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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Abraham went out, not knowing where he was to go

Monica Romano

The season of Lent is, more than any other, a period in which the Word of God invites us to set out on a journey.  An  “important time”- our deputy parish priest, Fr. Paolo reminded us when we were young – many years ago, when he prepared a true and proper “agenda” for Advent and Lent for every one of us, with references to Readings for each day.  He aimed to give us a useful tool to encourage us to read the Bible more often than at other times during the liturgical year.

The journey, the vocation to which God calls us, does not always seem straightforward.  On the contrary, it requires us to take a “ leap in the dark”. I have always been struck by Abraham’s experience; he went out leaving everything and everyone behind and, as the Letter to the Hebrews points out subsequently, “by faith” he obeyed God “and went out not knowing where he was to go”. Here a fundamental aspect of the journey into faith comes into play:  trust, confidence, in God. Many of us have no doubt that God exists and believe that Jesus Christ is His Son, the Saviour who came into this world to redeem us, the firstfruits of the Resurrection which we, too, will experience.   But there is a huge leap to be made from our faith in Jesus Christ to unconditional trust and confidence in Him.

This is often the weakness in our faith: to trust God and entrust ourselves unconditionally to Him. Trust which God mapped out from the minute he became flesh as a defenceless child, who could only live if cared for and loved by Mary and Joseph. God himself was the first to make an act of trust towards men and women, first creating them and then descending into the womb of Mary, entrusting himself into the hands of a family, “an ordinary family”, which in turn placed its trust in God and pursued the extraordinary vocation to which it had been called. Not without times of darkness and uncertainty, some of which emerge from the stories in the Gospels.

There is a beautiful image which I keep in my heart, painted by the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucault (see image below). Mary is holding  Jesus Child in her arms and, instead of  “cuddling ” in the safe arms of His Mother,  He is stretching  out His arms as if to be taken by the first passer-by who wishes to welcome Him. This original “iconography” reminds me again of the idea of the trust the Lord has placed in men and women, to the point of giving His own life for them, for each one of us and all of us together. Trust that He has asked us Christians to live, we that have believed “even though we have not seen”. Acts of trust which are not just asked of us once in our lives. Later, Abraham was even asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. The meaning of which is that, in addition to the “small”, “daily”, acts of trust in God which we Christians are asked to do in our day to day lives, there can be many larger ones during our lifetime.

Madonna-con-Bambino

The saints are a luminous mirror of this unconditional trust in the love of the Father and followed Him always and no matter what, often persevering when the paths are dark and unclear in their souls and in their everyday lives. For me,  saints are a great consolation because they have shown us that life’s bitter moments can be overcome humanly and lived in the way the Lord asks us to do, with the aid of grace. 

But we see that the temptation of  taking “shortcuts” , the alternative to the “leap” into the dark, appears  immediately in the hearts of men and women, even those who were closest to the Lord and who gave everything, his life, for Him.  In today’s Gospel which follows the First Reading on the vocation of Abraham, the liturgy proposes the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  The Lord, Peter, James and John are walking “up a high mountain”. Often, when the Lord is preparing something special as in this case, the Gospel tells us that we start walking, generally under difficult, hostile situations or circumstances. Climbing the mountain, as in this case; the environment of the shepherds – the marginalized ones at the time – or the Magi from the East deceived by Herod when Jesus was born…..Once Jesus and the disciples reached their destination, Peter proposed to prepare three shelters and stay there, just them alone.  “Let us leave everything behind us, abandon this world with its hardships” Peter seems to be wanting to say. Or even, perhaps: “Let the three of us enjoy the company of the Lord”.  It has happened to me on more than one occasion to experience or to meet people who have experienced this temptation.  “Give everything up”, to say it in everyday language and perhaps in a more effective manner; “keep our faith only for us”, within our parish or Christian group,  far from the world that “does not know” or even worse “refuses” the Lord…. The Liturgy of the Word which was wisely “put together” by the Second Vatican Council tells us in these Readings that instead we must not stop but –paraphrasing the words of Jesus in the Gospel today – we must “rise and not be afraid”, like Abraham did. We must walk on our pathway and, after enjoying the light of Jesus, we must, in turn, bring it to the world, to light those dark paths on which we often find ourselves and walk along during our lives.  The Christian vocation does not mean to live in shelters by ourselves, but, as Pope Francis would say, it means opening the doors, go out, and bring Jesus to the world and let anyone who so desires come in.

May this Season of Lent, which I have always considered a propitious gift in my faith pathway, help us to light  the small lamp of our faith and our trust in God, which already have not been disappointed, with the promise of Resurrection.

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A light on our weakness

Thoughts on the II Sunday of Lent 

The First Reading on the second Sunday of Lent  from the Book of Genesis talks about the vocation of Abraham, called upon to set out trusting solely in the Word of God.  We, too, like Abraham are called upon to leave our land. We are at an historic time when crossing the land from the old to the new world has become vital.  Our Western land, our Europe of the cathedrals, is under siege by millions of people seeking dignity and safety. It is not rhetoric to affirm that a new world is being formed.  A Church that still wanted to stay closed up in Noah’s Ark during the deluge, i.e. an Eurocentric Church strong only in its own certainties and traditions, would simply be out of step with the times.  Even worse it would be shut off from the pain of the world.  This pain of the world is illuminated by the light of Jesus which today in Chapter 17 of the Gospel according to Matthew  unveils, for an instant, His Glory.

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Following in Jesus’ footsteps, all Christians are called upon to share the faith in that common territory, among all the latitudes, among all believers and non-believers, that is suffering.  «Jesus alone» in the Transfiguration, which ends with the anticipation of Easter, is only a man among other men.  But it is in that “weak” Jesus, tempted just like us by everything, lives the Glory of God. In Jesus alone and abandoned by everybody, God reveals His Glory and tells men and women that weakness is the home of God.

This is why we must pursue our Lenten journey with trust and confidence in God; life’s hardships do not diminish our Easter momentum because the Lord lights them with His glory and asks us to always know how to recognize His saving presence both in and outside us.

“It is good”, says Peter to Jesus.  Let us start anew from goodness;  even if life is not always easy, it can always be happy if we live it with Jesus, if we know how to understand ourselves and others better with a compassionate eye.

The many things we have to do, preoccupations, the  “noises of the world” often prevent us from listening to the tiny whispering sound by which God makes his presence known. (1 Kings 19,12).

To live a good and aware Christian life requires us to listen to the voice of God within and among us.  God moves our lives, he takes care of us. Nobody is excluded, nobody is left out.


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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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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‘”.