Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pope Francis' Homily at Opening Mass of Ordinary General Assembly of Synod on the Family, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

'This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self.'

Vatican City, October 04, 2015 (
At 10 am today, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Francis presided at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the opening of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: 'The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.'Below is the Vatican-provided translation of the homily Pope Francis delivered during the Mass:

 “If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected
in us” (1 Jn 4:12).

This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings centre on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family.


Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden.  He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them.  Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day.  I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom…  The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability.  The image of this is the family.  People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad.  Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

Love between man and woman

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness.  He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen2:18).  These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone.  These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone.  He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as today’s Psalm says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self.  It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way.  He brings everything back to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who
joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility.  This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life!  In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.


“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9).  This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.

Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense. For God, marriage is not some
adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude!  Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love.  We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving. “Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they
stopped being forbidden.  Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (JOSEPH RATZINGER,  Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions.  The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds.  “Without truth, charity degenerates into
sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).

To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17).  A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978).  The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a
roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren”
(Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by the Vatican]

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time: People Walk Away from Jesus

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

It's just a fact that people walk away for Jesus all the time and for many reasons and, sometimes, for the right reason: because they have heard and understood the truth.

"As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him."

Walking away from He Who is Truth where He is infallibly found in His Church is certainly not something of which we can approve, but the reason why it happens can be a sign for hope.

The Gospel makes clear for us today that this has been true from the very beginning: His teaching causes discomfort, disappointment, upends expectations, breaks stereotypes, does not respect our prejudices.

God does not obey our expectations.

When we see people walk away from Jesus in Catholic parishes we sometimes become discouraged, but this is because we have given in to temptation to be worldly.

Other people can never teach us what God is like: we must constantly fight the temptation to think that God’s goodness comes to us only through other people and their actions.

The truth Jesus teaches about the Eucharist in the Gospel tells us this is not so: the goodness of God comes here and now through Jesus present in the Eucharist.

We share in His goodness by being with Him in adoration and He is in us when we receive Him in this Gift in a state of grace.

For those of faith with Peter that Jesus' words are true and trustworthy there is this beautiful credo:

“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist at every parish, in the holy Mass and also in the tabernacle, the first and best reason to be there and to come together there with others: "Come, let us adore Him!" 

Hope says: the steps people take when they walk away from Jesus because they hear the truth His Church teaches are taken with potential for salvation.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rest on the Lord’s Day is the key to peace all week and for the whole of life, here and hereafter

By Father Kevin M. Cusick

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

You know what it is to suffer. Think about all the reasons why you experience being restless, listless, unsatisfied, and wearied. All of these moments prove that peace is lacking. Have you begun to believe that there is no other way? That you must resign yourself to living this way? Have you given up on anything more for yourself in this world?

I have a question for you to ask yourself: is my life on Sunday any different from the way I live on the other days of the week? If not, why?

Yes, many of you are very faithful to attending Mass on Sundays or its vigil and this is very good because by it you keep the Lord’s Day holy, obeying the commandments without which we cannot get to heaven.

But there is more. Attending Mass satisfies only one part of that which God expects on the day each week consecrated to Him above all others.

We are different from every other thing and being God created because we are able to imitate Him, be like Him, reflect and love Him. God rested on the seventh day from all His labor and we imitate Him by doing so ourselves as much as our circumstances permit.

Imitating God, reflecting His life by the way we live brings peace because it is when we stop and reflect upon life itself and enjoy our relationships with our families that we are blessed with peace. The peace of Christ does not mean simply avoiding servile work, which the Commandments require of us as much as we are capable, but there is more. Until we stop and admire, reflect and cherish all that God has made, above all ourselves, we cannot live assured of the love which gives us rest: resting in God.

How does Sunday rest change my life the rest of the week? Reflecting upon the Lord, his gifts, our relationships by pausing the daily schedule in order to do so gives us an experiential reference point to which we continue to refer throughout our experiences of  the rest of the week and in all of life as a mountaintop experience which orients us from here to eternity. Too, our identity as authentic Christians is not possible without this way of living which sets us apart and blesses us. How else do we look ahead to our own share in heavenly glory without the evidence of our lives and of the presence of the Lord in them?

For just a moment each week we pause and take time away from all those things which will not last in order to remind ourselves and others that we live most fully every day by looking forward to those things which last eternally. Participation in God's rest now is none other than anticipating heaven itself where His rest is already complete, infinite and loving because it is the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The gift of joy is not possible without proper and regular nourishment of our relationship with Christ; Sunday is the primary moment for this because commanded and exemplified by God Himself. Not for this reason only do we rest on Sundays but, above all, we do so for the sake of celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which must permeate our entire celebration of Sunday or its vigil: at Mass, in recreation or meals together with our families, all made possible by rest from our labors.

The Risen Christ gives Himself to us in the celebration of His victory over sin and death in the Eucharist at every Mass. The memorial of His Passiom and death always concludes with His Resurrection.

The number one reason people suffer is lack of peace; the number one reason for lack of peace is lack of God. Keep the Lord's Day holy. 

From the Catechism:

- Just as God "rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done," human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. CCC 2184

- The institution of Sunday helps all "to be allowed sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives" (GS 67 § 3). CCC 2194

- "Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Deut 5:12). "The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord" (Ex 31:15). CCC 2189

- God's action is the model for human action. If God "rested and was refreshed" on the seventh day, man too ought to "rest" and should let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed." The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money. CCC 2172
- The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the Mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days. CCC 2042

- God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine "work", concluded by the "rest" of the seventh day. On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation, permitting us to "recognize the inner nature, the value and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God." CCC 337

Saturday, July 11, 2015

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: "It's not personal."

When Jesus sends out the disciples in today’s Gospel he gives them instructions down to the last detail, even as to what they are to wear. And it’s very little. No luggage allowed. 

"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money ... "

But He isn’t sending them to represent themselves. They are now to bring the Lord to others through the graces of truth in teaching and the salvation of the sacraments. He is sending them to represent Him and to bring Him to the world.

Some people worry today that this work of evangelization is not resulting in sufficient numbers. They worry about a shrinking Church and emptying pews as, one by one, all that the Church teaches seems to be contradicted by a world gone mad, cut totally loose from God.

Between Scylla and charybdis, a rock and a hard place. The Church today is besieged on all sides. Some want the Church to change moral teachings to suit the times, such as redefining marriage. Others want a Church worship shorn of any vestige of the past in rejection of anything that happened before the 1960’s in a sort of new beginning.

They say we must change these things if we want people to stay in the Church or come back to Sunday Mass.

Jesus sends them out, and us, with one more thing: his authority. And just as those who reject Him by refusing the faith and morals of the Church will face judgment, so shall we if we do not preach with the authority by which Christ is also present in the world today.

Jesus says, “shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” Hopefully we won’t be doing this anytime time soon. But, all the same, to whomever we are sent, wherever we go, however they react, we will be more effective in preaching the Gospel and more joyful in the Lord if we remember that “it’s not personal”.
If we are faithfully bringing Christ to others as He sent us to do and we are rejected as a result, it's not personal.

The church is faithful to her mission as the body of Christ, to bring his truth and his grace and his salvation to others. Judgment is not upon us if our message is not received. Judgment is Christ's and upon those who reject Christ.

It's all about Jesus Christ.

So, why do we take the risk? The love of Christ is also for our own sakes and it is a love which obeys Him in receiving the gift and mission.

And this is the key verse: "He gave them authority."

The authority that He gave to his Church to teach the world matters of faith and morals is a tremendous gift of God's love but also a tremendous responsibility for which we will answer to God if we shirk it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven"

"And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand." "The faithful should bear witness to the Lord's name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear. Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." CCC 2145 Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist: "The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name."

"It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

Is 49:1-6

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”

Lk 1:57-66, 80

St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.

CCC 523

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ut Unum Sint: "that they may all be one"

“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one"

"Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me." The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.

CCC 820