ConAltriOcchi blog – 以不同的眼光看世界-博客

"C'è un solo modo di vedere le cose finché qualcuno non ci mostra come guardare con altri occhi" – "There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes" (Picasso) – "人观察事物的方式只有一种,除非有人让我们学会怎样以不同的眼光看世界" (毕加索)


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Ashes, Water and Dust. Thoughts on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent

We can all remember our grandparents washing their clothes at the riverside with ashes and water. Ashes on heads on the Wednesday marking the start of Lent, water on feet on Holy Thursday.  The carnival masks are very beautiful but they are only good for a day; then follows life with its hard face of reality, the journey along a challenging course involving all men and women and their entire being, from head to foot..

Lent takes us into the desert and as many families know when divested of their masks they find the party is over and they have to fight day after day and often enter into the desert. The desert is symbolic of Lent, an essential part of our lives.   However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said so effectively: “Every desert, somewhere, hides a well, in every hardship there is the seed of an unexpected resurrection”. It is Easter the ultimate horizon of Lent.  The theologian Andrea Grillo writes: “To restore Lent as a festive initiation to the Paschal Mystery is a ‘great undertaking’, which we Roman Catholic Christians, belonging to the second generation after Vatican Council II, have found has been indicated by that great Council as one of the keys to access our ecclesial and spiritual tradition. To set in motion the symbolic mechanism of a festive journey of expectation, preparation and above all initiation to Easter.”

Pope Francis receives ashes from Cardinal Tomko during Ash Wednesday Mass at Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome

Pope Francis receives ashes from Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome March 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (March 5, 2014) See POPE-ASHWEDNESDAY March 5, 2014.

“Convert and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”, the priests will say as they are spreading the ashes. Faith and humility are necessary to commence the journey of conversion towards Easter;  it only needs a financial crisis for many to lose their daily bread, a disease and the joy of life will be wanting. Men and women are dust. And yet that dust, which houses the breath of the Holy Spirit, is still today the best creation of all.  The Holy Spirit bursts into our fragility and calls us to an original and ever newer identity.  We must act according to the Holy Spirit, with that fragile courage belonging to every baptised person which we see on every page of the Gospel making us new men and women every day.

The Lord, through the Prophet Joel whom we select for the First Reading on Ash Wednesday (Joel 2,16-18) asks us to gather people together, young, old, children, married couples, unmarried couples, immigrants for them to receive the invitation to  be reconciled with God, as Saint Paul reminds us in the Second Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians (2Cor 5,20-6,2).

In the Gospel, (Mt6,1-6.16-18) Jesus exhorts us  take the journey seriously.  God also walks and comes towards us and we welcome him with prayer, fasting and charity. These are not individual or private Lenten practices, rather they want to express our hearts which move towards God and towards all men and women, who are, from Easter onwards, our brothers and sisters.

May Lent help us to make our interior and exterior world  as the Father’s house where all men and women are brothers and sisters, and not turn it into a marketplace (Jn2,16), where everyone is an enemy and a competitor.


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Poor Lazarus reaches out to us. Reflection on Pope Francis’s Message for Lent 2017

Yesterday, the  Holy Father’s message for Lent was  published.   Lent is a favourable season for prayer,which will lead us to the Easter Triduum, the heart of the liturgical year.On Ash Wednesday,  the start of Lent, the Church performs a simple gesture which reminds us of the frailty of human nature, of being creatures. However, the fact of being created,  in the Christian  vision,does not mean to be reduced to a negative note, or lesser than the human being,  his nature and his potentialities. To be creatures assumes the existence of a  God, a Creator, who has loved us  “from our Mother’s womb” and takes care of us. God, Creator, yes, but even before that a Father. In fact, the Creed, , the symbol of the Christian faith, recites: “I believe in one God,Father Almighty, the Makerr of Heaven and Earth”.  The word almighty describes the  “role” of God as Father. God is a father who can do everything for his children by virtue of his love which binds him to them.  In this human creature, desired, loved and looked after by God , lives the Spirit, “who is the Lord and gives life”. The Spirit – the love which binds the Father to the Son – will be with us like a comforter, remaining with us all our days  “until the end of the world”. An eternal gift. In this year’s message, Pope Francis invites us to look after these gifts, two in particular.

 The Word is a gift. Other people are a gift. Is the title of Francis’ text which reflects on the biblical parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus.  (see  Luke 16,19- 31).

“Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper”( Message for Lent 2017)

 To live the Eucharist is to participate in the gift of mercy which becomes Bread and Wine, i.e. the food of lifein regard to a fullness of life for all men of good will. Lent can be an appropriate time to ask the Lord to give us the will to renew our relationships, to pronounce not the words which win, but those which touch people’s hearts and which take care of all those like poor Lazarus crouching in front of our doors.

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.” ( Message for Lent 2017)

To understand properly what the Word of God says about the relationship between the Rich Men and the weak and the poor like Lazarus, it is essential to avoid living like the  «the complacent of Sion»  about whom the Prophet Amos talks and  create a system of justifications so that there could be tenthousand poor men like Lazarus in front of our doors and “the Richman” will not even know that they’re there. Our modern day glutton builds a house with gates, gives alms to the poor, makes a provision for the Third World, in order not to have the bother of Lazarus at his door.  

This papal message on Lent will be read in all the Catholic churches in the world  but tomorrow Lazarus will be like his today.  Nothing changes. And this because the Word and Pope Francis’ evangelical words risk becoming trapped in a system which wants to make them innocuous, without any efficacy on the level of reality. This is the abyss which some people wish to create.  Indeed, we can all see that the abyss between the poor men like Lazarus and the gluttons is becoming wider and wider. The gluttons decided centuries ago that they cannot allow promiscuity among those who are inside and those who are without.. Lazarus must stay outside the system, our cities.  The Bible uses the term Encampment.  Not only is Lazarus an outcast, he must also be convinced that this is normal, that it is just. Exclusion touches him within, in his conscience.

However, our society wishes to aspire to the great principles of Christianity and Enlightenment but finds itself making an impossible squaring of the circle. It pretends to include in its midst Lazarus, the outcast but doesn’t succeed because  it would be in contrast with its fundamental principles. The system excludes those who threaten its integrity.  Migrants are the Lazarus of the twenty-first century.

God however prefers Lazarus. In fact, God is Lazarus in this world. Jesus went out among the unclean to teach them to stop calling themselves unclean, to look at the encampment and discover that the encampment is unclean.. This is the revolution, the upheaval. The Beatitudes are made up of those like Lazarus. Jesus came to awaken  the consciences of the outcasts so that they stop considering themselves legitimately outcast, so that they know the future is in their hands. “The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).”( Message for Lent 2017)

Many have tried to enroll Jesus as the guardian of the Encampment and have done everything they can to insert him in their own contexts, to make him an accommodating prophet, but Jesus did not accept. He never went into the Praetorium or the  Sanhedrin as a welcome guest, he represented a threat for these two structures, that of the political-religious power and the economic power. For this he was crucified like an unclean person.  «You hung him on the Cross like a criminal» said Peter, in his first sermon after Pentecost.   The future of the world is with those like Lazarus; they will inherit the earth as the Beatitudes say;  the poor will come towards us, not to destroy us  but to tell us the words of salvation.

Then let us live this period of Lent with hope, in reflection, meditation and prayer, remembering that we are frail creatures but above all loved and protected by God the Father. This will help us to live this journey not as a penitence for its own sake, both timorous and sterile, but as a reconciliation with God the Father and a conversion towards the poor like Lazarus whom we meet on our path. Return to the Lord with all your hearts, the Prophet Joel will say to us.  This means undertaking the path not to a  superficial or transitory conversion but rather a spiritual itinerary  involving the most intimate place in our person. The heart, in fact. It is the home of our feelings, the centre in which we develop our choices, our attitudes.  That  ‘come back to me with all your hearts’ does not only involve individuals but extends to the whole community.  It is a summons to everyone:“Get the people together, make the mass of the people holy, send for the old men, get together the children and babies at the breast : let the newly married man come out of his room and the bride from her tent.”(Joel 2,16)

 


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We are fragile creatures, but preserved by the Father’s love

The beginning of the Lenten time waiting for Easter

Today it is first day of the Lenten season, which will bring us to the Easter Triduum after 40 days, the heart of the liturgical year. In the Ash Wednesday, the Church makes a simple gesture that commemorates the fragility of the human nature, the fact that we are creatures.  In the Christian view, being creatures, though, means not only precariety, a sort of “negative” connotation characterizing the human beings, their nature and potential. Being creatures implies the existence of a Creator God, who loved us “since when we were in the maternal womb” and looks after us.  Certainly a Creator God, but first of all our Father. The “Credo”, the profession of the Christian faith says: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”. It is probably not a coincidence that God be mentioned first as a Father and then as a Creator and that the word “almighty” (which can also be scary and associated to a sort of super-power that is not necessarily good) is combined to the “role” of God as a father and not as the creator.  God is a father that can do everything for his children, by virtue of His love for them. In this human creature that is desired, loved and preserved by God, who is willing to do everything for His creatures up to even die to save them, the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit – “the Lord, the giver of life”, the love between Father and the Son – will be with us as a consolator everyday “until the end of the age.”

Let us then live this Lenten time with hope, in reflection, meditation and prayer, remembering to be fragile creatures but, most importantly, to be loved and preserved by God, our Father. This can help us not to live this path in a fearful and sterile penitence, but as a time for conversion to the Gospel – the joyful news of the resurrection of Christ that changed radically and forever our life. Actually, not only the life of our own, but that of others, because the Gospel is “contagious”.  

It is very meaningful what is last year Pope Francis said in his homily during the Mass of  Ash Wednesday: “Returning to the Lord ‘with all your heart’ means to begin the journey not of a superficial and transitory conversion, but rather of a spiritual itinerary with regard to the most intimate place of our person. The heart is, indeed, the seat of our feelings, the centre in which our decisions, our attitudes mature. That ‘return to me with all your heart’ involves not only individuals, but is extended to the community as a whole. It is a convocation directed to everyone: ‘gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber‘”.