Catholic homilies and Mass readings from St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish in Gilbert, Arizona
Reading I 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 The LORD said to Elijah: “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you.” Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.Reading II Gal 5:1, 13-18 Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Gospel Lk 9:51-62 When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In today's homily, I would like to share with everyone the communication from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, regarding the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Two days ago, we experienced a historic day, a day which we will always remember as the beginning of a new stage in the still unfinished journey to create a world in which the threat of abortion disappears forever, and in which each and every unborn child has the necessary protection to be born and to always be received as a gift by their parents and by society. This is the message issued two days ago by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities: “This is a historic day in the life of our country, one that stirs our thoughts, emotions and prayers. For nearly fifty years, America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born. America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life. We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision. We pray that our elected officials will now enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us. Our first thoughts are with the little ones whose lives have been taken since 1973. We mourn their loss, and we entrust their souls to God, who loved them from before all ages and who will love them for all eternity. Our hearts are also with every woman and man who has suffered grievously from abortion; we pray for their healing, and we pledge our continued compassion and support. As a Church, we need to serve those who face difficult pregnancies and surround them with love. Today's decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families. We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation's history. Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love. As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue our service to God's great plan of love for the human person, and to work with our fellow citizens to fulfill America's promise to guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.” St. Paul said in today's second reading: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” Dear brothers and sisters, as we rejoice at what happened on Friday, a decision that means the salvation of millions of defenseless, voiceless human lives, let us pray to God and work so that we will stop biting and devouring one another, and that we live in a world that guarantees always and everywhere the protection of the most innocent and weakest human life, the human life conceived but not yet born.
Reading I Gn 14:18-20 In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.Reading II 1 Cor 11:23-26 Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.Gospel Lk 9:11b-17 Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves." They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty." They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. The eyes of the Church today rest in contemplation of that small white Host in which the Eucharistic mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ is made truly present in his body, blood, soul and divinity. She does so with astonishment and amazement, overwhelmed by this unparalleled miracle of God's love. She knows that she does not deserve such a gift, and so she receives it with profound gratitude. Spousal love is a love in the flesh, and here we see it taken to its ultimate consequence: "This is my body, which is given for you". In the Holy Mass, Jesus offers himself to every man: he becomes flesh to come to us, his brethren, who need to eat of eternal life so as not to succumb to our enemy, death. The Eucharist is also the covenant that God has made with his people. A covenant of love, which comforts us because it assures us that He will be with us, every day, until the end of the world. The Lord does not abandon us, nor is he distant from our weaknesses. He does not watch us from afar, seated on a distant throne, deaf to our most pressing needs. On the contrary, in the Tabernacle he listens to them and always receives them into his care with a love that knows no bounds. Let us never take the silent presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament for granted. How afraid we should be to lose our grateful and ever-surprised gaze on this august Mystery! God has made himself so accessible, so close, so small, that in this way of being with us, he has exposed himself to our lack of sensitivity. In order to be continually at our disposal, the Lord risks remaining alone in the tabernacle. In his desire to be able to draw near to us in order to heal our wounds, He makes himself vulnerable to our forgetfulness and indifference. As St. Teresa of Jesus wrote, in the Eucharist, the King of heaven and earth has hidden himself under the humblest of garments so as to be always at our side. In this way, we can speak with God without being afraid, from You to you. We can, if we are in a state of grace, let Him become one with us so that we may become one with Him. The Eucharist is the first wonder of the universe. It is the gateway to the Heart of Jesus, the treasure that contains all the riches of God, the secret of true holiness, the food of those on pilgrimage to the final homeland of heaven, the seed of immortality that we must receive so as not to die forever. I conclude by repeating the message I shared with the parish on Holy Thursday. I entrust the Eucharist to all of you so that, at St. Anne, the Lord may always be treated with affection, tenderness and gentleness. I remember one of our altar boys suffering because some people did not receive Holy Communion well, at least externally. He said to me with sadness and with the innocence of a child who loves Jesus, "Don't they know that God is there? How can they approach the Body of Christ without reverence? Where is their faith?” This child was right: if we had true faith, living faith, we would receive Christ in Holy Communion in a very different way. Dear brethren, devotion and piety are the proper response to the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We can learn it from the saints and from many people in our community, for in our parish there are souls who have a wonderful love for the Eucharist, from whom we can all learn. They are our adorers, who keep watch while we sleep; they are our altar servers, who strive to give Jesus the service he deserves; they are the people who approach Holy Communion, every day, as if it were the first and last time they will receive the Lord sacramentally; They are the young people in love with Christ who take time each day to visit their best friend in the chapel; they are the families who participate in Holy Mass united by their faith and love for the Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar; they are those whose life revolves around the Tabernacle, and therefore rest their hearts only in the Eucharist. I entrust to all of you the care of Christ in this Sacrament. It is everyone's task. Make Christ feel always loved in St. Anne. If you protect Jesus, the Lord will bless and protect you and your families. Be the friends that Jesus seeks and needs. I conclude my words by turning to that Jesus who is looking at us and loving us from the tabernacle. Lord, forgive us our infidelities and lack of love for you in the Blessed Sacrament. Give us the grace to fall in love with you in the marvelous Mystery of the Eucharist. May our passions find peace in your Body. May we quench our thirst for love in your Blood. In your soul, may we always find rest, refuge, and consolation, and in your divinity, true and complete happiness. And so, living through You, with You and in You, as we say in the doxology of each Holy Mass, may we reach the final goal in the eternal joys of Paradise.
Reading I Prv 8:22-31 Thus says the wisdom of God: "The LORD possessed me, the beginning of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. "When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race."Reading II Rom 5:1-5 Brothers and sisters: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.Gospel Jn 16:12-15 Jesus said to his disciples: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
In this weekend's homily, I would like to try to explain the meaning of a gesture that is well known to us, the Sign of the Cross, in light of the mystery that we are celebrating today, the central mystery of our faith, that of the Most Holy Trinity. If we were to ask in general why Christians make the Sign of the Cross, most answers would probably go in this direction - "Because it is on the cross that our Lord Jesus Christ died." - and it is evident that this is the primary meaning of the gesture and that, by tracing it on our bodies, we remember both Jesus' sacrifice for us and the supreme law of love. Jesus calls us to love one another as he has loved us, and he loved us "to the end" (Jn 13:1), even to the madness of the cross. The Sign of the Holy Cross speaks to us, therefore, of God's love for us and also of the love we are called to give to others. However, the gesture of making the Sign of the Cross is also a wonderful catechesis about the Most Blessed Trinity, because when we do it, we say the words: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." It is not by chance that we say each word in a different place in our bodies. Let us go step by step. We begin by bringing our hand to our forehead while saying: "In the name of the Father". The Father is represented by the highest part of our body because He is the first origin of everything and the supreme authority. We know that He is a loving and merciful Father, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son. (Jn 3:16) His Son is a distinct Person, the Word of God of whom St. John's prologue says from the beginning was with God and was God. (Jn 1:1) Today's first reading, taken from the book of Proverbs, speaks to us of this presence of the Word in the mystery of God "before the mountains were settled into place". The Word, then, is eternally generated by the Father. God, who eternally knows himself, begets the Word. It is a generation that takes place outside of time, in the eternity of God, and which takes place by way of intellect (per modum intelligibilis actionis). The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, is also the Wisdom of God because he is a perfect image of the Father. Therefore, the movement of the Sign of the Cross begins at the head, to express that the Father is the origin of everything, that the Son is God like the Father, and that he is generated by way of intellect, by the knowledge that God has of himself. And then we go on to say: "...and of the Son...", and when we say these words, we do something that is not by chance: our hand goes down to our belly. This gesture is expressing the Mystery of the Incarnation! The Son, who lived in the Father, comes to us to save us and becomes a man, with a concrete name, Jesus, and with a face and a life story like ours, like us in everything except sin. (Heb 2:17) We touch our guts, where our viscera are, to express that "the Word became flesh" (Jn 1:13), that he is one of us, that the second Person of the Blessed Trinity came down from heaven to share our own human nature. That his body is like our body, his soul like our soul, his Heart like our heart. He is truly one of us! Our brother, our Lord, our God. The downward movement of the hand thus expresses the love of that God the Trinity who, from the highest, came to the lowest to redeem us. The distance we make with our hand is tiny, that which goes from our head to our belly, but the Word had to travel an infinite distance to reach us: from eternity, he had to enter into time; from the summit of wealth, he came to total poverty; from the happiness of heaven, to the bitterness of earth, from the light of glory, to the darkness of men, from the holiness of God to the sin of men, from the perfection of the Father to the miseries of his brethren, from incorruptibility to corruption. The love of God the Father and God the Son for us is truly infinite! And so, we come to the last part of the gesture of the Sign of the Cross: "...and of the Holy Spirit...", and when we say these words, our hand rises to the level of the heart. We do so because the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, which we celebrated last Sunday, is the personal love of the Father and the Son, and love is represented in all cultures by the heart. If the generation of the Son takes place by way of intellect, the spiration of the Holy Spirit comes about "in the manner of love" (per modum amoris). Isn't it wonderful? By means of generation, God is eternally Father and Son. The Father who begets loves the Son and the Son loves the Father with a love which is identical with that of the Father: paternal and filial love at the same time which, in their mutual gratification, "spirate the Holy Spirit, who is consubstantial with them”. So then, in relation to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sign of the Cross teaches us that it is love and that this love unites the Father and the Son: that is why in the gesture of the Sign of the Cross it is placed between the Father (in the head) and the Son (in the belly). Thus, the mission of the Spirit in us is to make us love God, and in this way, he unites us to him as in the bosom of the Trinity the Holy Spirit unites the Father to the Son in the most beautiful embrace that can exist. St. Paul said in today's second reading: "the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.". The Holy Spirit brings us the loving presence of the three Divine Persons, who dwell in the heart of the just so that we may enjoy their friendship and their light. Dear brothers and sisters, on this solemnity at which we celebrate the source of all the mysteries of our faith and the goal to which we are called, let us ask for the grace to live this reality in our daily lives, to learn from the Most Holy Trinity a communion in our families and communities, the total gift of our persons to others, and a generosity that holds nothing back. May we live always aware of this Presence and may we always keep it within us, living in the grace of God and, after living the days of this life in union with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, may we deserve to live forever with them in the eternal joys of Paradise.
Reading I Acts 2:1-11 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”Reading II 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.Gospel Jn 20:19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Today we celebrate one of the high points of the liturgical calendar. The Easter season concludes with this Solemnity of Pentecost, here, in this Holy Mass which makes present the mystery we recall today. The coming of the Holy Spirit is not only an event of the past that gave rise to the beginning of apostolic preaching. This morning, the Paraclete is poured out once again to work in us the same wonders that we have heard in the Word of God. I believe that what I have just said we do not completely believe. How can what happened to the Apostles happen to us? We do not have faith, and it is this lack of faith that limits the action of the Holy Spirit in us. He would like to transform our whole inner world, to give us that "abundant life" that Jesus promised to his disciples, to breathe into our sails and take our little boat to unexplored and marvelous seas. I ask Mary, who is also praying with us today, to obtain for us the grace of that simple, childlike, audacious and courageous faith that we need to unleash the power of God in our hearts. That is why today I would like to appropriate the prayer of the Church and condense my message in three words: Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Come, Holy Spirit! Sweet guest of the soul, rest from our toil, respite from hard work, joy that wipes away tears and comforts in mourning. Come, Holy Spirit, upon the Bride of Christ. Renew her with your grace. Renew her with the holiness of her children. Pour the gift of charity upon our hearts. Make us zealous to fulfill the mission Christ has entrusted to us. Give clarity where there is confusion. Courage where there is cowardice. Truth where there is falsehood. Life where there is death. Faith where there is unbelief. Light where there is darkness. Certainty where there is doubt. Beauty where there is vulgarity. God where man has forgotten his Creator. Come, Holy Spirit. Come also upon our parish, upon St. Anne, now that it faces a new stage in its journey and mission. Bless the ministry of the new pastor and make the seeds that you yourself have planted in these years, germinate and grow until they bear abundant fruit. I must say that I personally have great hope for the future of St. Anne. I have a feeling that the coming of Father Keith is going to bring an abundant shower of blessings to our community. I wish for all of you to blossom into a beautiful springtime of the spirit. I believe that my departure opens the door and offers possibilities for new and better things to happen, and from that perspective, I am very happy for you. I ask the Holy Spirit to protect this flock as He has always done, to continue to be as present and close as we have always experienced Him here, and to bless you all with His gifts and fruits: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord, love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness, faith, modesty, continence and chastity. May the Holy Spirit, who makes us lovers and friends of God, bring us the presence of the Father and the Son and unite us to them in love. Through the sacraments of the Church, may we receive the glory that makes us shine with the very light of God, and after journeying through this life in docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, may we merit to attain eternal and blissful communion in heaven with the Blessed Trinity.
Reading I Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”Reading II Eph 1:17-23 Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might: which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.Gospel Lk 24:46-53 Jesus said to his disciples: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.
Reading I Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. The apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the elders, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'”Reading II Rev 21:10-14, 22-23 The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.Gospel Jn 14:23-29 Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
Reading I Acts 14:21-27 After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.Reading II Rev 21:1-5a Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”Gospel Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35 When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Reading I Acts 13:14, 43-52 Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats. Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God. On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.Reading II Rev 7:9, 14b-17 I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”Gospel Jn 10:27-30 Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one.”
I want to begin this Sunday by wishing a happy Mother's Day to all the women here present who have received the great gift of motherhood. At the end of this celebration, we will have a special blessing for you, who are also a great blessing for your children and your families. May this month of May, dedicated to Mary's devotion, help you to feel the close presence of the one who, with her yes to God's mysterious plans, received the great gift of being the Mother of our Savior. On the Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season we celebrate what is usually called Good Shepherd Sunday. Not only do today's readings speak to us of this beautiful image, which appears in both the Old and New Testaments, but the liturgy itself refers to it in the prayers of this Holy Mass. Here, at St. Anne, our sanctuary is presided over by the icon of the Good Shepherd. In this image, it is no small detail that Jesus is represented with the marks of the Passion. It is, then, the Risen Christ, whom we are celebrating in this Easter season and who, in today's Gospel, invites us to follow him to Paradise. I believe that this is the dominant idea of today's Liturgy: our Good Shepherd leads the sheep that listen to his voice to the happiness of eternal glory. The second reading has offered us the vision of heaven in which the slain Lamb shepherds his sheep and leads them to the springs of living water. We have heard in the Holy Gospel the Lord say of his sheep: "I give them eternal life so that they will never perish". For its part, the opening prayer of today's Mass invited us to ask God to lead us "to a share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before”. In today's concluding prayer we will say: "Look upon your flock, kind Shepherd, and be pleased to settle in eternal pastures the sheep you have redeemed by the Precious Blood of your Son.” "God wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). God wants everyone to go to heaven, and that is why Jesus died for everyone. Salvation is offered to every person who desires to accept the mystery of Christ in his or her life. However, not everyone reaches the goal. Condemnation is a real possibility, which should lead us to take the Christian life more seriously and to work with greater zeal for the salvation of souls. In the same chapter 10 of John's Gospel, in which the passage we have just heard is found, Jesus clearly distinguishes between his sheep and those who are not his sheep. To the Jews he says: "The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness to me, but you do not believe because you are not of my sheep" (Jn 10:25-26). Therefore, to reach salvation, it is necessary to belong to Jesus' flock, and he has clearly told us today that his sheep are those who LISTEN to his voice and FOLLOW him: "my sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me". In these words, listen and follow, Christ is summarizing the attitudes that are necessary for us to receive eternal life and attain salvation. First, listen: that is, welcome, receive, embrace with all our soul, meditate in silence on the Word of God, disregard the voices of the world that are contrary to Jesus and the Church, mold our soul according to the Word of God, frequent the sacraments, give quality time to our daily conversation with the Lord in prayer. Then, to follow Christ: that Jesus who carries the cross, who allows the persecution of his flock, who gives his life for us and invites us to give our lives for him. To follow is, then, to live by his Word; to trust that, after him, we can never be lost; to give witness to our Catholic faith and to the resurrection with a holy life, with our works and our words; accepting the teaching of the Church in a spirit of faith and obedience and adjusting our personal, sexual, social and family life to that word that saves us. Dear brothers and sisters: today let us ask Jesus, who in this Holy Mass is not only our Shepherd but also the lamb offered in sacrifice and the pasture on which we feed in the Eucharist, that we may always be sheep of his flock so that no one may ever take us out of his hand, so that nothing and no one may ever separate us from him and that we may thus merit, after the crosses and persecutions, but also the joys and consolations of this life, to reach the eternal pastures of paradise.
Reading I Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.Reading II Rev 5:11-14 I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen, “ and the elders fell down and worshiped.Gospel Jn 21:1-19 or 21:1-14 At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
There is something truly powerful recounted in the scene described in the first reading today. A group of simple, unlettered fishermen is brought before the highest Jewish authority of the time, the Sanhedrin, the same men who had sent Jesus to the cross a few weeks earlier. These fishermen, who had fled during the fateful night of Good Friday, who had then barricaded themselves in a room with the doors and windows closed and locked in fear of these same men, now looked into their eyes and courageously held their gaze. At the front of this group, stood the one who had denied his Master three times and who swore he had never met him. Undoubtedly, being summoned before the Sanhedrin must have been an intimidating experience: those elders with long beards and phylacteries imposed a true reverential fear on the humblest of their people. However, the disciples of the Crucified One were no longer the same frightened and doubting men they had known before. Something had changed in them. There was a light, an aura that now gave strength to their words. They were now the ones emanating an authority that could not be contradicted. Their crucified Lord was alive. He who had died had now risen, and they could not silence the great news of which they had been made witnesses. The Holy Spirit had saturated their souls, and had transformed their cowardice into courage, their weakness into strength, their hesitations into certainties, their indecision into boldness (parrhesia). Even two thousand years later when I read or hear this passage, I feel proud to belong, unworthily, to the same group of disciples. That fisherman from Galilee represents the man I would like to become. His Church, which is the Church of Jesus Christ, is also mine, and his mission is also ours. Dear brothers and sisters, we must shake off our fear and proclaim the Gospel and the Resurrection. This is not about being good people and coming to church. Christ said: "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and would that it were already burning!" (Lk 12:49) We must come to love Christ to the point that, like the disciples, we too feel joy when we suffer dishonor for the sake of our Master. To do otherwise is to try to save our own lives, and in doing so, we will lose them forever. Let us not be discouraged if we feel weak though. Let us find consolation in today's Gospel. The same disciple whom we see today standing up for Christ in the first reading is the one who three times fell flat on his face with his betrayals of Jesus. The Lord takes us where we are and lifts us up, if we let him do so, to an ever more perfect love. Pope Benedict XVI showed this with great beauty in commenting on this Sunday's Gospel passage. In Greek there are two verbs that designate the action of loving: phileo, which expresses the love of friendship, tender and devoted; and agapáo, which means to love without reserve, with a complete and unconditional gift to the beloved. The evangelist John, when he refers to the episode of the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias, uses both in a very significant and revealing way. We can imagine this episode as the meeting of two dear friends aware of the wound that has opened up in their relationship, but sincerely willing to heal it, willing to receive and give forgiveness so that this wound does not overshadow the future of their friendship. Peter knows that when his friend needed him most, he betrayed him out of cowardice or mere survival instinct, denying him three times after promising him absolute loyalty. Jesus, for his part, knows that this betrayal was a consequence of his friend's weakness, a consequence of human nature itself; and he also knows that his friend is ashamed and saddened by his lack of courage. Then Jesus, ready to forget Peter's weakness, asks him point-blank: "Do you love me?" The Evangelist writes agapâs-me; that is: "Do you love me with a complete and unconditional love?“ It is as if Jesus demands from Peter a love superior to the love he has professed before, a love that excludes weaknesses and proclaims an enthusiastic, staunch, perhaps even superhuman, adherence. Nothing would have been easier for Peter than to respond agapô-se "I love you unconditionally." thus satisfying the demand for absolute love that Jesus makes of him; but, aware of his limitations, aware that he has betrayed him before and that in the future he might do so again - although, of course, nothing could be further from his purpose - Peter responds with a modest and terse humility: Kyrie, filô-se; that is: "Lord, I love you in the human way, with my limitations." We can imagine that Peter's response for a second would disappoint Jesus: he has offered his friend his sincere forgiveness, and even something more than his forgiveness, in exchange for never failing him again; but his friend does not want to disappoint Jesus with inflated hopes or empty promises, he does not want Jesus to attribute superhuman virtues to him. Then the Lord insists and again uses the verb agapao: "Do you love me unconditionally? Do you love me more than these?", referring to the disciples standing at Peter's side by the lake. This second question of Jesus must have incorporated an authoritative, even exasperated nuance, something like: "Hey, I'm asking you if you love me to death, don't give me half-measures." Peter undoubtedly picked up this pressing tone of Jesus, and something must have trembled within him, perhaps the fear of disappointing his friend; and it does not seem improbable that his response had a tone of hesitation, faint, hurt, fearful of receiving a reprimand. But he still used again the verb phileo, meaning to say: "Lord, I would love to love you as you are asking of me, but my love is poor and defective. I love you with all my frailties on my shoulders." Then Jesus returns to question him for the third time, just as three times his friend had denied him on that bitter night. But, to Peter's surprise, Jesus now uses the same verb to which Peter had clung before: Fileis-me? It is a very touching moment, because Jesus realizes that he cannot demand from his friend something that is not in his fragile human nature. Putting aside that superhuman demand, he adapts himself, he molds himself to Peter's weakness, to the fragile human condition, because he understands that in Peter's blundering love that stumbles and falls, and yet gets up again ready to begin anew without hesitation, there can be an impetus, a joy superior even to that of a love that believes itself inured against all stumbles. In other words, the Lord lowers himself so that he can embrace Peter and raise him up, one day, to a greater love, like the one we see in the first reading. Then Peter, gratified by the forgiveness of his friend who accepts him as he is, who embraces him even when he stumbles and falls, affirms with relief, with decision, with joy: "You know that I love you" (philo-se). And they were friends forever. Peter bore witness to Christ bravely as we've seen in the first reading and, at the end of his time on earth, like his friend and Master, laid down his life for him just as Jesus had given his for Peter before. May we too place ourselves in the hands of Jesus. May we let him lift us up. May we seek daily in quiet conversation with him in order to be later, in our families and in our communities, courageous and devoted witnesses of his Resurrection in today's world.
Reading I Acts 5:12-16 Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's portico. None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.Reading II Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, “Write on a scroll what you see.” Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest. When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.”Gospel Jn 20:19-31 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Let me begin today by wishing all of you who are present at this Mass, and those not able to be with us, a very happy Easter. This is the most important day of the liturgical year because we celebrate the victory of our Lord and brother Jesus over sin and death. Christian hope is a hope that has already been realized. That is to say, it is not the fruit of an illusory desire that we would like to see fulfilled in the future, nor a daydream about something that we would like to happen but that has not yet happened. The "material" of our hope is the flesh of a man who died and is now alive. The goal towards which we walk is not an impossible dream because in Jesus it is already a reality. As you have heard me say many times, our future is already present in the Lord. Jesus, what would become of us if you had not risen from the tomb? If your light had not dawned on that first Sunday, in what darkness would we live now? If you had not come back for us, how lost we would be! Lord, you never fail us. You never give us up for lost. When all seems inevitably doomed to failure, You bring us out of the darkness and lift us up. You search for us and rescue us. You heal us and forgive us. And so, touched by that love which makes all things new, You open the doors to a wonderful life, a life that would be impossible for us without You. The Lord who today emerges triumphant from the tomb and who dies no more is the same Lord who at every Mass makes himself present on the altar so that we may feed on him. We eat risen flesh. We receive Christ glorious, truly present under the appearance of bread and wine. When the soul is in the grace of God, Holy Communion immerses it in the very life of Christ. It is as if two drops of wax melt into one and we are transformed into him. Where sadness reigned, joy enters. Where there was weakness, the virtue of the Risen One is present. Where death dominated, life now rises. Some of you will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Body of the Lord for the first time today. Mark this day on the calendar of your life and write: "Today, April 17, 2022, I ate the flesh of Jesus and He came into my heart. Everything begins for me from this day. From now on, my life is His and He is mine forever." Beginning today may your life be worthy of the nourishment you are about to receive. Congratulations to you and your families. Thank you for your testimony and for the journey you have made to arrive at this day. Dear brothers and sisters, if Christ is risen, we too must rise to a new life. We must bury sin in the death of Jesus and let the Lord live in us. May he be the one who guides our affections, our words, our decisions, our sacrifices, our lives. May we also learn how to be witnesses of his resurrection in the world. May the love of Christ reign in our families so that in our homes there may always be time to pray together and to make present the One who assured us that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there in our midst. In our work may we obey God rather than men. May we suffer persecution courageously, misunderstanding with greatness of spirit, and reproach with a passionate love for Jesus Christ. Let us live in such a way that when the hour comes for us to meet the Risen One we will be able to say to him with St. Paul: " I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Tim 4:7) May it be so.
Reading I Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Peter proceeded to speak and said: “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”Reading II Col 3:1-4 Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.Gospel Jn 20:1-9 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
At the Procession with Palms - Gospel Lk 19:28-40 Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?' you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.'” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”Reading I Is 50:4-7 The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.Reading II Phil 2:6-11 Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Gospel Lk 22:14—23:56 When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. “And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.” And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed. Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors'; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.” He said to them, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” “No, nothing, “ they replied. He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, He was counted among the wicked; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.” Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replied, “It is enough!” Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” And one of them struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant's ear and healed him. And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they reviled him in saying many other things against him. When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us, “ but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.” Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. Here all kneel and pause for a short time. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.
Reading I Ez 37:12-14 Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.Reading II Rom 8:8-11 Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.Gospel Jn 11:1-45 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
Relicti sunt duo, misera et misericordia: "There are but two left: affliction and mercy". With these words, St. Augustine masterfully comments on today's Gospel, the moment when everyone leaves and Jesus is left alone with the adulterous woman. Dear brothers and sisters: Lent is coming to an end and the Church invites us to experience God's merciful love. Last Sunday we listened to the story of the Prodigal Son, and contemplated the goodness of our heavenly Father, who always forgives us, waits for us and receives us when we return to him. Today it is his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who appears as an example of compassion and tenderness towards sinners. In his first letter, the Apostle John writes: "if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one." (1 Jn 2:1) This affirmation, which might seem a theoretical sophistry if it had no empirical proof, becomes a reality throughout the pages of the Holy Gospel. How often do we see the Lord take the side of sinners! He does it with the woman who anoints his feet, with Zacchaeus, with Matthew, with the Samaritans who did not welcome him, with his executioners at the cross, and today he does so with this poor woman who was about to be stoned. It is a consoling reality: our brother Jesus protects us. When we sin, he stands before the Father and reminds him with his open wounds that he died for us. The Father contemplates us in his Son, and in his Son he loves us with infinite love. Last week I told you that each one of us was the younger son in the parable, and this evening I affirm that the woman who today is saved by the Lord is also each one of us. We too are sinners, we too, are in need of mercy, Christ our Lord also chooses us, we too are invited to sin no more and to experience the love of Jesus who redeems us. Dear brothers and sisters, it is one thing to be forgiven by God, and another to experience God's forgiveness in a profound way. Many, perhaps the majority of Christians die without having this supernatural and almost mystical experience. Jesus loves me. He knows my sin. He has forgiven me and his forgiveness has opened the gates of heaven for me. When you reach this experience, you become the happiest person in the world. You have found a love that heals every inch of your soul and fills the deepest corners of your heart with light and love. You are able to say with St. Paul in the words of the second reading " I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ " Your life becomes an adventure where only Jesus matters, where everything is filled with Jesus, where everything is Jesus. Your soul, which was a desert, is transformed by the water of grace and everything is meaningless if you cannot direct it towards the living person of Jesus Christ. St. Thérèse of Lisieux affirms that "what is not Jesus is nothing". Christ is your banner, your rest, your refuge and joy. You are never alone because, wherever you go, you carry with you your friend and beloved, your light and rest, your home, your peace and glory. Jesus is God made man who, to defend you, bears the burden of your sins and dies for you. On my last pilgrimage, I was able to pray at the tomb of St. Angela in the Italian town of Foligno. Like the woman in today's Gospel, this Franciscan tertiary also once lived far from God. It is said that her conversion happened in this way. One day, arriving at her room after a feast full of worldliness and sin, she fell, in her rich dress, onto the mattress of her bed exhausted. As she turned, she noticed the image of Christ crucified, which hung on the wall of her room. She stared at it in silence, and miraculously Jesus spoke to her in these words: "Angela, I did not love you as a joke. I really love you, if only you loved me the same way!” In the final days of this Lent, let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace to take the necessary steps to ask for and deeply experience the mercy of Jesus for us, to understand that Jesus did not love us as a joke, and that he thirsts to be loved in the same way. Truly everything is rubbish if it does not lead us to the Lord, and only if we choose the way of the cross, will we one day find peace and the joy of reconciliation, love, and eternal happiness.