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Pope at audience: Christian hope is born on Easter morning

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 19:46
(Vatican Radio) Our faith was born with the Risen Jesus on Easter morning. That was Pope Francis message at his General Audience on Wednesday as he continued his catechesis on the meaning of our Christian hope. Listen to our report :  Reflecting on the words of St Paul to the early Christian community in Corinth, the Pope said Jesus himself is our hope and his resurrection is the event that grounds our faith. Without it, he said, Christianity would be a mere human philosophy and Jesus would simply be another great religious figure. Pope Francis said our belief is based on the testimony of those who encountered the risen Christ, from Saint Peter and the group of the twelve disciples, to Saint Paul, who was converted by his dramatic meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Following that encounter, Paul, who previously persecuted Christians, becomes instead an apostle of the faith. Faith is a surprise, a grace The Pope said that encountering Christ in faith is always a surprise; it is a grace given to those whose hearts are open.  It overturns our comfortable existence and opens us to an unexpected future, sowing life and light in place of death and sorrow.  Even though we are all sinners, he said, we too can go to the tomb, see the stone rolled away and realise that God has an unexpected future for each one of us. Jesus lives in our midst This is the reason for our Easter joy, the Pope said: in the risen Jesus, who dwells in our midst, we encounter the power of God’s love, which triumphs over death, bringing new life and undying hope. During this Easter season, he concluded, let us continue to cry from our hearts that Jesus is risen and lives among us here, today. (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 16:30
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope. Reflecting on 1Cor 15, the Holy Father said the Risen Christ is the hope of Christians, since his resurrection is the event that grounds our faith. Please find below the official English summary of the Pope's catechesis: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In these joyful days of Easter, our continuing catechesis on Christian hope looks to the Risen Jesus.  Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus himself is our hope.  His resurrection is the event that grounds our faith; without our confident belief in its historical reality, the Christian faith would be a mere human philosophy, and Jesus himself simply another great religious figure.  Our belief is based on the testimony of those who encountered the Risen Christ, from Saint Peter and the group of the Twelve to Saint Paul, who was converted by his dramatic meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Encountering Christ in faith is always a surprise; it is a grace given to those whose hearts are open.  It overturns our comfortable existence and opens us to an unexpected future, sowing life and light in place of death and sorrow.  This is the reason for our Easter joy: in the risen Jesus, who dwells in our midst, we encounter the power of God’s love, which triumphs over death and brings ever new life and undying hope. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christian communities

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 19:35
(Vatican Radio) On Easter Monday Pope Francis greeted pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, praying especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace before the recitation of the Regina Coeli midday prayer, the Pope said the day’s liturgy echoes the great cry of Easter Sunday, ‘Christ is Risen, Hallelujah!’ Listen to our report:  We hear the words of the angel to the women at the tomb, saying ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples, he has been raised from the dead.” Those words are directed at us too, the Pope said, inviting us to go quickly and proclaim this message of joy and hope to the women and men of our day. The message that death and the tomb have not had the last word, but that Christ is Risen, bringing new life to all. Solidarity and welcome In light of this event, Pope Francis said, we are called to be men and women who affirm the value of life. In the midst of so much suffering in the world, he said, we will be Resurrection people if we know how to offer gestures of solidarity and welcome, strengthening the desire for peace and for a world which is free from degradation. Transformed by the Spirit Those ordinary, human gestures, sustained by faith in the Risen Lord, the Pope said, will be transformed by the Spirit and take on new strength to reach into every heart, freeing us from wretchedness and bringing hope to the suffering and oppressed. Corageous witness of faith May Mary, a silent witness to the death and Resurrection of her son Jesus, help us to be signs of the Risen Christ in the world, the Pope said. He concluded by praying in a special way for all those Christian communities that are persecuted and oppressed in different parts of the world today, saying they are called to give a particularly difficult and courageous witness to the Easter message. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Easter Sunday Mass: Hold fast to faith

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 21:04
(Vatican Radio) On Easter Sunday morning Pope Francis presided over Mass in St Peter’s Square festooned for the occasion with colourful tulips from Holland. Breaking with tradition the Pope gave an off the cuff homily encouraging Christians to keep the faith despite the wars, sickness and hatred in the world. ``The Church never ceases to say, faced with our defeats, our closed and fearful hearts, `stop, the Lord is risen.' But if the Lord is risen, how come these things happen?'' He went on to say ``Nobody asks us: `But, are you happy with all that's happening in the world?' Are you willing to go forward','' carrying a cross, as Jesus did? The Pope also noted in his impromptu homily that " in this culture of waste what is not needed is thrown away, discarded, that stone - Jesus - is discarded and is the source of life. And we too, pebbles on the ground, in this land of pain, tragedy, with faith in the Risen Christ we have a wisdom in the midst of many calamities. The wisdom to look beyond and say, "look there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross amidst this ambivalence. Look ahead, do not close in on yourself". (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: To the the city and the world

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 19:47
Vatican Radio) “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!” Those were Pope Francis’ words as he delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica on a sunny Easter Sunday. Listen to our report:    The Pope said that “by his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.” In every age, the Holy Father underlined, “the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world.  He goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.  He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery,… and takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence…” The Risen Shepherd continued Pope Francis walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes.  He also prayed that the Risen Lord would grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade. During his address the Pope prayed for peace in the Middle East especially in war torn Syria recalling Saturday's attack which killed dozens of people near the city of Aleppo, calling it "the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees". He also looked to the African Continent praying that the Good Shepherd would remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who, he said,  “endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.” Remembering too Latin America, the Pope shared his hope that it would be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes. Turning his attention to Europe the Holy Father prayed that the Risen Lord would grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people. He also made special mention of Ukraine expressing the hope  that the country, “still beset by conflict and bloodshed, would regain social harmony.” Finally, taking his leave Pope Francis said, “may Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.”               (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi message

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 18:31
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Easter Sunday gave his tradition Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message from the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica. In it he prayed that Risen Lord would walk beside those who are marginalized who are victimized by old and new forms of slavery. The Holy Father also prayed the Lord would bring peace to the Middle East, come to the aid of Ukraine, shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe and  build bridges of dialogue in Latin America.  Below is the English language translation of the Pope's Urbi et Orbi message   Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!             Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”             The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment.  By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.             All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep.  But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us.  To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).             In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world.  With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life.  Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.             The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.  He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.             He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction.  He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.             The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes.  Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.             In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace.  May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.             Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death.  May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.             May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.             May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence.  May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.             May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony.  May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.             The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe.  May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.             Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together.  With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message:  “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!”  May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.             Happy Easter!   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at Easter vigil: the Lord is alive!

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 16:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning with the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the singing of the exultet , then the readings recalling the great moments in salvation history, and then the proclamation of the Good News: Christ is risen from the dead. Listen to this report: In his homily, the Holy Father said, “Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.” “If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road,” he said, “then we are not Christians.” Let us go, then,” he went on to say. “Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give.  May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps.  May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness,” of our own. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: homily at Easter Vigil, 2017

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 16:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the evening of Holy Saturday, 2017. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks, in their official English translation. ********************** Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Easter Vigil 15 April 2017 “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” ( Mt 28:1).  We can picture them as they went on their way…  They walked like people going to a cemetery, with uncertain and weary steps, like those who find it hard to believe that this is how it all ended.  We can picture their faces, pale and tearful.  And their question: can Love have truly died? Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb.  Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice.  We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way. If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality.  In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking.  We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family.  We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles.  Their faces mirror the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams.  By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes.  By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change.  In their grief, those two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified. The faces of those women mirror many other faces too, including perhaps yours and mine.  Like them, we can feel driven to keep walking and not resign ourselves to the fact that things have to end this way.  True, we carry within us a promise and the certainty of God’s faithfulness.  But our faces also bear the mark of wounds, of so many acts of infidelity, our own and those of others, of efforts made and battles lost. In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration.  Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us.  So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation.  Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake” ( Mt 28:2).  Unexpectedly, those women felt a powerful tremor, as something or someone made the earth shake beneath their feet.  Once again, someone came to tell them: “Do not be afraid” , but now adding: “He has been raised as he said!”   This is the message that, generation after generation, this Holy Night passes on to us: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!”  Life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew (cf. ROMANO GUARDINI, The Lord , Chicago, 1954, p. 473).  The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon.  The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity.  In the resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others. When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities.  God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy.  This is the promise present from the beginning.  This is God’s surprise for his faithful people.  Rejoice!  Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened. That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord.  Christ is alive!  That is what quickened the pace of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  That is what made them return in haste to tell the news ( Mt 28:8).  That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks.  They returned to the city to meet up with the others. Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city.  Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces.  Let us go back with them to tell the news…  In all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out.  Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive!  He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.  If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians. Let us go, then.  Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give.  May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps.  May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: remarks at Good Friday Via crucis

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 19:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the  Via crucis  at the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, he briefly addressed the faithful gathered to participate in the devotion. Below, please find our English translation of his remarks. ************************************** O Christ! Abandoned and betrayed even by your own and sold for next to nothing. O Christ! Judged by sinners, handed over by those in Authority. O Christ! Suffering in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple. O Christ! Beaten and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross. O Christ! Pierced by the lance that broke your heart. O Christ! Dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence. O Christ! Our only Saviour, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame and hearts filled with hope: Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and wreckage that have become a normal part of our lives; Shame for the innocent blood shed daily by women, children, migrants and people persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic and social diversity or because of their faith in You; Shame for the too many times that, like Judas and Peter, we have sold you and betrayed you and left you alone to die for our sins, fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities; Shame for our silence before injustices; for our hands that have been lazy in giving and greedy in grabbing and conquering; for the shrill voices we use to defend our own interests and the timid ones we use to speak out for other's; for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed when it comes to following the path of good; Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have caused scandal and pain to your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love, our initial enthusiasm and total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust. So much shame Lord, but our hearts also feel nostalgia for the confident hope that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own; The certain hope that our names are etched in your heart and that we are reflected in the pupils of your eyes; the hope that your Cross may transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that are able to dream, to forgive and to love; that it may transform this dark night of your cross into the brilliant dawn of your Resurrection; The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own; The hope that the many men and women who are faithful to your Cross may continue to live in fidelity like yeast that gives flavour and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity; The hope that your Church will try to be the voice that cries in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead; The hope that good will be victorious despite its apparent defeat! O Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt; We ask you to remember our brethren destroyed by violence, indifference and war; We ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, our wilful blindness and in the vanity of our worldly calculations. O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honour and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of your mercy. Amen. (from Vatican Radio)...

Fr. Cantalamessa: Passion teaches Cross our only hope

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 01:05
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the Passion Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM. Cap., preached the sermon on the occasion. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks, in their official English translation. ************************************** Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap “O CRUX, AVE SPES UNICA” The Cross, the Only Hope of the World Sermon for Good Friday, 2017, St. Peter’s Basilica We have listened to the story of the Passion of Christ. Apparently nothing more than the account of a violent death, and news of violent deaths are rarely missing in any evening news. Even in recent days there were many of them, including those of 38 Christians Copts in Egypt killed on Palm Sunday.  These kinds of reports follow each other at such speed that we forget one day those of the day before. Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2000 years ago? The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning. Let us meditate for a while on it. “ When they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water ” (Jn 19:33-34). At the beginning of his ministry, in response to those who asked him by what authority he chased the merchants from the temple, Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). John comments on this occasion, “he spoke of the temple of his body” (Jn 2:21), and now the same Evangelist testifies that blood and water flowed from the side of this “destroyed” temple. It is a clear allusion to the prophecy in Ezekiel about a future temple of God, with water flowing from its side that was at first a stream and then a navigable river, and every form of life flourished around it (see Ezek 47:1ff). But let us enter more deeply into the source of the “rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38) coming from the pierced heart of Christ. In Revelation the same disciple whom Jesus loved writes, “Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). Slain, but standing, that is, pierced but resurrected and alive. There exists now, within the Trinity and in the world, a human heart that beats not just metaphorically but physically. If Christ, in fact, has been raised from the dead, then his heart has also been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body, in a different dimension than before, a real dimension, even if it is mystical. If the Lamb is alive in heaven, “slain, but standing,” then his heart shares in that same state; it is a heart that is pierced but living—eternally pierced, precisely because he lives eternally. There has been a phrase created to describe the depths of evil that can accumulate in the heart of humanity: “the heart of darkness.” After the sacrifice of Christ, more intense than the heart of darkness, a heart of light beats in the world. Christ, in fact, in ascending into heaven, did not abandon the earth, just as he did not abandon the Trinity in becoming incarnate. An antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours says, “the plan of the Father” is now fulfilled in “making Christ the heart of the world.” This explains the unshakeable Christian optimism that led a medieval mystic to exclaim that it is to be expected that “there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing [sic] shall be well” (Julian of Norwich). * * * The Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that appears at the entrance to their monastery, in their official documents, and in other settings. It consists of a globe of the earth surmounted by a cross with writing around it that says, “ Stat crux dum volvitur orbis ” (“The Cross stands firm as the world turns”). What does the cross represent in being this fixed point, this mainmast in the undulation of the world? It is the definitive and irreversible “no” of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies—to all that we call “evil,” and at the same it is equally the irreversible “yes” to love, truth, and goodness. “No” to sin, “yes” to the sinner. It is what Jesus practiced all his life and that he now definitively consecrates with his death. The reason for this differentiation is clear: sinners are creatures of God and preserve their dignity, despite all their aberrations; that is not the case for sin; it is a spurious reality that is added on, the result of one’s passions and of the “the devil’s envy” (Wis 2:24). It is the same reason for which the Word, in becoming incarnate, assumed to himself everything human except for sin. The good thief to whom the dying Jesus promised paradise, is the living demonstration of all this. No one should give up hope; no one should say, like Cain, “My sin is too great to be forgiven” (see Gen 4:13). The cross, then, does not “stand” against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering. * * *  “ Dum volvitur orbis ,” as the world turns.  Human history has seen many transitions from one era to another; we speak about the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, the imperial age, the atomic age, the electronic age. But today there is something new. The idea of a transition is no longer sufficient to describe our current situation. Alongside the idea of a change, one must also place the idea of a dissolution.  It has been said that we are now living in a “liquid society.”  There are no longer any fixed points, any undisputed values, any rock in the sea to which we can cling or with which we can collide. Everything is in flux. The worst of the hypotheses the philosopher had foreseen as the effect of the death of God has come to pass, which the advent of the super-man was supposed to prevent but did not prevent: “What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness?” (Nietzsche, Gay Science , aphorism 125). It has been said that “killing God is the most horrible of suicides,” and that is in part what we are seeing. It is not true that “where God is born, man dies” (Jean-Paul Sartre). Just the opposite is true: where God dies, man dies. A surrealist artist from the second half of the last century (Salvador Dalí)  painted a crucifix that seems to be a prophecy of this situation. It depicts an immense, cosmic cross with an equally immense Christ seen from above with his head tilted downward. Below him, however, is not land but water. The Crucified One is not suspended between heaven and earth but between heaven and the liquid element of the earth. This tragic image (there is also in the background a cloud that could allude to an atomic cloud) nevertheless contains a consoling certainty: there is hope even for a liquid society like ours! There is hope because above it “the cross of Christ stands.” This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: “ O crux, ave spes unica ,” “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.” Yes, God died, he died in his Son Christ Jesus; but he did not remain in the tomb, he was raised. “You crucified and killed Him,” Peter shouts to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “But God raised him up” (see Act 2:23-24). He is the one who “died but is now alive for evermore” (see Rev 1:18). The cross does not “stand” motionless in the midst of the world’s upheavals as a reminder of a past event or a mere symbol; it is an ongoing reality that is living and operative. * * * We would make this liturgy of the Passion pointless, however, if we stopped, like the sociologists, at the analysis of the society in which we live. Christ did not come to explain things but to change human beings. The heart of darkness is not only that of some evil person hidden deep in the jungle, nor is it only that of the western society that produced it. It is in each one of us in varying degrees. The Bible calls it a heart of stone: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone,” God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36:26). A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life. Not to keep our gaze turned only outward toward others, we can say that this also actually describes our hearts as ministers for God and as practicing Christians if we still live fundamentally “for ourselves” and not “for the Lord.” It is written that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:51). These signs are generally given an apocalyptic explanation as if it is the symbolic language needed to describe the eschatological event. But these signs also have a parenetic significance: they indicate what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ. In a liturgy like today’s, St. Leo the Great said to the faithful, “The earth—our earthly nature—should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks—the hearts of unbelievers—should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart.” (“Sermon 66,” 3; PL 54, 366). The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart.” In receiving the Eucharist we firmly believe his very heart comes to beat inside of us as well. As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” and then we too, like he did, will return home “justified” (Lk 18:13-14). ________________________________ Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson (from Vatican Radio)...

Preacher of Papal Household: Christ's Cross is world's hope

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 00:48
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the Passion Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM. Cap., preached the sermon on the occasion. This year, the Preacher’s remarks focused entirely on the Cross of Christ: the only hope of the world. Listen to our report:  “The Cross,” said Fr. Cantalamessa, “does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history.” The Preacher of the Papal Household went on to say, “It is written that at the moment of Christ’s death, ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised (Matt 27:51).’” Though these signs often receive an apocalyptic explanation, he said, “[T]hey [also] indicate what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope urges faithful to help and serve each other

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Holy Thursday washed the feet of inmates at Paliano prison, south of Rome, during the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper. The Pope traveled to the penitentiary for a private visit and the celebration of Mass marking Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the day before his Crucifixion. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : In his off-the-cuff homily Pope Francis invited those present – and all Christians -  to serve the other. "The disciples, the Pope said, used to argue about who was the most important amongst them". “He who feels or thinks he is important, he continued, must become small and be a servant to the others. That is what God – who loves us as we are – does every day”. The center hosts some 70 inmates, and amongst those whose feet the Pope washed, there are 10 Italians, 1 Argentinean and 1 Albanian. Amongst them 3 are women and 1 is a Muslim who will receive the Sacrament of Baptism in the coming month of June. The Paliano detention center is the only such institute in Italy reserved in particular for former members of criminal gangs who collaborate with police and the judiciary.  Vocational training is part of the programmes in place for the inmates at Paliano and courses include pottery, bakery, carpentry, farming and bee-keeping. That’s why the inmates gifts for Pope Francis include baskets of fresh farm produce, eggs, honey and a wooden crucifix.   Pope Francis began the tradition of travelling to a prison for the traditional Last Supper Mass in March 2013, just a few days after the inauguration of his pontificate. On that occasion he travelled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo youth detention centre where he included, for the first time, women and Muslims among the inmates whose feet he washed. The following year, he celebrated the Last Supper Mass at Rome’s Don Gnocchi centre for the disabled, again including women among those who had their feet washed in memory of Jesus’ gesture of humility and service. In 2015 Pope Francis travelled to Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, while last year he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a centre for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, just north of Rome. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis leads Chrism Mass for Rome diocese

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 19:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Chrism Mass of the Rome diocese on the morning of Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica. The liturgy is held every year in every diocese, and is typically celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, with the clergy gathered around the bishop in a sign of unity. It is called the “Chrism Mass” because it is during the liturgy that the sacred oils to be used in the Sacraments are blessed: the Oil of the Infirm, the Oil of the Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism – which is used to anoint the newly baptized and in conferring Confirmation, and to consecrate priests and bishops to their special and peculiar divine service. Click below to hear our report In his homily , Pope Francis spoke of the truth, mercy, and joy of the Gospel, which each priest is called to witness with his whole life: embodying and personifying each of the three characteristics. “The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books,” Pope Francis said. “The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change,” he continued. “This message,” the Holy Father went on to say, “can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal – it is ‘the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost’,” and “the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis’ homily at Holy Thursday Chrism Mass: Full text

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 17:02
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday presided over the Chrism Mass, during which the sacred oils used for the Sacraments and Ordinations were blessed. In his homily for the Mass, the Holy Father spoke about the “joy of the Gospel”. He explored three “icons” of the good news: the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana, the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun, and the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart. Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s homily: Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Holy Thursday Chrism Mass 13 April 2017 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18).  Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor.  Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news.  News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.  Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person.  When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.  Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being.  For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time… The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel”.  Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel.  The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy. The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel.  It is not a thing but a mission.  This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10). The good news is born of Anointing.  Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary.  The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat.  It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother. In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8). Good news.  A single word – Gospel – that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy.  We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.  The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books. The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.  This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal.  It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (Evangelii Gaudium, 237).  It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5) The joys of the Gospel are special joys.  I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture.  They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message.  I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh, without turning sour but being poured out in abundance. A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6).  In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary.  The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7).  I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pailful.  Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy.  She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour, who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth.  Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy.  This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1) A second icon of the good news is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30).  It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations.  The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst.  So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst.  She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins.  By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.  The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa.  He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”.  He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor.  Come, be my light.  I cannot do this alone.  They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me.  Bring me to them”.  Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all. The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself.  From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way.  Evangelization cannot be presumptuous.  The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid.  The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time.  The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward.  This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil. Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to La Repubblica newspaper: ‘World must stop lords of war’

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 16:15
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis granted an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, published Thursday morning, in which he spoke about why he always celebrates the Mass of the Lord's Supper with prisoners and about the current “terrible world war being fought piecemeal”. This year, the Holy Father celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday at the Paliano Detention Centre, near Rome, where he will once again wash the feet of prisoners on the margins of society. Listen to Devin Watkins' report: The Pope said his decision to continue to celebrate the In Coena Domini Mass with prisoners “is a duty which comes from my heart.” “The Gospel passage of the last judgment says, ‘I was a prisoner and you visited me’. This is Jesus’ task for each of us, but especially for the bishop who is the father of all.” Example of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli When asked who had taught him this lesson, Pope Francis cited the example of the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. He said that even when he was Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli continued to carry out his pastoral activity at Rome’s youth detention facility, Casal del Marmo, unbeknownst to those to whom he was ministering. “Every Saturday evening he would disappear: ‘He’s resting’, they would say. He would take the bus, with his work briefcase, and would stay to confess young people and play with them. They called him ‘Don Agostino’; they didn’t really know who he was. When John XXIII received him after his first visit to Eastern Europe during his diplomatic mission at the height of the Cold War, he asked him at the end of their meeting: ‘Tell me, do you still visit those young people?’ ‘Yes, Holy Father.’ ‘I ask you this favor, never abandon them.’” The Holy Father went on to say, “At times, a certain hypocrisy pushes us to see prisoners only as people who have messed up, for whom the only path is prison. But, we all have the possibility to make mistakes.” World must stop lords of war Turning to the theme of war and violence, Pope Francis said, “I think today sin is manifested with all its destructive force in war, in different forms of violence and mistreatment, and in the rejection of the most fragile.” He said the last century “was devastated by two deadly world wars and knew the threat of nuclear war and a large number of other conflicts, while today, unfortunately, we are experiencing a terrible world war fought piecemeal.” The Holy Father told his interviewer, “The world must stop the lords of war, because those who suffer most are the last and the helpless.” “I always ask myself,” he said, “Does violence allow us to obtain long-lasting objectives? Are not the results only a further escalation of reprisals and a spiral of lethal conflicts, which benefit only ‘a few lords of war?’” Pope Francis said, “Responding to violence with violence leads – in the best of cases – to forced migration and inhuman suffering... In the worst of cases, in can bring the physical and spiritual death of many people, if not of all.” Prejudices close one to truth and freedom In conclusion, the Pope returned to his evening visit to prisoners at the Paliano Detention Centre. “When we remain closed in our own prejudices, when we are slaves to idols of a false well-being, when we move within ideological frames, or when we absolutize economic laws which crush people, in reality we are doing nothing other than remaining within the cramped cell walls of individualism and self-sufficiency, deprived of truth which generates freedom. And to point the finger against someone who has messed up cannot become an alibi for hiding one’s own contradictions.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to celebrate Liturgy of Word for 'New Martyrs'

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 21:01
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis will celebrate a special Liturgy of the Word in memory of the "New Martyrs" of the 20th and 21st centuries on Saturday, 22 April. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said the prayer will take place in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiberian Island, which is located in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River. The Liturgy of the Word celebration is organized by the Sant'Egidio Community and takes place at 5 PM. A separate communique released by the Sant'Egidio Community said the Basilica of St. Bartholomew held special significance: "The Pope's prayer in a place, which - since the Jubilee of 2000, at John Paul II's behest - contains the memoirs of contemporary martyrs, takes on a very special significance in these times marked by the suffering of so many Christians in the world and by the light of Easter." (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: "celebrate Holy days 'of love' leading to Easter"

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 18:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has invited Christians to contemplate the Cross and to celebrate the holy days leading to Easte r. Continuing his catechesis on Christian hope, the Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly Wednesday General Audience. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :   Unlike worldly hopes, which fail to bring lasting satisfaction Pope Francis told the faithful that “our Christian hope is grounded in God’s eternal love”. Reflecting on the Gospel of John, the Pope recalled Jesus’ words as he entered Jerusalem: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. These words, he said, can help us understand the mystery of God’s promise – think of a tiny seed that falls to the ground; if it remains closed unto itself nothing happens, if it breaks open it gives life to an ear of wheat, and then to a plant that will yield fruit.  Jesus, the Pope said, brought a new hope into the world: like the seed he became tiny and fell to the earth. His saving death and resurrection show that the self-giving love that is God’s very life can transform darkness into light, sin into forgiveness, apparent defeat into eternal victory. If anyone asks me, Francis said “how is hope born? I answer from the Cross: look at the Cross, look at the Crucified Christ, that is where you will find hope that never vanishes, that lasts for eternity”.  He who chooses to live and love with humility in the way Jesus has shown, the Pope continued, and chooses the hope He has given to us, makes the winning choice.   For he who thirsts for worldly things and strives only to satisfy his own desires, he said, will never be satiated warning that  “it’s a nasty kind of thirst, the more you have the more you want” and at the end you will lose everything.  Thus, he said, the Cross of Christ is the source of that unfailing hope which gives meaning and direction to our lives.   And underlining the fact that love is the motor that drives our hope, he said that the Cross is not the goal; it’s a step towards the glory to which we are called. “As we celebrate these holy days, the days of love which lead to Easter, the Pope concluded, I would like to give each of you a task: contemplate the Cross and say to the Lord: “with You nothing is lost; You are my hope”.   (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:20
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday invited Christians to contemplate the Cross and celebrate the holy days leading to Easter. Continuing in his catechesis on Christian hope , the Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the weekly General Audience. Please find below the English summary of the Pope's catechesis: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  During this Holy Week, our continuing catechesis on Christian hope looks to the mystery of the Cross.  Unlike worldly hopes, which fail to bring lasting satisfaction, our Christian hope is grounded in God’s eternal love, revealed in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial death and his rising to new life.  Jesus, in speaking of his imminent passion and death, uses the image of the seed that must fall to the ground and die, in order to bear fruit.  His saving death and resurrection show that the self-giving love that is God’s very life can transform darkness into light, sin into forgiveness, apparent defeat into eternal victory.  The Cross of Christ is thus the source of that unfailing hope which gives meaning and direction to our lives.  Beyond the shadow of the Cross, we glimpse the glory to which we are called.  As we celebrate these holy days leading to Easter, may we contemplate in the crucified Lord the source of our lasting hope and the inspiration for our efforts to live in imitation of his undying love. (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy Thursday - April 13, 2017

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:14
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14,  1 Cor 11:23-26,  Jn 13:1-15 The Stole and the Towel is the title of a book, which sums up the message of the Italian bishop, Tony Bello, who died of cancer at the age of 58.  On Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, he dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese.  He called upon them to be bound by "the stole and the towel."  The stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist, and the towel symbolizes union with humanity by service.  The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant.  Today we celebrate the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood: the feast of "the stole and the towel," the feast of love and service.  Introduction: On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and  preach the Good News of salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover.  In its origins, the Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations.  The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering to God of a lamb.  They called this celebration the “Pass over."  The descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving.  The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt and final arrival in the Promised Land.   Scripture lessons:  The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover when the Israelites celebrated God's breaking the chains of their Egyptian slavery and leading them to the land He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, establishing a covenant with them and making of them his own beloved people. God gave the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal [to be held annually in later years] and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. This tradition continued in the Church as the Lord’s Supper, with the Eucharist as its focal point. In the second reading, Paul identifies a source and purpose for the communal celebration of the Lord’s Supper beyond that was passed on to him upon his conversion, namely that   he had received this "from the Lord.” This suggests that the celebration of the Lord's Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. Paul implies that another purpose of this celebration was to “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.”  Paul may simply mean that Christians, by this ritual act, remind themselves of the death and Resurrection of Jesus; he may also mean that Christians prepare themselves for the proclamation of Christ to the world at large.  Addressing abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread” in the Corinthian church, Paul gives us all the warning that if we fail to embrace the spirit of love and servanthood in which the gift of the Eucharist is given to us, then “Eucharist” becomes a judgment against us. In harmony with these readings, today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration.  First, he washed His Apostles’ feet - a tender reminder of his undying affection for them. Then he commanded them to do the same for each other.  The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us. Finally, he gave his apostles his own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as Food and Drink for their souls, so that, as long as they lived, they'd never be without the comfort and strength of his presence.   Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them and then went out to die. This Gospel episode challenges us to become, for others, Christ the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.” Exegesis: Jesus’ transformation of his last Seder meal (Last Supper) into the first Eucharistic celebration is described for us in today’s Second Reading and Gospel. (John in his account of the Last Supper, makes no mention of the establishment of the Eucharist because his theology of the Eucharist is detailed in the “bread of life” discourse following the multiplication of the loaves and fish at Passover, in chapter 6 of his Gospel.) Jesus, the Son of God, began his Passover celebration by washing the feet of his disciples (a service assigned to household servants), as a lesson in humble service, demonstrating that he “came to the world not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). He followed the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal up to the second cup of wine.  After serving the roasted lamb as a third step, Jesus offered his own Body and Blood as food and drink under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, he instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, Heavenly Food.  This was followed by the institution of the priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me."   Jesus concluded the ceremony with a long speech incorporating his command of love:  “Love one another as I have loved you”(Jn 13:34). Thus, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at a private Passover meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 21:7-23).  He served as both the Host and the Victim of a sacrifice.  He became the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), who would “take away the sins of the world.” The transformation of Jesus’ Passover into the Holy Mass : The early Jewish Christians converted the Jewish “Sabbath Love Feast” of Fridays and Saturdays (the Sabbath), into the “Memorial Last Supper Meal” of Jesus on Sundays.  The celebration began with the participants praising and worshipping God by singing psalms, reading the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and listening to the teachings of Jesus as explained by an apostle or by an ordained minister.  This was followed by an offertory procession, bringing to the altar the bread and wine to be consecrated and the covered dishes (meals) brought by each family for a shared common meal after the Eucharistic celebration. Then the ordained minister said the “institution narrative” over the bread and wine and all the participants received the consecrated Bread and Wine, the living Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Jesus.  This ritual finally evolved into the present day Holy Mass in various rites, incorporating various cultural elements of worship and rituals. Life Messages: 1) We need to render humble service to others.  Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another and revere Christ's presence in other persons.   To wash the feet of others is to love them, especially when they don't deserve our love, and to do good to them, even when they don't return the favor. It is to consider others' needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even though they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we're treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others' needs without expecting any reward. In doing and suffering all these things in this way, we love and serve Jesus Himself, as He has loved us and has taught us to do (Mt 25:31-ff). 2) We need to practice sacrificial sharing and self-giving love.   Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.  It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth - with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). 3) We need to show our unity in suffering. The bread we partake of is produced by the pounding of many grains of wheat, and the wine is the result of the crushing of many grapes.  Both are thus symbols of unity through suffering.  They invite us to help, console, support, and pray for others who suffer physical or mental illnesses.  4) We need to heed the warning: We need to make Holy Communion an occasion of Divine grace and blessing by receiving it worthily, rather than making it an occasion of desecration and sacrilege by receiving Jesus while we are in grave sin.  That is why we pray three times before we receive Communion, "Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us," with the final "have mercy on us" replaced by "grant us peace." That is also the reason we pray the Centurion's prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Mt 8:8). And that is why the priest, just before he receives the consecrated Host, prays, "May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life," while, just before drinking from the Chalice, he prays, "May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life." 5) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers:   In the older English version of the Mass, the final message was, “Go in peace to love and serve one another,” that is, to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us. That message has not changed, though the words are different. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil) (from Vatican Radio)...

International pilgrims prepare for 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:12
With less than 60 days to go before the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration, in Uganda, international pilgrims have already started register for participation. Pilgrims from Zambia and Malawi are among the first international pilgrims to confirm participation, while over 800 pilgrims from the Diocese of Hoima (Uganda) have so far registered as foot pilgrims for the forthcoming Uganda Martyrs celebration due on 3 June at Namugongo Catholic Shrine. The 2017 celebration will be animated by the Diocese of Hoima on behalf of Mbarara Ecclesiastical Province. The Chairperson of the Organising Committee at the diocesan level, Kiiza Aliba, confirmed recently that they have so far registered many pilgrims from Zambia and Malawi. “We have already started the registration process for both local and international pilgrims. So far we received a list from Zambia and Malawi, making them the first international pilgrims to register for this year’s celebration. We encourage other international pilgrims from different countries to register with us as it will help to ease our work (the organisers) on how to usher them in when they come,” he said. The Uganda Martyrs Day celebration usually attracts millions of enthusiastic pilgrims from across the world. Last year, Tanzania had the largest contingent of international pilgrims (4,961). Kenya had at least 4,000 pilgrims while others came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. The Majority of these international pilgrims walked to Namugongo Shrine as a demonstration of their faith. Other international pilgrims also came from the United States of America, Nigeria, Mexico, Malawi, Italy, Zambia, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. The annual Martyrs Day celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Catholic and Anglican Martyrs who were burnt to death following the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and on 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised them Saints. In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918. The two were beatified by John Paul II on 20 October 2002. (Jacinta W. Odongo, Uganda Episcopal Conference) Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va (from Vatican Radio)...

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