Holy Gospel on the Feast of Blessed Estephan Nehme, August 30.

Second Letter of Saint Peter 1:3-11. 
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to 
Saint Luke 18:18-30.
A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother." ’He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’ Then Peter said, ‘Look, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’

Feast of Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine, bishop and Doctor of the Church, is best known for his Confessions (401), his autobiographical account of his conversion. His writings had a profound influence on the church. St. Augustine was born in 354, at Tagaste in Africa. He was brought up in the Christian faith, but without receiving baptism. An ambitious school-boy of brilliant talents and violent passions, he early lost both his faith and his innocence. He persisted in his irregular life until he was thirty-two. Being then at Milan professing rhetoric, he tells us that the faith of his childhood had regained possession of his intellect, but that he could not as yet resolve to break the chains of evil habit.

Portrait of Saint Augustine in His study

One day, a however, stung to the heart by the account of some sudden conversions, be cried out, "The unlearned rise and storm heaven, and we, with all our learning, for lack of heart lie wallowing here." He then withdrew into a garden, when a long and terrible conflict ensued. Suddenly a young fresh voice (he knows not whose) breaks in upon his strife with the words, "Take and read;" and he lights upon the passage beginning, "Walk honestly as in the day." The battle was won. He received baptism, returned home, and gave all to the poor.

At Hippo, where he settled, he was consecrated bishop in 395. For thirty-five years he was the centre of ecclesiastical life in Africa, and the Church's mightiest champion against heresy; whilst his writings have been everywhere accepted as one of the principal sources of devotional thought and theological speculation. He died in 430.

Saint Augustine’s books, essays and letters of Christian Revelation are probably more influential in the history of thought than any other Christian writer since St. Paul, namely his Confessions, sermons on the Gospel and the Epistle of John, the The Trinity (400-416) and what he finished late in life, the The City of God (426), writings that deal with the opposition between Christianity and the `world’ and represents the first Christian philosophy of history. He also wrote of the controversies with Manicheans, Pelagians, and Donatists which helped lead to his ideas on Creation, Grace, the Sacraments and the Church. There is a massive collection of his writings and they also include: Soliloquies (386-387), On Grace and Free Will. (426) Retractions (426-427) and Letters (386-430).

Message of the Virgin Mary to the World on August 25, 2013 From Medjugorje

“Dear children! Also today, the Most High is giving me the grace to be with you and to lead you towards conversion. Every day I am sowing and am calling you to conversion, that you may be prayer, peace, love - the grain that by dying will give birth a hundredfold. I do not desire for you, dear children, to have to repent for everything that you could have done but did not want to. Therefore, little children, again, with enthusiasm say: ‘I want to be a sign to others.’ Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message on August 25, 2013

Following is the translation of the full text of  Pope Francis’ Angelus message:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.
Today's Gospel invites us to reflect on the theme of salvation. Jesus is going up from Galilee to the city of Jerusalem, and along the way, says St. Luke the Evangelist, someone asked him,“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” (13:23). Jesus did not answer the question directly: it is not important to know how many are saved, but rather, it is important to know what is the path of salvation. And so Jesus responds to the question by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (v. 24). What does Jesus mean? What is the gate by which we enter? And why does Jesus speak about a narrow gate?

The image of the gate recurs several times in the Gospel and is reminiscent of home and hearth, where we find safety, love and warmth. Jesus tells us that there is a gate that allows us to enter into God's family, into the warmth of the house of God, of communion with Him. This gate is Jesus himself (cf. Jn 10:9). He is the gate. He is the gateway to salvation. He leads us to the Father. And the gate that is Jesus is never closed, this gate is never closed, it is always open and open to everyone, without distinction, without exclusions, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone. Some of you might say to me, “But Father, surely I am excluded, because I am a great sinner. I have done so many things in my life.” No, you are not excluded! Precisely for that reason you are preferred, because Jesus prefers the sinner, always, in order to pardon him, to love him. Jesus is waiting for you, to embrace you, to pardon you. Don’t be afraid: He’s waiting for you. Be lively, have the courage to enter through His gate. All are invited to pass through this gate, to pass through the gate of faith, to enter into His life, and to allow Him to enter into our life, because He transforms it, renews it, the gifts of full and lasting joy.

Nowadays we pass many doors that invite us to enter, that promise a happiness that then we realise lasts but a moment, which is an end in itself and has no future. But I ask you: which gate do we want to enter? And who we want to through the gate of our lives? I want to say emphatically: don’t be afraid to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus, to let Him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others. Because Jesus illuminates our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a “flash”! No, it is a soft light that always endures and that gives us peace. That is the light that we meet if we enter through the gate of Jesus.

Certainly, it is a narrow gate, the gate of Jesus, not because it is a torture chamber. No, not because of that! But because it asks us to open our hearts to Him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of His salvation, His forgiveness, His love, needing the humility to accept His mercy and to be renewed by Him. Jesus in the Gospel tells us that being a Christian is not having a “label”! I ask you, are you Christians because of a label, or in truth? And for each one the answer is within. Not Christians, never Christians because of a label! Christians in truth, in the heart. To be Christian is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. For the narrow gate which is Christ must pass into our whole life. We ask the Virgin Mary, the Gate of Heaven, to help us to pass through the gate of faith, to allow her Son to transform our existence as He transformed hers, in order to bring everyone the joy of the Gospel.

After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. He said: With great suffering and concern I continue to follow the situation in Syria. The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease. It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with all those who suffer, especially children, and I invite you to keep alive the hope of peace. I appeal to the international community that itself more sensible to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death. All together let us pray...All together let us pray to Our Lady, Queen of Peace: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us! Everyone: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Finally the Holy Father went on to greet pilgrims in attendance in Saint Peter's Square:
I affectionately greet all the pilgrims present: families, the numerous groups and theAssociazione Albergoni. In particular I greet the Sisters of Santa Dorotea, the youth of Verona, Syracuse, Nave, Modica and Trento, the candidates for Confirmation of the Unità Pastorale of Angarano and Val Liona, seminarians and priests of the Pontifical North American College, the workers of Cuneo and the pilgrims Verrua Po, San Zeno Naviglio, Urago d'Oglio, Varano Borghi and Sao Paulo. For many people, these days mark the end of the summer vacation period. I wish you all a peaceful and committed return to normal daily life looking to the future with hope. I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week! Buon pranzo, and arrivederci!

Watch the video:

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message on August 18, 2013

Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his call for peace in the ongoing crisis in Egypt saying” “we continue to pray for peace in Egypt together, Mary Queen of Peace pray for us” The Holy Father also remembered those who were killed in a ferry disaster in the Philippines this week and prayed for the families in their grief.
The Pope was speaking following the recitation of the Angelus prayer from the Papal Apartments above St Peter’s Square.

During his Angelus address Pope Francis took his cue from Sunday’s Gospel liturgy. He explained that the phrase contained in the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us run with perseverance the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”, is an expression that we must emphasize especially in this Year of Faith. The Pope said that Jesus is the key to a loving relationship with God. He is the only mediator of this relationship between us and our Father in heaven. 

The Holy Father then turned his attention to another phrase in Sunday’s liturgy, which he said needed to be explained so as not to lead to confusion or misunderstanding. Pope Francis was referring to the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division "(Luke 12:51). “But what does this mean?” the Pope asked. He explained that “it means that faith is not something decorative, or ornamental, it is not there to decorate your life with a little 'of religion.” No, faith, said Pope Francis, involves choosing God as the center of one’s life, adding that God is not empty, he is not neutral, God is love.

Jesus, continued Pope Francis does not want to divide people from each other, on the contrary, Jesus is our peace. But he lays down the criterion: live for oneself, or live for God. So, said the Pope, “the word of the Gospel does not authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is 'just the opposite: the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence." Faith and violence are incompatible".

At the end of his address, the Holy Father again stressed that faith is not something decorative but a force of the soul, before wishing those in St Peter’s Square a lovely Sunday and a good lunch.

Watch the video:

Holy Gospel on the Fourteenth Sunday of Pentecost: Martha and Mary.

Firrst Letter to the Thessalonians 2:1-13. 
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 10:38-42. 
As they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ 

Pope Francis' Homily on the Feast of the assumption of the Virgin

On Thursday, August 15, the Holy Father travelled by helicopter to the popes’ summer residence in Castelgandolfo, where he took part in celebrations for Ferragosto – the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Following is the English translation of his homily during Holy Mass:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of its Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council left us a very beautiful meditation on Mary Most Holy. Let me just recall the words referring to the mystery we celebrate today: "the immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things" (no. 59). Then towards the end, there is: "the Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and the beginning of the church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come" (no. 68). In the light of this most beautiful image of our Mother, we are able to see the message of the biblical readings that we have just heard. We can focus on three key words: struggle, resurrection, hope.

The passage from Revelation presents the vision of the struggle between the woman and the dragon. The figure of the woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail. And the Church is like that: if in heaven she is already associated in some way with the glory of her Lord, in history she continually lives through the trials and challenges which the conflict between God and the evil one, the perennial enemy, brings. And in the struggle which the disciples must confront – all of us, all the disciples of Jesus, we must face this struggle - Mary does not leave them alone: the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us. And in a way, Mary shares this dual condition. She has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do… [the people shout "Yes!"] Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this "suffering" dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.

The second reading speaks to us of resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, insists that being Christian means believing that Christ is truly risen from the dead. Our whole faith is based upon this fundamental truth which is not an idea but an event. Even the mystery of Mary’s Assumption body and soul is fully inscribed in the resurrection of Christ. The Mother’s humanity is "attracted" by the Son in his own passage from death to life. Once and for all, Jesus entered into eternal life with all the humanity he had drawn from Mary; and she, the Mother, who followed him faithfully throughout her life, followed him with her heart, and entered with him into eternal life which we also call heaven, paradise, the Father’s house.

Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son’s Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of "those who are in Christ". She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.

The Gospel suggests to us the third word: hope. Hope is the virtue of those who, experiencing conflict – the struggle between life and death, good and evil – believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love. We heard the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble. Mary says: "My souls glorifies the Lord" – today, the Church too sings this in every part of the world. This song is particularly strong in places where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion. For us Christians, wherever the Cross is, there is hope, always. If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope. May we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven. And Mary is always there, near those communities, our brothers and sisters, she accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings the Magnificat of hope with them.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey. Amen.

Billionaires Versus Starving Children

Some strong contrasts emerged in the latest report published by Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican Press reported. “This is a world where about 300 children die every hour from malnutrition and where nearly a billion people have no access to clean water. At the same time, there are over 1200 billionaires in the world, the highest number ever recorded,” said Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and President of Caritas Internationalis in the organisation’s annual report.

“We are scandalized that millions of our brothers and sisters live in extreme poverty in a world of riches. But we are filled with hope because we are the first generation with the tools to change the system that keeps them poor,” Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga stated. The main action fronts in 2012 were: Africa, where the hungry needed to be fed; Syria, where refugees had to be supplied with warm clothing and earthquake-stricken Haiti, where new homes needed to be built. “Providing aid is not enough. We must break the cycle of poverty,” the cardinal said. “Our greatest challenge is not poverty or the economic crisis. It’s the growth of secularism in many parts of the world, especially in the richest. When people do not believe in God, individualism triumphs over community and we lose sight of our ethical principles. Only through living the truth of the word of God can we overcome the spiritual poverty of our age and build a fraternal world in which we live united as brothers and sisters in peace,” the cardinal concluded.

The report shows an increase in emergencies throughout the world, especially war and natural disaster-related emergencies. Caritas launched as many as 44 appeals to gather support from across the world for 34 countries facing various emergencies. Some of the more prominent cases studied for the 2012 report, included West Africa’s Sahel region which was struck by a drought that devastated crops and killed livestock, leading to mass starvation. 61% of these appeals were covered, meaning over 3 and a half million people benefited from humanitarian aid. Over 39 million dollars were allocated to humanitarian programs and 35 national Caritas organisations provided financial, technical or in-kind support through the appeals.

Caritas Internationalis groups together 165 national Caritas organisations and coordinates interventions in emergency and crisis situations. In 2004 Caritas Internationalis was granted public canonical juridical status because of the active exercise of charity performed by national and diocesan Caritas organisations, as official bodies of local bishops’ conferences, and in acknowledgement of the ecclesial role performed by this well-deserving Confederation.

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message on August 11, 2013

Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians and Muslims to promote mutual respect , especially through the education of new generations. His remarks came at the end of his Angelus address when he sent greetings to Muslims throughout the world who have just celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. 

Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square about how God’s love is our greatest treasure. He said today’s gospel reading from St Luke talks to us about our desire for a meeting with Christ, calling it a key aspect of human life. All of us, the Pope said, "have this desire in our hearts, be it explicit or hidden." In St. Luke’s account of Jesus walking with his disciples towards Jerusalem, Christ reveals to them what is really important for him at that time. The Pope says Jesus’s thoughts include a distancing from earthly goods, faith in the providence of the Father and his interior vigilance while awaiting the Kingdom of God. This gospel account, he continues, teaches us that a Christian is someone who carries within him a deep desire to meet the Lord together with his brethren and his companions along the way. All this can be summed up in Jesus’s words: “for wherever your treasure in, that is where your heart will be too.” 

Addressing the pilgrims directly, Pope Francis asked them two questions, “do you have a heart with a wish or do you have a closed heart, a sleeping heart,, a heart that is anesthetized." His second question for the pilgrims was: “Where is your treasure”, what for you is the most important and precious reality that attracts your heart like a magnet? "Is it" he asked, "God’s love which is the desire to do good to others and live for the Lord?" Pope Francis went on to describe how God’s love keeps a family united and gives meaning to our daily tasks and also helps us to face up to the big challenges. This, he declared, is the true treasure for mankind. God’s love isn’t something vague and generic, "it has a name and a face, Jesus Christ." The Pope said God’s love gives value and beauty to every human activity and it gives meaning to negative experiences. That’s because God’s love allows us to move beyond those experiences and not remain prisoners of evil but also be open to hope and the final destination of our pilgrimage. 

Before reciting the Angelus prayer the Pope recalled today’s feast of St. Clare of Assisi who left everything to consecrate herself to Christ in poverty, following in the footsteps of St. Francis. He said this saint gives us a beautiful witness of today’s gospel and she helps us, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, to live it out, each one according to their own vocation.

After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks to recall that this coming Thursday is the solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven and said on that day we will honour Her. He then said he wished to send greetings to Muslims, our brothers, throughout the world who have just finished celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan . Referring to his earlier message released to mark this event, the Pope said he hoped that Christians and Muslims will strive to "promote mutual respect, especially through the education of the new generations." 

He concluded his remarks by greetings all the pilgrims and groups present and reminding them of the words which were the motto of the recent World Youth Day gathering in Rio: “Go and make disciples among all nations.”

Holy Gospel on the Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost: Parable of the Sower.

First Letter to the Corinthians 3:1-11. 
I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 8:1-15. 
Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand." ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Christians are still too likely to misunderstand the Transfiguration and look upon it as just one miracle among others, a kind of apologetic proof. The feast celebrating it has likewise become indistinct to them, perhaps because it is the only one not to have a place in the chronological sequence of the Lord’s feasts. It is a commemoration of an event that occurred during his mortal life, but it is celebrated after Pentecost and in the bright light of summer (August 6). Yet this event, which upsets the logic that we see as governing time, is precisely the one that best brings home to us the eschatological condition of the body of Christ; it is an apocalyptic vision at the center of the Gospel.

The Synoptic writers deliberately make this “strange sight” the high point of the ministry of Jesus. [Mark 9:2-10; Matthew 17:1-9; Luke 9:28-36] The astonishment felt and the questions roused by the preceding theophanies “Who can this be?” “Who do you say I am?” — lead to this summit, and it is from here that the journey to the final Passover in Jerusalem begins. The miracles were anticipations of the energies of the risen Christ; the transfiguration is the theophany that reveals their meaning or, better, that already brings to pass what these energies will accomplish in our mortal flesh: our divinization.

The transfiguration is the historical and literary center of the Gospel by reason of its mysterious realism: the humanity of Jesus is the vital place where men become God. Christ is truly a man! But to be a man does not mean “being in a body”, as all the unrepentant dualisms imagine; according to biblical revelation, it means “being a body”, an organic and coherent whole. Because men are their bodies, they are also, like their God, related to other persons, the cosmos, time, and him who is communion in its fullest possible form.

Moreover, ever since the Word took flesh he has a “human” relationship, with all its dimensions, to the Father and to all other men: the fire of his light sets the entire bush aflame; the whole of his humanity is “anointed” with it; “in him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness” (Colossians 2:9), and to this Paul adds, “and in him you too find your own fulfillment” (Colossians 2:10).

What was it, then, that took place in this unexpected event? Why did the Incomprehensible One allow his “elusive beauty” to be glimpsed for a moment in the body of the Word? Two certainties can serve us as guides.

First, the change, or, to transliterate the Greek word, the “metamorphosis”, was not a change in Jesus. The Gospel text and the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers are clear: Christ “was transfigured, not by acquiring what he was not but by manifesting to his disciples what he in fact was; he opened their eyes and gave these blind men sight.” [Saint John Damascene, Second Homily on the Transfiguration (PG 96:564C)] The change is on the side of the disciples.

The second certainty confirms this point: the purpose of the transfiguration, like everything else in the economy that is revealed in the Bible, is the salvation of man. As in the burning bush, so here the Word “allows” the light of his divinity “to be seen” in his body, in order to communicate not knowledge but life and salvation; he reveals himself by giving himself, and he gives himself in order to transform us into himself.

But if it be permissible to take off the sandals of curiosity and inquisitive gnosis and draw near to the mystery, we may ask: Why did Jesus choose this particular moment, these two witnesses, and these three apostles? What was he, the Son — so passionately in love with the Father and so passionately concerned for us — experiencing in his heart? A few days before Peter had already been given an interior enlightenment and had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God. Jesus had then begun to lift the veil from the not far distant ending of his life: he had to suffer, be put to death, and be raised from the dead. It is between this first prediction and the second that he undertakes to ascend the mountain.

The reason for the transfiguration can be glimpsed, therefore, in what the evangelists do not say: having finished the instruction preparatory to his own Pasch, Jesus is determined to advance to its accomplishment. With the whole of his being, the whole of his “body”, he is committed to the loving will of the Father; he accepts that will without reservation. From now on, everything, up to and including the final struggle at which the same three disciples will be invited to be present, will be an expression of his unconditional “Yes” to the Father’s love.

We must certainly enter into this mystery of committed love if we are to understand that the transfiguration is not an impossible unveiling of the light of the Word to the eyes of the apostles, but rather a moment of intensity in which the entire being of Jesus is utterly united with the compassion of the Father. During these decisive days of his life he becomes transparent to the light of the love of the One who gives himself to men for their salvation. If, then, Jesus is transfigured, the reason is that the Father causes his own joy to flame out in him. The radiance of the light in the suffering body of Jesus is, as it were, the thrill experienced by the Father in response to the total self-giving of his only Son. This explains the voice that pierces through the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

We can also understand the profound feelings of Moses and Elijah, for these two men who had sensed the closeness of the divine glory that was impatient to save man are now contemplating it in the body of the Son of Man. “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…. I have heard them crying for help…. I am well aware of their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:7-8); “Answer me, Yahweh, answer me…. I am full of jealous zeal for Yahweh Sabaoth, because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant” (1 Kings 18:37; 19:10).

All this is expressed now not by divine words or human words but by the Word himself in his humanity. No longer is there only promise and expectation, for the event has occurred; there is now present “the reality … the body of Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Moses and Elijah can leave the cave on Sinai without hiding their faces, for they have contemplated the source of light in the body of the Word.

The three disciples, for their part, are flooded for a few moments by that which it will be granted to them to receive, understand, and experience from Pentecost on, namely, the divinizing light that emanates from the body of Christ, the multiform energies of the Spirit who gives life. The thing that overwhelms them here is that “this man” is not only “God with men” but God-man; nothing can pass from God to man or from man to God except through his body.

Peter will bear witness in his Letters, as John does in all his writings, to the second of the two certainties I mentioned earlier: that participation in the life of the Father that pours out from the body of Christ is measured by the faith of the human recipient. The new element in the transfiguration consists in this light of faith that has given their bodily eyes the power to see. Thanks to this light, they “touch the Word of life” when they draw near to the body of Jesus.

Henceforth there is no longer any distance between matter and divinity, for in the body of Christ our flesh is in communion (without confusion or separation) with the Prince of life. The transfiguration of the Word gives a glimpse of the fullness of what the Word inaugurated in his Incarnation and manifested after his baptism by his miracles: namely, the truth that the body of the Lord Jesus is the sacrament that gives the life of God to men.

When our humanity consents without reserve to be united to the humanity of Jesus, it will share the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); it will be divinized. Since the whole meaning of the economy of salvation is concentrated here, it is understandable that the liturgy should be the fulfillment of the economy. The divinization of men will come through sharing in the body of Christ.

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message on August 04, 2013

Following is the translation of Pope Francis’ remarks at the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, August 04, 2013: 

Dear brothers and sisters, 
Good day!
Last Sunday found me in Rio de Janeiro. It was the Holy Mass for conclusion of World Youth Day. I think all of us together should thank the Lord for the great gift of this event, for Brazil, for Latin America, and for the whole world. It was a new stage in the pilgrimage of young people across the continents with the Cross of Christ. We must never forget that the World Youth days are not “fireworks”, moments of enthusiasm that end with themselves; they are stages of a long journey, begun in 1985 through the initiative of Pope John Paul II. He entrusted the Cross to young people, saying, “Go, and I will come with you.” And so it was; and this pilgrimage of young people continued with Pope Benedict, and thanks to God I too have been able to live this wonderful stage in Brazil. Let us always remember: the youth are not following the Pope, they are following Jesus Christ, bearing His Cross. And the Pope guides them and accompanies them in this journey of faith and hope. And so I thank all the young people that have participated, even by making sacrifices. And I thank the Lord also for the other encounters I had with the Pastors and the people of the great Country that is Brazil, and also with the authorities and the volunteers. May the Lord reward all those that worked for this great festival of faith. 

I also want to emphasize my gratitude, my deep gratitude, to the Brazilian people. A great people, the people of Brazil, a people of great heart. I won’t forget their warm welcome, their greeting, their affectionate gaze, so much joy! They are a generous people. I ask the Lord to bless them greatly. 

I want to ask you to pray with me, that the young people that participated in World Youth Day will be able to translate this experience into their daily journey, in their everyday conduct; and that they will be able to translate it in the most important choices of their life, responding to the personal call of the Lord. Today in the liturgy the provocative words of Qoheleth resonate: “Vanity of vanities . . . all things are vanity” (Ecc. 1, 2). Young people are particularly sensitive to the emptiness of meaning and values that surrounds them. And they, unfortunately, pay the consequences. On the other hand, the encounter with the living Jesus, in the great family that is the Church, fills the heart with joy, because it fills it with true life, a profound goodness that does not pass away or decay: we have seen this in the faces of the youths in Rio. But this experience must face the daily vanity, the poison of emptiness that insinuates itself into our society based on profit and having [things], that deludes young people with consumerism. The Gospel of this Sunday reminds us of the absurdity of basing their happiness on ‘having’. “The rich man says to himself: ‘My soul, you have many good things stored up . . . rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God says to him: ‘You fool, this very night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’” (cf. Lk 12, 19-20). Dear brothers and sisters, true wealth is the love of God, shared with the brothers. That love that comes from God and makes us share among ourselves, and makes us help one another. He who experiences this does not fear death, and receives peace of heart. Let us entrust this intention, the intention of receiving the love of God and sharing it with our brothers, to the Virgin Mary. 

After the Angelus: 
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet all of you, and thank you for your presence despite the heat. 
I am happy to greet in particular several groups of young people: The Carmelite Youth of Croatia; the young people of Sandon and Fossò, from the diocese of Verona; those of Mozzanica, from the diocese of Cremona; those of Moncalieri, who came part of the way on foot; and those of Bergamo, who came by bicycle. Thank you, all of you!

But there are so many young people in the Piazza today! It seems like Rio de Janeiro . . . 

I want to assure you of my special regard for pastors and for all the priests of the world, because today we remember their patron saint, Saint John Mary Vianney. Dear brothers, let us be united in prayer and pastoral charity. 

Tomorrow, we Romans remember our Mother, “Salus populi Romani” [English: Protectress of the Roman People]. Let us ask that she might protect us. Let us, all of us together, greet our Mother with a ‘Hail Mary’ . . . All together: "Hail Mary. . . " A greeting for our Mother, all together, a greeting for our Mother [applause together with the people].

I am also pleased to remember the liturgical feast of the Transfiguration, which takes place the day after tomorrow, with a thought of profound gratitude for the Venerable Pope Paul VI, who departed this world on the evening of 6 August 35 years ago. 

Dear friends, I wish you a good Sunday and a good August . . . and a good lunch! Arrivederci!

Message of the Virgin Mary to Nonbelievers on August 02, 2013 From Medjugorje

“Dear children; If only you would open your hearts to me with complete trust, you would comprehend everything. You would comprehend with how much love I am calling you; with how much love I desire to change you, to make you happy; with how much love I desire to make you followers of my Son and give you peace in the fullness of my Son. You would comprehend the immeasurable greatness of my motherly love. That is why, my children, pray because through prayer your faith grows and love is born, the love along which even the cross is not unendurable because you do not carry it alone. In union with my Son you glorify the name of the Heavenly Father. Pray, pray for the gift of love, because love is the only truth: it forgives everything, it serves everyone and it sees a brother in everyone. My children, my apostles, great is the trust that the Heavenly Father has given you through me, His handmaid, to help those who do not know Him, that they may reconcile with Him and follow Him. That is why I am teaching you to love, because only if you have love will you be able to respond to Him. Again I am calling you to love your shepherds and to pray that, at this difficult time, the name of my Son may be glorified under their guidance. Thank you.”

Pope Francis' Message to Muslims

The Vatican has published a message from Pope Francis to the world's Muslims for the conclusion of Ramadan. This year, the Islamic period of prayer and fasting concludes between August 8th and 9th. Though it’s usually issued by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Pope Francis says at the start of his pontificate, he wished to personally send this message of good wishes to the world’s Muslims himself as they celebrate Eid Al Fitr, breaking their fast. 

In the message, the Pope proposes a theme of common reflection “that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.” Saying respect is a mutual “process” of kindness, Pope Francis invited Muslims and Christians to respect each person “first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.”

Where inter-religious relations are concerned, “especially between Christians and Muslims,” the Pope said, “ we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!” In educating our Muslim and Christian youth, the Pope said, “we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.”

Reiterating “the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslims,” Pope Francis said these need to be “enhanced” and he expressed his hope that people of both faiths “may be true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.”

Following is the full text of the Pope’s message:

To Muslims throughout the World
It gives me great pleasure to greet you as you celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr, so concluding the month of Ramadan, dedicated mainly to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. It is a tradition by now that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue sends you a message of good wishes, together with a proposed theme for common reflection. This year, the first of my Pontificate, I have decided to sign this traditional message myself and to send it to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.

As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of “Francis”, a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called “universal brother”. He loved, helped and served the needy, the sick and the poor; he also cared greatly for creation.

I am aware that family and social dimensions enjoy a particular prominence for Muslims during this period, and it is worth noting that there are certain parallels in each of these areas with Christian faith and practice. This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.

This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides.

What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.

Turning to mutual respect in inter-religious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these! It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbors or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.

Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices. We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.

When I received the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on 22 March 2013, I said: “It is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world.” With these words, I wished to emphasize once more the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslims, and the need for it to be enhanced.

With these sentiments, I reiterate my hope that all Christians and Muslims may be true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education. Finally, I send you my prayerful good wishes, that your lives may glorify the Almighty and give joy to those around you. Happy Feast to you all!

Divine Feasts (Article in Arabic)

الأعياد الإلهية

يريد الله أن يفرح أولاده على الأرض فجعل لهم أعياداً يفرحون فيها ويبتهجون وتكون لهم في مواسم يحتفلون بها لئلا يظن البعض أن الدين هو مجرد ضبط للنفس وحزن وكآبة وبكاء على الخطايا فالله يريد للإنسان أن يفرح وأن يكون سعيداً وإلا ما كان قد وضعه في جنة حينما خلقه (تك 2 : 15).

وأول قائمة للأعياد وردت في سفر اللآويين 23 وأول عيد أمر به الرب كان يوم الرب وهكذا ورد في اللوح الأول للشريعة أذكر يوم السبت لتقدسه. ستة أيام تعمل وتصنع جميع عملك وأما اليوم السابع ففيه سبت للرب إلهك لا تصنع عملاً ما، أنت وأبنك وابنتك وعبدك وأمتك وبهيمتك ونزيلك الذي داخل أبوابك (خر 20 : 8 – 10).

وكان يوم السبت هو أول الأعياد في قائمة سفر اللآويين: ستة أيام يُعمل عمل وأما اليوم السابع ففيه سبت عطلة محفل مقدس إنه سبت للرب (لا 23 : 2 ، 3) ولم يكن السبت مجرد فرض وإنما راحة للإنسان وعيد كما قال السيد الرب السبت قد جعل لأجل الإنسان وليس الإنسان لأجل السبت (مر 2 : 27) وقد استبدل السبت بالأحد فأصبح الأحد عيداً لأن فيه استراح الرب من إكمال عمله بالفداء والقضاء على الموت الذي هو نتيجة خطية الإنسان (رو 6 : 23). الأحد أصبح السبت الحقيقي في اليونانية أسمه كيرياكي أي الخاص بالرب وهكذا قال الرسول بولس لا يحكم عليكم أحداً من جهة عيد أو هلال أو سبت التي هي ظل الأمور العتيدة (كو 2 : 16 ، 17) إذن السبت كان ظلاً للأحد.

أول عيد احتفلوا به في العهد القديم كان عيد الفصح:
الذي ذبحوا فيه خروف الفصح ولطخوا أبوابهم بدمه لكي ينجوا من الملاك المهلك وكما قال الرب أرى الدم وأعبر (خر 12 : 13) فيكون لكن هذا اليوم تذكاراً تعيدونه عيداً للرب في أجيالكم تعيدونه فريضة أبدية (خر 12 : 14) وذكر في العهد الجديد أن الفصح عيد اليهود (يو 6 : 4) وهكذا يقول الكتاب فصحنا أيضاً المسيح ذبح لأجلنا (1 كو 5 : 7) فما هو شعورنا في اليوم الذي قدم به السيد نفسه ذبيحة عنا لكي لا يهلك كل من يؤمن به بل تكون له حياة أبدية (يو 3 : 16).

عيد الفطير : الذي كان يرتبط بعيد الفصح من أول احتفال باقامته كما قال الرب سبعة أيام تأكلون فطيراً من اليوم الأول تعزلون الخمير من بيوتكم فإن كل من أكل خميراً من اليوم الأول إلى السابع تقطع تلك النفس (خر 12 : 15) فما هو السر؟؟

كان الخمير يرمز إلى الشر والفطير يرمز إلى البر البر الذي يرتبط بالأكل من خروف الفصح الذي يرمز إلى الفداء وهكذا كتب عن الفصح تأكلون اللحم تلك الليلة مشوياً بالنار مع الفطير (خر 12 : 8) أما عن التطبيق في العهد الجديد فيقول الرسول نقوا منكم الخميرة العتيقة لأن فصحنا أيضاً المسيح قد ذبح لأجلنا إذن لنعبد ليس بخميرة عتيقة ولا بخميرة الشر والخبث بل بفطير الاخلاص والحق (1 كو 5 : 7).

وهنا أريد أن أذكر أنه داخل الأبواب المرشوشة بالدم كان أناس قد عزلوا الخمير من بيوتهم أي عزلوا الشر. وكل من أكل مخمراً كانت تقطع تلك النفس من جماعة الشعب مهما كانت الأبواب مرشوشة بالدم إن الخلاص بالدم ولكنه يرتبط ارتباط وثيق بالحياة التي تخلو من الخمير التي يرمز اليها بسبعة أيام أي كل أيام الحياة تأكل خلالها فطيراً أي تتغذى بالبر. لذلك يعجبني صموئيل النبي لما دعا بيت يسى إلى الذبيحة قال لهم تقدسوا وتعالوا معي إلى الذبيحة (1 صم 16 : 5).

وكانت الأعياد أياماً مقدسة (لا 23) ليست أياماً للهو بل محافل مقدسة (لا  23 : 2 ، 4 ، 8) حقاً كانت أيام عطلة لا عمل فيها ولكنها أيام مقدسة وحسنة الترجمة الإنجليزية هي  Holy day أي يوم مقدس ولكن للأسف الشديد استبدلها البعض بعبارة Week End أي عطلة نهاية الأسبوع ونسوا انه يوم مقدس للرب.

العطلة ليست عطلة مطلقة إنما نتعطل عن الأعمال العالمية لكي ننشغل بعمل الله لكي تنشغل الروح بعملها وهذه هي المشكلة التي قامت بين الرب والفريسين واقنعهم الرب بأمثلة كثيرة أنه يحل فعل الخير في السبوت (متى 12 : 10 – 12).

فالمحافل المقدسة هي عمل وتقديم الذبائح والمحرقات عمل أيضاً وتقديم البخور أيضاً عملاً إذن يوم الأحد بالاضافة إلى كونه عيداً للرب وللقيامة أي الإنتصار على الموت هو عيد للخلاص وأيضاً للقداسة التي يرمز اليها الفطير المرتبط بالفصح. 

 By Anonymous Author

VIDEO: Saint Charbel's House in Bekaakafra, Lebanon

Saint Charbel was born on the 8th of May, 1828 in the village of Bekaakafra in the district of Bsharre in northern Lebanon. He grew up and lived until he reached the age of 23, he lived with his family in a house, which according to the official registers and the elders of the village is almost four centuries old.

When in 1950, the miracles related to the intercession of Saint Charbel occurred, the Maronite Order decided to buy his house and to make it part of the precious heritage for the Maronite Order and for Lebanon. The decision was put into effect on June 23, 1953. 

Restoration works took place and the house was renovated in an artistic way which preserved its authentic character and its typical architecture. Then the order converted it into a sanctuary. A cedar wood altar was installed and on May 25, 1955 a solemn Mass was celebrated for its inauguration, in the presence of great crowds of the religious and the faithful.

The successive monks in charge have improved the house, and they added rooms for the monks own accommodation, a library and an oratory were also added. The basement and two neighboring houses were also restored turning the whole complex into a museum devoted to Saint Charbel. A new road leading all the way to the house was opened and a permanent art exhibition was inaugurated. The gallery houses illustrations and paintings retracing the life of the Saint. A marble statue of Saint Charbel was inaugurated in the spring of 1994. 

Currently there are several relies exposed in the house of Saint Charbel, including such objects as an ampule containing blood of the Saint, a handkerchief with the impression of his face and a chasuble he wore. 

While preserving this precious historical and religious heritage, the Maronite Order decided to launch apostolic and social movements in the village and to organize conferences and cultural gatherings. These activities contribute to the special role played by the village of Saint Charbel and its young generation inside the Church and the Country.