The life of a Christian ought to be courageous, Pope Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday. The day's reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, speaks about zeal, the courage to go forward, which should be our approach toward life, like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. But the Letter also speaks of the laziness that is the opposite of courage. "Living in the fridge," the Pope summarised, "so that everything stays the same."
One of the wisest things that my old mentor and colleague Fr Kevin Donovan SJ used to say to me about liturgy you had to 'work at it. That's of course what the root of the word hints at, the work of the people of God. Our faith is like that, it's not a complete product that we finally accept at Confirmation, rather it's work in progress. I guess that is what John the Baptist hints at when he talks about Jesus as the one revealed to him bit by bit, though he is related to Jesus that doesn't give him the total insight into who he is.
During his homily at morning Mass in Santa Marta on Friday, Pope Francis said that authentic faith must be ready to take risks and that real hope is the reward. Commenting on the Gospel account of the paralytic who is lowered from the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching, the Pope said people follow Jesus out of self interest or because they are looking for a comforting word. Even if no intention is totally pure or perfect, he said, the important thing is to follow Jesus. People were drawn to Him because of the "things He said and the way he said them.
During Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning Pope Francis reflected on the unique and unrepeatable opportunities each day offers to grow in faith and love of God. Reflecting on the day's readings, the Holy father noted there is "only one 'today', in our lives," - only one real, concrete today. Our temptation and everyone's temptation is to say: "Yes, I will do tomorrow," though this is the temptation of a "'tomorrow' there will not be," as Jesus says in the parable of the ten virgins - the five foolish ones who had not taken oil with them along with their lamps,
Pope Francis contrasted authentic hope, born out of trust in God, with the temptation of false idols offered by our modern world, such as money, power or physical beauty, in his General Audience today. "Hope is a primary need.." but we can get lost in our search for security by trusting in the false hopes offered by idols, that "confuse the mind and heart, and, instead of favouring life, they lead to death. The Pope then told a story he had heard in Buenos Aires of a very beautiful woman who was very proud of her beauty.
Jesus had authority because He served the people, He was close to them and He was coherent. These three characteristics of Jesus' authority were highlighted by Pope Francis in his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father noted, on the other hand, that the scribes behaved like princes. They taught with a clericalist authority. They were distant from the people - and didn't practice what they preached. The day's Gospel speaks of the amazement of the people because Jesus taught "as one who has authority" and not like the scribes: they were the 'authorities'
Whatever way we may like to describe this feast it is all about a 'showing', the East calls it theophany, the appearance of a God, the West the manifestation of a revelation, in this case Christ to the Gentiles in the guise of the Magi, whatever way we cloak the language of the feast it is about lots of realizations. A journey ended only to find another to begin, of the immense openness of our God to anybody who searches, no matter who or what they are. Of choices, to follow Christ as the Magi or discard him like Herod and the religious leaders.
Choose to be guided by the star of Jesus, Pope Francis told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus of the Epiphany today. "Even if there are several stars in our life, it's up to us to choose which to follow... There are flashing lights that come and go, like the small pleasures of life: although good, they are not enough... "the Holy Father said. The Magi invite us to follow the true light that is Lord - said Pope Francis - "a light that does not dazzle, but it accompanies and gives a unique joy.
...These men saw a star that made them set out. The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events. The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it. As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom). Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new.
January, and a new year, usually feels like a chance of a fresh start in more ways than just the numbers on the calendar. A great many of us have experienced the year just ended as pretty awful, quite exceptional in so much tragedy and suffering, such intolerance and hatred. The world is full of anger. It is on this world that the trinity gazes, this world and no other. If we feel a desire welling up from deep within our hearts for something better in 2017, so does the heart of God, in that loving and pained gaze.
Sometimes silence or a hug are better than words, Pope Francis said on Wednesday, during his General Audience with pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall. Continuing his series of catechesis on the theme of Christian hope, the Holy Father spoke about the inconsolable pain of a parent losing a child. The Pope focused his words on the Old Testament figure of Rachel, wife of Jacob, who is described by the prophet Jeremiah as weeping bitter tears for her children in exile. In the book of Genesis, we learn that Rachel died in childbirth, giving life to her second son, Benjamin.
...,The human face of God - where is it in our world? It can seem so absent in a world ravaged by conflict, when evil rears its ugly head, despair and depression grips us. But what does the Christian do? What can the religious person do? Should they do? The Christian looks around, reflects on the coming of God to earth - God is here in our midst beckoning us to allow his humanity in, his compassion, his mercy, calling us to hope more, love more, have still greater faith in what he is all about. And what he is all about confounds the wisdom of the world. What he is all about is symbolized here in the
A few days ago, we celebrated the birth of the Lord, and we called to mind that event which happened in history when God clothed himself with our flesh. Now we continue to celebrate Christmas, because that birth does not cease to be vital, active: the Lord continues to be born, to grow, to exist in the life of every baptised person and - in a mysterious way - in that of every person. But the birth of Jesus in us is not an event that happens in an instant: it is rather a long process, which requires time and patience and slowly draws us, always deeper and deeper,
My mother taught me many things. One was this: that a mother can never forget her child, even if that child is no longer in her presence and care. The bond between them endures. It is written into her heart and flesh. A mother carries the hopes of her child as her own; she feels the anguish of her child; she suffers whatever pain befalls the fruit of her womb. This lesson helps me to understand why, on this Feast Day of Mary, Mother of God, we do so well to turn to her. Mary is our mother.
Recently I stood in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed on 14th November, 1940. On the remains of the wall behind the altar are written the words, 'Father Forgive' - echoing the words that Jesus prayed as his enemies crucified him. The day after the bombing, the Provost of the Cathedral, an extraordinary man called Dick Howard, made a commitment not to revenge but to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. On Christmas Day that year, Provost Howard preached a sermon that was broadcast across the Empire on the BBC. In it, he called for a new and more Christ-like world after the
"Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart! (Lk 2:19). In these words, Luke describes the attitude with which Mary took in all that they had experienced in those days. Far from trying to understand or master the situation, Mary is the woman who can treasure, that is to say, protect and guard in her heart, the passage of God in the life of his people. Deep within, she had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God's heartbeat in history.
Hidden in the nativity story of Luke's Gospel is the merest hint of something rather radical, its there in the text but because it just slips in we often miss the power of what is being told us. The Shepherds ....'made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds'. (Luke 2.17,18 ) If we think about them a little bit we might realize that these shepherds are not the wonderfully bucolic characters of our traditional country stories,
Have you ever put your foot forward and have the ground give way before you? Perhaps it was on a stone as you tried to cross a stream or in a marshy field. You began to sink as you moved forward. There have been stories of people waking up as an earthquake was happening putting their feet out of the bed only to find there was no floor to step onto. Life feels like this for many people when everything they knew and relied on has gone. The bottom has literally fallen out of their world.
Midnight Mass is full of light and darkness. We gather in the dead of night. We are referred to as a people 'that walked in darkness'. Yet we rejoice for a great light has been given to us, the light spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah, the light seen by the shepherds which burst through the darkness of the Palestinian sky. At this time, there is much anxiety about the state of our world. In the last few weeks the famous words of the Irish Poet WB Yeats have often been used. Writing in 1919, he spoke of a brutal and disintegrating world in which, and I quote: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
The normal processes of life do not stop because we are celebrating Christmas; today 360,000 babies will be born, 151,000 people will die. Life in all its rawness continues to happen to people both far away and close to us, even if news-gathering slackens. News does not stop but we choose to put aside those things which trouble us as much as possible. Sometimes we just look away, even from really important things; another series of pictures of barrel bombs in Aleppo, yet more information about killing in the South Sudan, the news from Berlin this week.
Pope Francis on Monday called on Christians to "overcome evil with good and hatred with love." In a tweet today, marking the Feast of Saint Stephen, the Church's first martyr, the Pope said, "let us remember the martyrs of today and yesterday." It was a theme the Holy Father picked up in his Angelus address to the thousands of pilgrims who had gathered in St Peter's Square on this, the day after Christmas.
The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God.
Pope Francis has urged Christians to allow themselves to be challenged by the Child in the manger, and also by the children of today's world, so many of whom are suffering. During the Holy Christmas Mass homily, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, the Pope spoke of those children "who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father" , of those hiding underground to escape bombardment, of those on the the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.
When I look at the cribs in church or at home or see the lovely icons of the Nativity, I'm reminded that in the great cycle of the Church year, this feast is above all one for all those who are children either in age or at heart. Easter, Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection is very dramatic, passion, death, waiting for something to happen and then, new, resurrected life! But the Christmas symbols and images, the carols, scripture readings and songs all take us to something incredibly simple, the coming into human life of God made present in Jesus. It is above all a feast of kindly love.
The traditional seven 'O' Antiphons of the last week of Advent are a journey with the Prophet Isaiah and others, telling the story of the coming of the Christ from Creation to Bethlehem. For us in the Northern Hemisphere it is also a transition in two ways, firstly in liturgical terms from the glimmer of light as life began, to the rising of the Sun that never sets. It also comes at that point when the year turns, the darkest shortest day and longest night, the winter solstice takes place during this week. We have yet to face deep winter but the light is coming, alongside the cold days to come, a flash of sunlit