical, sociological faith to an elemental and profound conviction.
Our paschal experience is a conviction that keeps becoming increasingly irrevocable, united to a feeling of attraction and adhesion ever more binding. Our paschal experience means that once we believed – in some way – in Jesus, through what had been taught us, because it was in our culture, because we thought it was a good system of thought and religious practices... for many similar reasons, all of them “from outside within”. But increasingly, we have been experiencing it internally, we have lived it in such a way that the knowledge, the persuasion, the adherence, are from within to the outside, as something felt personally, as one feels love for a beloved person, from within, without need of demonstration.
That experience is nourished, as everything that grows: it is nourished in contemplation, it is nourished in works, and it is nourished in community. The contemplation of Jesus multiplies the fascination and the adherence; deeds, as putting into practice of values and criteria, reaffirm the validity of the message; the community, the church, especially in the fraternal celebration of the Eucharist, spreads faith, makes us live in common our paschal experience.
Once more, we need to abandon our mythologies, our faith in disguised divinities, our tendency to identify the religious with the marvelous. Our paschal experience is our progressive consciousness of conversion to Jesus and to the Kingdom.
We arrive, at the end, at joining up with the beginning, with the first word of Jesus when he went to the villages and took to the roads of Galilee: Be converted! This is and will always be the key and the measure of our faith: our readiness to change, to change one’s God, our readiness to change to the God of Jesus, so that it is he who changes our lives.


24 April, 2014

Second Sunday of Easter (A) 2014

Second Sunday of Easter (A)

John 20: 19-31

José Antonio Pagola

Jesus will save the Church

Terrified by the execution of Jesus, the disciples take refuge in a house known to them. Once more they are reunited, but Jesus is not with them. There is an emptiness no one can fill. They miss Jesus. Whom will they follow now? What will they be able to do without him? “Night is falling” in Jerusalem and also in the hearts of the disciples.


   Inside the house they remain “with doors shut.” It’s a community without a mission and no horizon, closed in on itself, with no heart to welcome anyone. No one thinks now of going to the highways  to announce the Kingdom of God and heal life. With doors closed, it is not longer possible to reach out to the suffering of people.

   The disciples are full of “fear of the Jews”. It’s a community paralyzed by fear, on the defensive. They only see hostility and rejection on all sides. Where there’s fear it is not possible to love the world as Jesus did, or to inspire courage and hope.

   Suddenly the Risen Jesus takes the initiative. He  comes to rescue his followers. “He enters the house and places himself in their midst.” The little community gets transformed. From fear they change over to the peace with which Jesus fills them. From the darkness of the night they move to the joy of seeing him again full of life. From closed doors they will soon change to the openness of the mission.
   Jesus speaks to them putting all his faith in those miserable men: “As the Father sent me, so too I send you.” He does not tell them to whom they must go , what message they must deliver, nor how to behave all the while. Already they have been able to learn from him along the roads in Galilee. They will be in the world what he has been.

   Jesus knows the weakness of his disciples. He has often found fault with the little, vacillating faith they have. They need the power of his Spirit to  fulfill his mission. So he makes a special gesture for them. He does not place his hands on them, nor does he bless them as he would the sick. He breathes on them and says:”Receive the Holy Spirit.”

    Only Jesus will save the Church. Only he will save us from the fears that paralyze us, he will break the tiresome structures in which we try to enclose him, he will open the many doors we have gone on shutting all through the centuries, he will straighten the many roads that have turned us away from him.

   What we are now being asked is to revive much more in the whole church trust in the Risen Jesus, to organize ourselves to place him fearlessly in the centre of our parishes and communities and concentrate all our energies in listening well to what his Spirit is saying to his followers, both men and women.


20 April, 2014

Easter

Easter

Our Lenten anticipation now gives way to our celebration of the resurrection of Christ, which ‘is not something that we can master; it is only something we can receive’. James Hanvey SJ explains how the scriptural accounts of the appearances of the risen Christ can help us to see with Easter eyes.

We have reached our celebration of Easter, the centre of the Church’s liturgical year and the source of Christian life and faith. Yet Easter often appears as the poor relation of Christmas. Whether you believe or not, there is something about Christmas that manages to touch everyone. But without Easter there would be no Christmas.

In many ways, Easter makes more demands upon us. The empty tomb is not like the manger: if we go there we do not find the beautiful, serene mother with her newborn baby, an adoring and gently protective father, and heaven and earth somehow caught in a silent moment of adoration. At the empty tomb there is, well, an absence, not a presence. So, Easter really invites us into something utterly new. It is rather frightening because it transgresses all our ways of thinking, what we know – or think we know – about the world and how we live in it.

We get used to ‘knowing’ in a particular way. We are uneasy with things we can’t master or that don’t match our categories. We’re always trying to fit things into time, space, matter ; even when we encounter something utterly new like ‘dark matter’ or particles that we know only by their traces, we want to fit them in to some familiar conceptual framework. But the resurrection of Christ cannot be fitted in like that. It is not something that we can master; it is only something we can receive. We can only let it transform us and our whole way of thinking and seeing and being. In a sense, we find the resurrection difficult not because we are so earth bound – the whole of creation sings it; it is because we are so self-bound, we see only the problematic absence of the empty tomb.

Those strange resurrection appearances in scripture can help us if we will let them. If we throttle them with our questions and demands, they remain only silent and dumb. They wait for us to calm down, to release our control and quieten our fears. Then they begin to open to us, but on their terms.

They keep moving in and out of focus; at once they are astonishing in their simplicity, directness and even materiality, but they remain elusive. They describe a world we recognise, and yet it is a world that is now so different; it has a new reality and property which we cannot grasp even though it acts upon us and, indeed, invites us to so transform our minds, understanding and life, that we are left confused and stunned.

Like all those who encounter the risen Christ, it takes us time to adjust, to come into focus. You will notice that it is the risen Christ who comes to us, not we who can summon him. We must learn to wait with a new openness and humility – there is no other way of knowing him than by receiving him. You’ll notice, too, in the delicate luminosity of the resurrection accounts there is no awe, no stunning effects to accompany a divine revelation. It is all quietness, stillness, simplicity and intimacy. This alone is uncanny and yet it tells us something about the way in which Christ always is with us.

Perhaps the most profound thing is the absence of recrimination. Jesus does not blame or punish his disciples for their betrayals. He never mentions it; with a beautiful delicacy he speaks to them by name, shares their food, consoles them, heals their doubts and calms their fears, and then gives himself to them. He actually trusts them with the truth about himself and places his mission in their hands. There is no  looking back. They are called to journey into a new world and a new history. This is the unspoken grace of forgiveness and its freedom that he offers us.

At the end of John’s Gospel is the encounter between Peter and the risen Jesus. No blame, only that question: ‘Simon Peter, do you love me?’ It is not only the forgiveness for his denials; it is the condition of his mission. Only when Peter, with all his broken history, can confess his love of Jesus can he confess his faith in him. For love is the only way to this sort of knowledge – not just knowing, but living and following. It is Peter’s resurrection into life, into his true self; into who Jesus calls him to be. So, at some point in all our lives we will meet this risen Jesus and if we can only say. ‘I love you’ then we will begin to know what life really is. We will have Easter eyes.



James Hanvey SJ holds the Lo Schiavo Chair in Catholic Social Thought at the University of San Francisco.

Easter is ....



Easter Is……..!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

In his Spiritual Exercises (#299) St. Ignatius of Loyola invites the exercitant to contemplate on Jesus’ first Apparition after his Resurrection: to his beloved Mother. It is the most natural thing that Jesus would do - to spend value-time with the one woman who accompanied him throughout his life. St. Ignatius reminds us ‘Scripture supposes that we have understanding, as it is written, “Are you also without understanding?”’  This apparition was undoubtedly a very personal and profound experience both for Mother and Son. Easter is....a personal and profound experience of our risen Lord!

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: a woman is chosen to be the first communicator of the ‘Good News’, the prima Evangelizer.  Jesus consistently took a stand for women. He broke down taboos and challenged the mindset of a highly patriarchal society.  Appearing to Mary Magdalene, early that Easter morn, was his powerful statement and appreciation of the significant role women had to play in his Church and society.  Easter is....a deeper realization that all women and men are created equal in the image and likeness of God!

Pope Francis highlights this powerful recognition of women by Jesus when he says, “The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.” (Evangelii Gaudium #103)  Easter is....the courage to accept the indispensable role of women in Church and society!

On Maundy Thursday, Pope Francis once again gave the world a very moving example as he washed the feet of differently-abled persons of different ages, ethnicities and religious confessions - among them were four women and a Muslim. The Pope gave the world a powerful reminder of Jesus’ commandment of love “if I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  Easter is....the humility and love we need to be inclusive - to bend down and wash the feet of the others!

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it and shared it among his disciples. He does a fairly similar exercise with the cup of wine. Not all present are able to grasp the totality and meaning of this supreme act of love. Later, on the road to Emmaus, the disciples are unable to recognize Jesus along the route but they finally do so at the breaking of the bread. Easter is....the ability to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and in doing so – to heal the brokenness of our world!

The Risen Lord brings peace to all those whom he meets after his Resurrection!  The world we live in today is becoming more and more fragmented, torn apart by violence, sectarianism, hatred, divisiveness, inequalities and injustices.  This is our context and none of us can abdicate the role and responsibility that is given to us by the Lord, to be channels of his peace, to sow love everywhere. Easter is....the commitment to be communicators of the Lord’s peace to all around us!

Easter is....ALL THIS and much more!

19th April, 2014
 

18 April, 2014

Why did Jesus have to die the way he did?

How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?

Why Focus on the Cross and not just the Resurrection?

Fr. Barron comments on the Meaning of Easter (+playlist)

Good Friday

The Passion of the Christ 2004 HD 720p (FULL MOVIE)

Good Friday 2014

Good Friday (A) - 18 April 2014

Salvation and Redemption

José Luis Galaterria S.J.

The return to the worst concepts of the Old Testament this image represents is disheartening. I believe that the most shocking passage of this mentality is in the sacrifice of Noah on leaving the Ark after the deluge: he offers the holocaust of a victim and when Yahweh breathes in the pacifying aroma of the sacrifice, it appeases his anger against humanity. And these expressions (“the pacifying aroma” – “the anger of Yahweh”) are repeated innumerable times. It seems as if some people would understand in this way the death of Jesus on the cross: God, on breathing in through his nostrils the pacifying aroma of the blood of Jesus, would change his attitude towards human beings, and would be disposed to forgive them, on condition they ask for forgiveness and, naturally, they are converted. Thus the Father is paid for forgiving; the Father exacts the blood of his Only Begotten One to forgive the rest. This fear has not frightened many in the Church through the centuries... because they had forgotten what Abba meant, and thought only of the first Person of the Celestial Trinity.

The parable of the redemption, however, can be of use. To redeem originally meant to redeem a debt by leaving a pledge and specially redeeming a slave by leaving similarly a pledge – money or a person. The nearest example in time we have is that of the monks who dedicated themselves to redeeming captive Christian prisoners from Muslims, who in turn at times would themselves  remain as slaves so that a prisoner could recover his freedom. According to this model, the Father rescues his children by leaving as a pledge his only begotten Son. It’s a beautiful thought but who is the one who enslaves? Sin, that has enslaved all of us. Thus, Abba is the one who frees us, and does not hesitate to deliver his own son to gain our freedom.

Wonderful thought, but it has its dangers, too many dangers. In fact, the whole doctrine of the Church has understood it the other way around: “Christ pays the eternal Father the debt of Adam.” Well no: apart from the fact that Adam did not exist, it is just another beautiful  “parable”. “Abba” does not have to be paid anything. The only acceptable meaning of this “parable”  is “the Father loved us so much that he gave his own Son so that we may have life.” (John 3, 10), or in the beautiful words of the Easter Proclamation: “to rescue the slave, you gave the Son.” (Even though the expression :slave” should be also understood as a metaphor). Too complicated, too many dangers.

Jesus is not a savior because he dies a bloody death. If he had not died on the cross he would still be the savior. It is not the death of Jesus isolated from his entire life that saves. It is the entire life, the message, his deeds, all that is for salvation, for healing. Jesus saves because he heals two of our basic sicknesses: blindness and weakness, because he can free us from our demons. And he does not do so by tearing up a document of slavery, much less by paying the Father (??????) for a debt that only a god could pay,  but by offering light and nourishment, giving real possibilities of being healed.

Jesus takes away sin, takes away from sin means that he who believes in Jesus has the motives and strength to keep defeating his demons, he finds himself moved to grow, he discovers on the one hand criteria and values and on the other strength to realize them, that is, to grow, to realize his potential, not to resign himself to being a victim of his sins. I am fond of an expression of Ignatius of Loyola, who would ask God “ horror of his sins”. Magnificent expression, because our sins are pretty, we are fond of them, we even boast of them ... and they destroy us.

All this has its source in something similar to what we pointed out before: the recovery of themes of the Old Testament as if they could be applied indiscriminately to Jesus. In this case we are dealing with the theme of sacrifice. Like many ancient peoples, Israel offered sacrifices, sacrificed victims, among other things to ask for forgiveness of sins. This was applied to Jesus, and the cross was understood in this way: the victim who sheds his blood to appease God. But in the ancient sacrifice the victim substituted in some way the sinner, and thus, Jesus substitutes us , pays for us. This is called “vicarious propitiatory sacrifice” and the death on the cross of Jesus is understood as propitiatory and vicarious”, that is, to appease the anger of God and to substitute us. Well no, if we apply “sacrifice” to Jesus we must apply it to his entire life, calling sacrifice his unconditional and complete  surrender to his mission. And “for us” can never mean “instead of us.” To say that Jesus died on the cross because that is what the justice of God demanded and that he offered himself as a victim instead of us are only delirious theological ravings that have forgotten the “Abba” and the true humanity of Jesus. We will have to speak of all this when we deal with the Eucharist.

There is something more. Some people receive the message of God-Abba and Jesus-Savior with senseless relief: sins don’t matter any longer! It doesn’t matter that I am a sinner! My Abba forgives everything, now I can sin without any fear! They are like people who are proud they have the best hospital and the best doctors in town, but continue to commit all kinds of excesses; they stuff themselves with fats, they smoke, drink, consume drugs... and they keep  killing  themselves unheedingly to the very doors of the best hospitals
Jesus saves us from sin because he heals and because he takes away our guilt. You are not guilty, but you are sick, and sins kill. What kills a person and humanity is envy, the desire for power, uncontrolled craving for possessions and consumption, the spirit of revenge... the sins that kill the individual and the human community. And Jesus knows it too well: that is why he can give even his life to conquer those terrible demons that take possession of us. Jesus takes away our guilt, but he does not trivialize sins. You are not guilty, do not fear God. But you are sick. Go to God, for he is the all powerful Healer.

16 April, 2014

Jesus washing feet Maundy Thursday

Pope Francis & Romero

Romero & Pope Francis – 16—4-14
COMMENTARY : Brothers in spirit and allies for the poor: what connects Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero? By Fr Martin Maier SJ  (The Tablet via CNUA) To commemorate the 34th anniversary of the death of the former Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, a German Jesuit and liberation theologian, Fr Martin Maier SJ, who has worked in the country, spoke at an ecumenical service at St Martin in the Fields in London. He drew comparisons between Pope Francis' call for a "poor Church for the poor" and his treatment of the poor in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and Archbishop Romero's dedication to the poorest. "They are brothers in the spirit and allies in the option for the poor," he argued. The full text of his address follows.
Brothers and sisters, dear friends of Archbishop Oscar Romero, I feel honoured and happy to speak to you in this ecumenical service in this church of St Martin in the Fields, well-known for her outreach to the poor and homeless in London and well-known through the Academy of St Martin in the Fields for wonderful music. First of all I would like to apologize for my limitations in English and for all the harm I will do this morning to the wonderful language of Shakespeare.
Archbishop Romero has changed my life. He brought me to El Salvador and this year he brought me to Britain. What most deeply impressed me in his life was the change that took place in him. Until he was appointed archbishop he was rightly considered as a conservative and anxious man who wanted to keep the church out of politics and conflicts. But this changed on the 12th of March 1977 when Fr Rutilio Grande was killed. Rutilio Grande was assassinated by the rich landowners for his commitment to the poor and for social justice. Rutilio did not die alone. It was tragic but also very significant that an older man who served as sacristan and a young boy who served as an altar boy were killed with him. So his blood really mingled with the blood of the poor. When Romero stood this evening in front of the still bleeding corpses something very profound was happening in him. Oscar Romero was a friend of Rutilio but he had been critical about his pastoral commitment. He felt now that he had to follow the way of Rutilio which was the way of Jesus. Many spoke about the “miracle Romero”. Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, his later successor put it in these words: “One martyr gave birth to another.” A first point I want to make is: change is possible. It is possible on a personal level, but it is also possible in the church, in the society and in the world.
Change is a theme in the gospel we have heard. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his father´s house to warn his brothers so that they will change their ways. But Abraham's answer is: “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” Among these prophets is Oscar Romero. Today we came together to listen to him so that also we may change.
For a year we have been witnessing a big change in the Church with Pope Francis. I must confess that first I was shocked by his election as many were shocked and disappointed in El Salvador 37 years ago when Oscar Romero was appointed archbishop. But later I became hopeful that with Pope Francis major changes were under way and that he wants to bring the Church back to the Gospel – as did Archbishop Romero.
Pope Francis obviously wants the beatification of Romero and therefore he sees him as a model of a bishop. In this address I would like to put Archbishop Romero and Pope Francis into a dialogue about the theme of our celebration: The last shall be the first – Oscar Romero and the Joy of the Gospel. They are brothers in the spirit and allies in the option for the poor.

1. The Joy of the Gospel - Let us begin with the Joy of the Gospel. This is the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

14 April, 2014

The Word Exposed - Gospel (April 13, 2014) part 1

Palm Sunday 2014

Valentine de Souza

Apr 13 (1 day ago)

to bcc: me
Palm Sunday

José Enrique Galarreta S.J.

Holy Week reconstructs in some way the last week in the mortal life of Jesus. According to this, Jesus would have entered Jerusalem on a Sunday. The entrance is presented as “messianic”, and Jesus becomes the symbol of the one waited for, so he climbs up to the Temple and purifies it of its abuses, showing himself as the real Lord of the Temple, to the real scandal of the priests. Jesus retires for the nights to Bethany or half the way to the garden of olives.


From Monday to Wednesday Jesus appears every morning in the Temple to teach; there the most fierce controversies with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the scribes  take place. They determine the definitive break. The priests and the Elders decide his death and seek an occasion which the treason of Judas provides. On Thursday, Jesus enters incognito in Jerusalem and celebrates a farewell supper with his closest disciples. That same night he is arrested in the garden of Olives


He is condemned to death and on Friday is crucified. Saturday is the Great Sabbath, which coincides with the Paschal Feast. On Sunday at dawn, the women go to the Sepulcher, they find it empty and break the news. After that there follows a series of appearances of Jesus and the faith of the disciples in him will be born.


These events are celebrated liturgically in four feasts: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter (The Vigil and Sunday)

It is important to remember that we are not simply remembering the historical events, but celebrating what they meant and continue to mean; and that this meaning is unitary : the whole celebration is directed to and reaches its peak in the Resurrection; without it all that precedes it is meaningless.

Mt 21, 1-11 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Is. 50, 4-7

Mt 26, 14 – 27,66. Where do you want us to prepare the Paschal meal?
They crucified two thieves with him.

Palm Sunday

The triumph of Jesus will be the cross.

Palm Sunday is the announcement of the Passion. The procession with the palms with its festive context cannot forget that the triumph of Christ is not a simple popular homage: Jesus triumphs on the cross. That will be his victory. It is victory over death, the complete fulfillment of his mission, of the will of the Father. This is introduced with a reading from Isaiah  which leaves no doubt as to the meaning of the celebration.

Isaiah 50, 4-7)
St. Paul to the Phillipians 2: 6-11


Themes and Contexts

The Song of the Servant in Isaiah

In this second book of Isaiah, called “the book of consolation”, there appears a character who has been called “The Servant of Yahweh”, in four canticles (Chs.42, 49, 50, 52). Called by God from the womb of his mother, he appears as a disciple whose hearing  God has opened, so that he can instruct all. His mission is accomplished without fanfare or external success, he is subjected to insults and contempt; he is betrayed by sinners, and is loaded with their sins, being made through his humiliation and sufferings salvation for all.

The Church has always seen in this personality a prophetic anticipation of the figure of Jesus, and represents a messianism  the opposite of that which was habitual in Israel: the regal, triumphant messianism  based on the model of David.

The text thus introduces us, quite correctly, to the reading of the Passion, so that we understand better the real meaning of the victory of Jesus.



THE LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS

The reading from St. Paul brings us close with greater depth to the theology of the cross, profoundly united to the theology of the Incarnation. Christ, stripped of his divine rank, made a man even unto death,  raised by God in the resurrection.

This text gives us the keys for a fundamental interpretation of the passion of Jesus: it is the ultimate consequence of the true human condition: human like us, hence subjected to being persecuted by evil and called to give his life as a definitive surrender; and that of a man full of the Spirit, whom that Spirit brings to face his passion and death with a fullness of surrender and meaning.

It is important to remember that the text is not writing history but developing  a theology. The history is not about a divine being stripping himself of divinity  and making himself like men. It’s about a man full of the Spirit of God. Theology is an interpretation of history, not the other way around.



THE READING OF THE PASSION

We read today the story of the Passion according to Matthew. We have to remember that the stories of the Passion  were those which, probably, were written down before any other: they  constituted the basis of the catechesis about Jesus, and posed the first problem for those who were going to believe in him: believe in a crucified man, to believe that in spite of his dishonorable death , rejected by the leaders of Israel, “God was with him.”

On the other hand, we must also remember  that they are the most “historical” accounts of the gospels. In most other instances, the meaning is more important than what happened. Here, the message is the event. It is the passion and death of Jesus, historical events, that constitute for us a Word of God.


REFLECTION

Palm Sunday can be celebrated simply as a day of victory, even though ephemeral, for Jesus.  It’s as if the whole of Israel, by a surprising  action of the Spirit, were to launch itself to the streets to proclaim him Messiah-King. This interpretation is very weak. In the first place, the event was much less spectacular than they would have us believe. A group of Galilean pilgrims at the Paschal feast in Jerusalem celebrate the presence of Jesus and proclaim him Messiah. The whole of Jerusalem is surprised, ask who he is, and they answer that he is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth...
And the triumph is modest, including its symbols, the small crowd, the children cheering.

Secondly, the triumph is very symbolic: Jesus does not enter as a powerful monarch, nor does he go to the temple to receive honors. Jesus does not play the part of the Davidic Messiah, but rather he resembles the servant of Isaiah; the look of suffering does not show on Sunday except in the opposition of the priests and of his enemies, the Pharisees, but will be seen definitively on Good Friday.  The signs are messianic, but not Davidic.  

All this leads us to consider the messianism of Jesus, and our own. Jesus is going to be victorious, but on the cross. He is not going to be victorious by destroying his enemies, by controlling the priests nor by winning the independence of Israel. He is going to be triumphant by reaching the end: by giving his life. The victory of Jesus is not like that of  Alexander the Great and not even like the victories of King David. The victory of Jesus is going to be the faith of his disciples, who will recognize him as The Lord, by his death and his resurrection. It is not the victory of the king; it is the victory of the grain of wheat that triumphs when it dies, because it will be fertile.

Thus, Palm Sunday introduces the right parameters for us to approach Holy Week by understanding and celebrating the central message of our faith, without allowing us to be drawn by tendencies which we would like very much, but which are corrected by Jesus himself. We would like a spectacular victory  hailed by crowds, but Jesus is not going to be victorious in this way; more still, he will be rejected, humiliated and apparently defeated by his enemies. We would like an equally spectacular resurrection; rather we would like to see what happens when his enemies rebuke him: “Come down from the cross and we will believe in you”, Jesus would come down from the cross miraculously and all would fall at his feet in adoration.  Our logic would demand that the Messiah should be received in triumph by his people, and that Jesus would enthrone the New Alliance on the pedestal of the Old. In short, we would like a Messiah on the model of King David, a spiritual and temporal monarch , a pontiff –king placed on the throne by God to put order among the nations.

In fact, this has been and is the temptation of the Church. All through history, the Church has tried to be the kingdom of God on earth in a juridical, external manner. And not only with respect to other powers of the world, kings and emperors subject to the Representative of Christ, but in its zeal to govern consciences, in attributing to itself powers presumably given by God himself to the leaders of the Church. Dignitaries of the Church have had the respect and appearance of princes, and even the celebration of the Eucharist has been designed with triumphant attributes, as a celebration of the universal recognition of the power of the divinity (and all its representatives), submitted to by all (including by people in whose spirit there is nothing of the Spirit of Jesus).

Palm Sunday cures us of all those imperial fantasies. Jesus is victorious because the Spirit leads him to giving his life. Jesus is not a King David who comes to build his kingdom by doing away with his enemies, but the grain of wheat which is buried and dies. The enemies of Jesus are not some people, but sins, that are in all people, including his own followers. The power of Jesus is imposition from outside, from above, but conversion from within, from below.

This is the symbolism of the purification of the Temple. In fact, Jesus is symbolically destroying the Temple. One of the most meaningful steps the first followers of Jesus took was to substitute the temple by a house, sacrifices by the breaking of bread. In the first communities priests and high priests disappeared, sumptuous rites and payment for worship. They were substituted by the fraternal community that lived by the Word and put everything in common. They did not try to impose themselves but to convert, they avoided religious and political  power and began to change society by changing consciences through faith in Jesus. And they were ready to suffer for all this and happy to be able to do so.

Later everything was changed. To belong to the church became a social advantage, the small seed changed not into a modest mustard shrub, but into a gigantic ostentatious baobab dogmatic and juridical tree, that issued anathemas and persecuted all those who opposed it. The domestic Eucharistic celebration gave way to worship in reconstructed temples, priests returned to rule over obedient and silent people and the power of God manifested is its High Priests dictated norms to the whole society. In short, the temple returned to hold its own over the house, sacrifice over the fraternal breaking of bread, spectacle over conversion.

The celebration of Palm Sunday can stress any of these two tendencies, so totally opposed. Our procession with palms and our Eucharist can be a victory of the Messiah-King or a proclamation  of Jesus on the  cross. We are therefore faced with a choice: the  victory of Jesus as we would like it to be, or the acceptance and celebration of the real victory of Jesus which is none other than death and resurrection.  



FOR OUR PRAYER

The celebration of Holy Week and of the Resurrection  supposes a greater challenge than we imagine. It’s possible that this celebration  is going to mean for us the following: Palm Sunday, the external victory, popular acclaim; Holy Thursday the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine; Good Friday, our compassion and sorrow for his sufferings; Easter Sunday, evidence of the divinity of Christ who rises from the dead by how own power.

But these days we are faced with much more, with the most essentials part of the message and person of Jesus. They ought to be for us days of cleansing our faith of all that our customs and our sins have gone on adding, days of approaching Jesus just as he is, not as we, because of our twisted conveniences have imagined him.

On Palm Sunday we do not celebrate the spectacular  victory of the Messiah who enters gloriously in his capital. We celebrate the heroism of Jesus who, knowing that his life was at stake, enters Jeerusalem publicly and cleanses the Temple thus provoking the definitive decision of the leaders: he must be done away with. As long as Jesus was content with the role of a discreet village prophet, far from Jerusalem, the affair would not have gone much further; to provoke the power of the priest and the great rabbis in their very temple, at the time of the Pasch, is an intolerable provocation.  But Jesus knows that that is his mission: to offere the Kingdom to the whole of Israel, publicly and “officially”, in the Temple and at the time of the Pasch. He nows it’s going to cost him his life, and he accepts the challenge.

On Holy Thursday we do not celebrate the Institution of the Sacrifice of the New Pasch. That is a jewish, regressive and sterile  reading . WE celebrate Jesus bread and wine for the life of the world. Neither do we celebrate the first supper of the Lord, but the last of the meals of Jesus with his disciples. Neither do we celebrate in anticipation the sacrifice of the cross, but the constant sacrifice of Jesus, his whole life understood as bread and wine for the life of the world.

On Good Friday we do not celebrate the cruel, expiatory  sacrifice by which God is placated by the calming aroma of the blood of his son, and forgives our sins. We celebrate the triumph of the grain of wheat, theconsequence of Jesus assuming his mission with all its consequences, and we celebrate above all the death of political/sacred  messianism. That is the kind that dies on the cross, the triumphant Messiah. Without the cross, the disciples would have continued to believe in Jesus as King of Israel. It is only when that Messiah dies on the cross can faith in the Servant who gives his life, rejected by sins, be born.

On Resurrection Sunday we do not  celebrate the spectacular victory of Christ over his historic enemies, but faith in the love of the Father, a love stronger than death and sin, manifested above all in Jesus, and able to manifest itself in each one of us.

The whole of Holy Week is therefore a song to the love of God in the fight against sin. The two things, sin and the love of God, can be seen spectacularly clear during this week. And that ought to be the object of oour contemplation.

07 April, 2014

Two Saints










 

Vatican City:  Two saintly people from Kerala

Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Blessed Euphrasia
have moved a step closer to canonization when Pope Francis today approved miracles attributed to them.

Pope authorized Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to promulgate decrees accepting the miracles attributed to them, Vatican information service said on Thursday.

Blessed Chavara (1805-1871), who founded the Carmalites Mary Immaculate (CMI) congregation, was born near Alappuzha in Kerala.

He is also revered was a social reformer who worked hard for the development and education of people throughout Kerala by encouraging to have school at village parishes.

The CMI congregation is now renowned for its socio-educational services across the country, even in remote villages of northern India.


Sister Euphrasia (1877-1952), was born in near Thrissur in central Kerala.

She joined the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel at Koonammavu in Kerala the first indigenous congregation of Syro-Malabars.

She was was often afflicted with various illnesses which caused her intense suffering. Once, during a particularly painful attack, the Sisters were resolved to send her away to home, but through an apparition of the Holy Family she received a miraculous healing that permitted her to continue in the convent.

Mother Euphrasia had a profound sense of Church and she personally felt the sorrows and problems of the Church of her day. She offered her mortifications and penances for the conversion of schismatics and asked the novices and children to pray for them.

The Vatican has not announced the miracles it accepted to decree the canonization of these saintly people.

Sister Alphonsa of Bharananganam became India's first woman saint when she was canonized on October 12, 2008.




05 April, 2014

5th Sunday of lent 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent (A) 6 April 2014

John 11: 1-45

A  PROPHET WHO WEEPS

José Antonio Pagola

Jesus never conceals his affection for  two sisters and a brother who live in Bethany. Certainly, they are the ones who always welcome him in their home whenever he goes up to Jerusalem.  One day Jesus receives a message: our brother Lazarus, your friend,  is sick ... Within a short time, Jesus makes his way towards the small village.

   When he appears there, Lazarus has already died. On seeing him arrive, Maria, the younger sister, begins to weep.  No one can console her. On seeing his friend weep,  as also the Jews who accompany her, Jesus can no longer contain himself. He, too, “begins to weep” together with them. The people remark: “See how much he loved him!”

   Jesus does not weep only for a much loved friend. He is crushed on feeling the helplessness of everyone faced with death. We all have in the depths of our being an unquenchable desire to live. Why do we have to die? Why isn’t life more happy, longer, more secure, more lively?

   People today, as  in all times, have deep in their hearts the most disquieting question and one difficult to answer: What will happen to all and each one of us? It is useless to try  to deceive ourselves. What can we do? Rebel against our fate? Get depressed?

Without any doubt, the most usual reaction is to forget ourselves, and carry on with life. But, isn’t the human being called to live his life responsibly in an enlightened manner?
Must we approach only  the end of our lives in an unthinking and irresponsible manner, without taking any position?

Before the ultimate mystery of our destiny it is not possible to appeal to scientific or religious dogmas. They cannot guide us beyond this life. The attitude of the sculptor Chillida seems more honorable. I once heard him say on a certain occasion: “About death, reason tells me it is definite. About reason, reason tells me it is limited.”

   We Christians do not know more about the other life than anyone else. We too have to approach with humility the obscure fact of our death. But we do so with a radical trust in the Goodness of the Mystery of God whom we see in Jesus. That Jesus in whom, without having seen him, we place our trust.

   This trust cannot be understood from the outside. It can only be lived by someone who has responded with simple faith to the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?” Recently, Hans Kung, the most critical catholic  theologian of the twentieth century, already nearing his end, said that for him to die is “to rest in the mystery of the mercy of God.”