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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Exemplary servants of the gospel

Pope Francis pilgrim on the road of Father Mazzolari e Father Milani

In Bozzolo, Pope Francis was welcomed by the Bishop of Cremona, Monsignor Antonio Napolioni, who immediately announced that the process to beatify Don Primo Mazzolari will start on 18th September next.  The Pope then went to the Parish of Saint Peter’s to pray on the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari where he made a truly memorable address speaking, among other things, of the  “magisterium of the parish priests”.

In Barbiana he was welcomed by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence and where he also wished to pray at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.  In church he met the Prior of Barbiana’s students and then gave a commemorative address in the forecourt of Don Lorenzo’s vicarage which will be very difficult to forget. His educative passion represented faithfulness to the Gospel and to all those who were entrusted to his care, said the Pope.  He then added: “today, the Bishop of Rome recognizes in that life an exemplary way of serving the Gospel, the poor and the Church; take Don Lorenzo’s torch and carry it onwards”.

Don Primo Mazzolari and Don Lorenzo Milani, are ” two priests who offer us a message which we truly need today”, said Pope Francis last Sunday during the Angelus prayer.

Recently, from many places in and outside the Church there have been various analyses and comments on this pilgrimage of the Pope.  Some have spoken of “rehabilitation”, others of “homage” for two priests who were always in the front line of their ministry.  Whatever the right interpretation, it is a good thing to leave room for the facts.  Pope Francis knelt before two great protagonists of the Church and Italian society in the twentieth century, recognizing in them a Church which placed itself at the service of the poor and announced the Mercy of Christ for everyone.  

This act of kneeling is of strong symbolic importance.  As we all know very well, Don Mazzolari and Don Milani were not short of “enemies”, as today there is no shortage of these for Pope Francis. They are enemies of  various origin, especially ecclesial ones and among these there are those who, at the first breath of wind, change flags, ready to change again whenever necessary. It’s like listening once more to the story of St. Paul when he recounts his experience of: “perils among false brethren”    ( 2Cor 11,26).  Opposition to the Church of the Poor and the Last is very active on the web and in some traditionalist blogs.  They accuse the Pope today, as they accused Don Primo and Don Lorenzo yesterday, of having thrown the Church into doctrinal, moral and pastoral confusion. Curiously, these blogs speak to each other, quote each other almost as if they were young Fathers of the Church. In reality, it is these defenders of an old church,  a church that no longer exists, who are in confusion today, who have been an elitist community for much too long, without any  sensitivity and  ignoring different voices, ignoring the poor. During the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, some lay and clerical pseudo Catholics reduced a part of the Church to a cavern of thieves  behind the backs of the two Popes, carrying on their business intrigues with the powerful people of the times, betraying the Gospel for a few pence; scheming with both the gay and financial lobbies, contracting out all evangelization work to the ecclesial movements, humiliating the parishes and the people of God; pseudo Catholics who defend principles by which they do not live and judge the dramas of people to whom they don’t listen, with whom they share nothing.

It is of paramount importance that we return immediately to the Church of Mazzolari, Milani and Pope Francis who divulge the Gospel with the Spirit of the Council, to attract not to proselytize.

It is with the strength of the prayer of Jesus and the Church as a whole that Pope Francis is undertaking his pastoral mission to bear witness to his brothers in the faith. He started off, as we all know, from the “outskirts”, from the island of Lampedusa, indicating to the world the centrality of both physical and existentialist outskirts.

Today, in Bozzolo and Barbiana, Pape Francis affirmed that the eye of the needle through which we need pass in order to speak to God is the outcast.   Every day, the cries of the outcast strike us, louder and louder,  “overturning” our Church pews, calling our attention back to essential things.

The Pope reminds us that the “Good News” of Jesus is not a new philosophy but the answer to the desire of all men throughout the ages: to be loved and free from slavery.

Whoever cures the wounds of the world, defends his people, teaches true freedom, excludes no-one a priori, is in the very heart of God.

Pope Francis, who came from the “end of the world”, today turned his face towards the entire world and the entire Catholic Church by indicating these two priests as models of the Gospel.

The Gospel reminds us that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep. Pope Francis has made the “ odour of the sheep” the perfume of all missionary works. And it is the odour of the sheep, says Pope Francis, which can reawaken the Church, people’s suffering and solitude, their desire for life and redemption, the frontier on which to build the field hospital which is the Church.

Let us thank the Lord for the gift of Don Primo and Don Lorenzo and let us ask the Spirit to give us the strength to carry on teaching the Gospel with their courage and coherence.  Let us also ask the same Spirit go give us the humility to ask for forgiveness, as baptized persons, as lay persons, as priests and as the Italian Church, from these two great witnesses of Christ.

From today onwards, after this pilgrimage made by Pope Francis, unless the Italian Church, and indeed the entire Catholic Church, follows in the footsteps of Don Mazzolari and Don Milani, it will be a Church that disobeys the Spirit and Peter.


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We do not love in words but with facts

Reflections on Pope Francis’s Message on the World Day of the Poor.

On November 19th, in the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, the first World Day of the Poor will be celebrated by the entire Catholic Church and by men of good will,  which Pope Francis had already announced at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. On that day as a sign of sharing, after having celebrated the Mass in St. Peter the Pope will invite 500 poor people to lunch in the Paul VI Hall, the audience hall bearing the name of the great pope of Populorum Progressio. The previous day (Saturday 18) there will be a Prayer Vigil in the Church of St. Lawrence outside the Walls, to remember the Roman martyr who recognized the poor as a true treasure in the church.

I invite the whole Church, and men and women of good will everywhere, to turn their gaze on this day to all those who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity.  They are our brothers and sisters, created and loved by the one Heavenly Father. “(Message for the World Day of the Poor to No. 6).

We do not love in words, but with facts” is the title of Pope Francis’s first message for this day. The Pope speaks of “a thousand faces marked by suffering, marginalization, oppression, violence, torture and imprisonment, war, deprivation of freedom and dignity, ignorance and illiteracy, medical emergencies and shortage of work, trafficking and slavery, exile, extreme poverty and forced migration.“(n. 5).

It is not surprising the fleeting attention, even within the Church, to the proclamation of this world day. Not surprising but bitter, and we are all called to react strongly to indifference to the poor.

Those who have a lot of money and a lot of security are likely to live like the “carefree of Zion” spoken by the prophet Amos, and a whole world is being built, and even if there are thousands of Lazarus at his door, he does not even realize. The rich man of our years sometimes finds out and then makes some alms for the poor, gives some old dress that no longer puts, even though it does not have the Lazarus disorder at its door.

In all the Catholic Church, the parable of rich man is often read but tomorrow Lazarus will be as it is today without any changes. Unfortunately, Jesus’ message has often been imprisoned in the system and we have made it a little harmless; the message doesn’t affects our real life. This is the abyss of which the Gospel speaks. We also all see that the abyss between the Lazarus and the rich man has widened and is widening to a great extent.

We have for centuries determined that we cannot allow the promiscuity between those who are inside and those who are out. Lazarus must be out of the system and from our cities, using the Bible expression, out from the camp. Lazarus then is not only excluded but must also be convinced that it is normal so and  that is right. Exclusion affects him in consciousness.

Our society, however, says that it is inspired by the great principles of Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the Democracy, and then it tries to accept (perhaps not truly)  Lazarus the excluded, but it fails, because it should review its own principles constituent. Immigrants are the Lazarus of the twenty-first century and we only know how to widen the moat.

Christians and all humanity do not forget that God is on the side of the Lazarus, indeed God in this world is Lazarus. Jesus went among the uncleanness to teach them to stop being unclean, and looking at our cities and our system Jesus explained that the real Lazarus, the real immoderate, is our system. This is the Christian Revolution. Jesus came to wake the conscience of the excluded because they ceased to be considered legally excluded, because they know that dignity is their inalienable right. The system then tried to tame Jesus by “promoting him” as a guardian of the order, failing because He went  against a system that excludes, rebellion against political, religious and economic power. For this reason he has been crucified as a Lazarus any: “As a criminal you have hung on a wood” says Peter in the first speech after Pentecost. The Beatitudes tell us that the Lazarus have already won in Christ their battle of dignity. They are meeting us now, and they are millions. They do not want to destroy, but tell us the Word of Salvation that was entrusted to them. Blessed the Poor because yours is the Kingdom of God will tell Jesus. Yours is the secret of life.

Riches are not an end, but an instrument in the hands of men. Often riches have become an iniquitous tool because man has used it to dominate other men and subjugate entire peoples to control some elites. We have arrived in history even to the planned and calculated extermination of the poor, as the prophet Amos recalls. Thanks to God, the cultural progress of peoples is favoring a growing awareness of the need for a fairer distribution of the riches of the planet. Some international organizations and some of the more developed nations are struggling for new social equilibrium, but the battle is still very long and difficult. Jesus invites his disciples to be “shrewd” in the use of riches. He asks for each of us a different relationship with riches both individually and in community. For this reason, the private gesture of alms no longer suffices; we need to act so that wealth can become an instrument of liberation and reconciliation among peoples; this is the concreteness of the gospel, which by its nature is a social fact. History teaches us that not a few have moved away from the Church and the faith because they have received a bad testimony in the use of money and wealth. We are witnessing these years as Christians and citizens of the world with two very important facts. Pope Francis is witnessing the concrete possibility of a poor Church for the poor, and it is an extraordinary gift from the Lord, an example that stimulates us for new conversion. Moreover, at the same time, we are witnessing the fact that many poor people are – we would say so-resuming the gospel, often hidden behind them, in words of circumstance and humiliating alms. The poor today are aware that the gospel is first and foremost for them, and are no longer willing to wait for their rights and dignity. We carefully read and meditate in this regard the prophetic words of Don Primo Mazzolari, a poor priest among the poor to whom Pope Francis will honor, praying on his grave in a few days:I have never counted the poor because the poor cannot count; the poor embrace, they do not count. Yet there are those who keep the statistics of the poor, and they are afraid; Fear of a patience that can also be tired, afraid of a silence that could become a scream, afraid of a lament that could become a song, afraid of their rags that could become a flag, fear of their tools that could be barricaded. ” This is already happening.


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Pope Francis pilgrim at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima

The plane with the pope left Rome and arrived in Fatima. This is the 19th apostolic journey of Pope Francis outside Italy. “I ask everyone to join me as pilgrims of hope and peace, and your hands in prayer continue to support me.” In a message addressed to the President of the Italian Republic, he wrote: “As I left Italy to go to Portugal for the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Fatima, iI am happy to address to you, Mr. President, my deferential greeting and, while I am going to meet pilgrims and especially sick people from all over the world  that are going to that Marian sanctuary to find light and hope, I invoke the Lord’s blessing over the entire Italian nation, especially on those who suffer in body and spirit. “

Receiving a few days ago the Pontifical Portuguese College Pope Francis has explained the deep motive of his pilgrimage: “I will bring a wish of peace and hope to the world“.

“Our Lady of Fatima gave pastors a message against the tide – said Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. We were in war time, in 1917, the prevalent thinking was hate, hostility and conflict; resumed as  ‘the useless blunder’ by Benedict XV. Our Lady instead speaks of love and forgiveness, of the ability to sacrifice oneself and to offer as gift for others. “

From the military base where he landed, the Pope will move by helicopter to the stadium of Fatima and then with the popemobile will reach the Marian Shrine where the major events will happen, culminating with the canonization of the two shepherds Francesco and Jacinta Marto. They are first children to become Saints without having suffered martyrdom. Tonight he will visit the Appearance’s Chapel, and after the vespers, we will do the blessing of the candles and the recitation of the Rosary. We too will be spiritually present in Fatima.

In the church of Saint Joseph protector of the carpenters at the Roman Forum, there is also a chapel in honour of “Our Lady of Fatima” (see photo).

image

The story of this devotion in the Roman Forum is singular. At the end of the 1950s, Brother Gino Burresi created a Marian movement of prayers devoted to the small statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The sincere prayers of the many faithful were granted many graces from the Virgin and various miracles, including one for a child,  daughter of a family friend of Pope Pius XII. The Pontiff wished to see this image, and he favored his veneration and wanted it to remain at the church of Saint Joseph’s carpenters. The Chapel is very simple and the silence inspires a deep prayer of conversion. Along with St. Joseph, the presence of Mary of Fatima helps to rediscover the family dimension of faith and the desire for peace.

Today, we will join the prayer that Pope Francis will make in Fatima for the entire humanity. Let us ask for the grace to love the Church with the same maternal love of Mary that illuminates the wonderful secret of the human life, the faith that reconciles. May the Centenary of the Appearances of Our Lady of Fatima give hope to everyone.


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Europe believe in yourself

On Saturday 25th March, the celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, one of the most important historic events in the process of European integration,  will take place in Rome at the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill.   On the same day in 1957, all the bells of Rome were ringing joyously in awareness that an historic event was taking place. Twelve years after the end of the Second World War, even though it was divided by the Iron Curtain, Europe was definitely turning a page in its history and moving on.  The so-called Treaties of Rome created the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) and the European Economic Community (EEC).

Today the Anti-European wind of populism blowing in some places is in no way comparable to those historic days at which Europe must urgently look back.

Citizens of Europe, heirs to the great Greek and Roman tradition, Christians  with their roots in the blood of martyrs, persons freed from every kind of enslavement in the age of enlightened thinkers.  When we look at refugees rejected with force at various European borders, when we look at the agreement with Turkey,  when we look at our Mediterranean Sea, a cemetery over which our huge cruise ships sail, we must perforce be ashamed, at times, to be Europeans, Graeco-Romans, Christians and enlightened people.

They are fleeing from bombs, from the destruction of their homes and from the persecutions of Isis. However, perhaps they are not the real refugees ; perhaps it is our Europe which has now lost its roots in its ancient civilization; an ageing and tired Europe, no longer producing children and  unable to recognize as its own the sons of another part of the world; perhaps it is Europe which is a refugee,  lost, without a homeland, without a landing at which to dock, without a future.

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”(Mt 21,43)

These words of the Lord are already happening.  The roots of the tree which does not bear good fruit for everyone are hewn out; freedom is taken from those who know not how to share with others;  the Gospel is taken away from whomever turns it into privileges and goods to be traded with power.  Europe of the universities and cathedrals is, through its own fault, reduced to being a hospice for the old, its nations are at “war” one against another, its borders about to give way under the weight of the dignity of those tired of declarations of principle and have turned their rags into banners and their poor tools into barricades.  Perhaps we need another people who can make the European vineyards flourish, who can reconstruct a lost civilization.  A European civilization which has become an idolater of itself, full of “golden calves” , because the word of true democracy has vanished, the word of the great Western philosophy and the Word of God has also vanished, the Word of God which creates a healthy crisis in you and reminds you about the very heart of your essence, which is to share the gifts of God.

Faced with this true and proper  “European sin”, perhaps the Bishop of Rome, a voice crying out in the wilderness, has been sent by God as the new Moses:”With that, the LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ I see how stiff-necked this people is,” continued the LORD to Moses. “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

Faced with sin, God said to Moses, go and tell them  I will destroy them. The God of Jesus Christ is certainly not wrathful or vengeful, but he will not make compromises with our evil, dissociating himself from a Europe which is no longer itself.  Francis by his example and his appeals, is destroying the old tables of an unjust and discriminatory law, he hurls them to the ground and he does so in the name of God to make the  “European sinners” realize they are making a mistake;  to destroy evil is the beginning of forgiveness and reconciliation. This European sin is a serious thing; the tables of the law no longer exist, they have been destroyed together with the golden calves; Francis is denouncing the gravity of this sin in order to free Europe from its sin. We ask Europe to find the courage (and it is still not too late) to welcome the second tables of the law, this time, as Jesus reminds us,  no longer written on stone, i.e. on the frontispieces of the palaces of power, on the shields of armies, on the constitutional charters but on tablets that are the hearts of flesh of all European citizens.  God has forgiven you, old Europe; we ask you to start being yourself once again; never again a vanished dream, an illusion, a disappointment.   We are awaiting  proof of this, praying and loving you still.


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Pope Francis, true witness of the Joy of the Gospel

22nd February, the Church is celebrating the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The Chair marks the primatial role of Peter in the Apostolic College  when Jesus assigned him the task of  “feeding” his flock. Today, on this Chair sits Pope Francis and it is shining with a special light, allowing us to catch sight of the holy Spirit at work in the Church.

Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’ e Amoris Laetitia.   Joy, Praise, Delight. The very names of the documents of the Pope’s teaching  enable us to understand clearly the faith in God and trust in men which live in Francis’s priestly heart.  Biblical joy erupts powerfully:  “I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” A joy which came into the world and is not reserved only for an exclusive club.

Those who speak always and only of  “doctrine” are sad Christians and cannot be good witnesses of the Gospel which, in regard to witnesses, speaks thus of John:” the disciple beloved of Jesus”. The disciples must be taught first and foremost with love, by loving them, welcoming them just as they are,  walking along a stretch of road with them, “infecting them” with a coherent testimony of Christian life.

If we don’t: “stop seeking those personal or communal niches which enable us to maintain a distance from the issue of human drama”(AL) we will be unable to understand the “drama” of the Kerygma;  the Kerygma isn’t doctrine but drama. Announcing the Gospel without personal involvement is not only a useless illusion, it is also counterproductive.  Without the odour of his sheep, the Shepherd is no longer a shepherd and becomes a wolf, smelling only of incense and ink and no longer has the shepherd’s dirty garments but robes of Constantinian memory and so the sheep flee from Him.

«No one has seen God at any time but the one and only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him». Unless he is the God who makes himself known through the Word Incarnate of the Son of Man, this God is not the Christian God but a mere concept or even an ideological instrument who says nothing to our hearts.  God’s people need Shepherds who warm their hearts not Instructions for Use. After all,  warm hearts are like clay, more malleable and gradually masterpieces emerge; hearts full of instructions for use are beautiful on the outside but do not beat within and cannot be shaped in any way whatsoever.

At times not only do we not want to make the effort to get to know the God of Jesus Christ, but often not even Man; man is a mixture of mud and Spirit. The mud is an important thing; it is the sweat we see every day in our streets;  it is the blood that so many families spill to reach the end of the month with dignity; it is the “marvellous complexity” of life. The Spirit needs this mud, the Church needs it, we all need it; in order never to forget that All is Grace.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God”.  In a certain sense, we are not born Sons of God but become them; we become them by welcoming Jesus and imitating his life of love, which are the beatitudes.  We also gradually become a family; and when we are unable to for many reasons, the people remain, forever, the image and likeness of God.

Often we waste too much energy fighting evil; “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”. To receive the love of God and then manifest it immediately to those we meet, simply, with joy and unconditionally, like a secret of the heart. To love unconditionally.  Many times in the countryside, we have seen the light expanding gradually at dawn and the darkness fleeing from the sunlight. It is only light which overcomes the darkness, because it overpowers it, the law can sanction it but no more than that.

The Magisterium of Pope Francis is a “perilous” light; it is enough to go to a parish and talk to the people to experience how people feel respected, loved and encouraged by His words and His example.  We can almost feel the fatherhood and motherhood of the Church physically.

A testimony, that of Pope Francis, of life, fidelity to the Gospel and to the Tradition of the Church (not to the precepts of men). A faith which is coherent with honesty, sobriety, justice and charity and which knows how to transmit the joy of meeting the Resurrected Christ to the new generations.

The Spirit summons us to an original and ever new identity to which we must abandon ourselves with faith.  The Spirit tells us that Jesus Christ isn’t the guardian of the fort,  he’s not a point of reference of the past, he is not a footrest for every egotism, even ecclesial, but a guarantee for the future.

We know very well that there is no future without memory of the past. Our memory, however, cannot exist of professions of faith proclaimed with a sword in hand, with the tendency to exclude the weakest. The unity of the Church cannot be maintained by a criterion of egotism and the desire to raise barriers, by widening the “the walls of Jericho” even more.

The language of Christianity is a universal language; it is a language of unity but not uniformity; The Spirit teaches us to speak this universal language every day of our lives.


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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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One died for all: the Ecumenical Path and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This year marks 500 years since the Lutheran Reformation. At the end of October, Pope Francis went to Lund in Sweden to commemorate this important anniversary together with the World Lutheran Federation. In an interview with the Swedish Jesuit, Ulf Johnsson, published in the journal “CiviltàCattolica”, Pope Francis highlights the positive aspects of the Reformation, underlining in particular two words. “Scripture”,because Luther was the first to translate the Bible into the vernacular language and, said the Pope “ took a great step by putting the Word of God into the hands of the people”.  The other word is “reform”:“At the beginning, Luther’s was a gesture of reform at a difficult time for the Church”, added the Pope.  The Bishop of Rome underlined that Ecumenism must be a continuous “moving ahead, walking together! We must not stay closed in a rigid perspective because there is no possibility for reform in this”.

The Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity has done excellent work during these years in order to reach this commemoration together. Its report, “ From Conflict to Communion”  states that “both the traditions approach this anniversary in an ecumenical age, with the achievements of fifty years of active dialogue behind them and a renewed understanding of their history and theology”.Separating the controversial aspects, from the theological progress of the Reform, the Catholics gather the stimuli of Luther for the Church of today, recognizing him as a “witness of the Gospel” (From Conflict to Communion n. 29). For this reason, after many centuries of – even bloody – conflict, today, in 2017 for the first time in their history,  Lutheran and Catholic Christians will commemorate the inception of the Reform together.

Even with our Orthodox brothers, the path towards unity is living an historical Spring. In this new climate and with such concrete steps we are living the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity chosen for this year: “The love of Christ compels us towards reconciliation” (see 2 Corinthians 5, 14-20). This verse summarizes the text of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the reference chosen for Common Prayer. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the  Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches have reflected and prayed together on these verses in order to get ready for these days – in particular – and the entire year of common prayer. The traditional days for living the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are customarily from the 18th to the 25th January, the week  chosen and desired, since 1980, by Reverend Paul Watson because it included the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle and that of the Conversion of Saint Paul. No-one missed the symbolic force of this reference to the Apostles.  Peter was the first to profess his faith and Paul spread faith to the boundaries of the world.

We entrust this important week and the entire Ecumenical Path to Peter;  hewas a weak man who betrayed the Lord at the most important time, but it was because of the sincerity, the depth, the complete selflessness of his love thatthe Risen Christentrusted him to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith.

Let us entrust ourselves also to Paul; in the past he had been a violent persecutor of Christians but he experienced the power of Christ’s tendernessand felt himself to be loved by Him right from his mother’s breast.

To love and to feel loved is the fundamental ecumenical choice which overcomes any weakness and relativizes all historical wounds, in a path towards complete unity which surely has more future than past.

Eight days

The text of 2 Corinthians 5, 14-20, scans the Eight Days of Prayer, where some of the theological themes of the individual verses are developed, as follows:

First

Day:

  Onedied for all
Second

Day:

  No longer live for oneself
Third

Day:

  No longer evaluate anyone with the criteria of this world
Fourth

Day:

  Old things  have passed
Fifth

Day:

  Everything is new
Sixth

Day:

  God has reconciled the world with him
Seventh

Day:

  Annunciation of the reconciliation
Eighth

Day:

  Reconcile yourself with God