Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Holy Advent to all the Religious in South Sudan

Advent 2017

If we look at the etymology of the word Advent we notice how the true meaning is not simply "coming" but rather "coming towards". This is not a superficial difference because it brings in itself the name of God. The name of God which is his identity. We know what it means to know the name in the culture where God was incarnate. God has revealed his name to Moses and now is coming towards us to reveal his face: Jesus is the countenance of God:


8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough/satisfied for us."
9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. [Jn 14, 8-10]


The desire of Philip is to see the Father, he does not need anything else, this is enough, he will be satisfied. [Q1]. We shall also notice that Philip is not talking only for himself, he does not say "and I will be satisfied". The experience of God is not only personal, it is also an experience of the community, of the "ecclesia". It means that the community is satisfied when they are beneficiaries of one relationship. Philip has the desire to see the Father, not God. Jesus himself will underline very clearly this concept in Jn 20, 17

"I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God".

God is God, but has revealed himself as Father and he did it by sending his Son towards us. Only a son/Son can show the Father. We cannot claim to know God as such, we know Gos as much as Jesus has revelaed him/her/it… to us and Jesus revealed us a Father.

In these last chapter of John Jesus is finally revealing the Father, a Father who has a house were each and everyone is welcome. Here Jesus reveals that in the house of his Father - the image he himself applied to the temple, which however ceases to be such as a result of his coming and purification (cf. Jn 2,13-17) - there are many dwellings, there is room for many. The paternity of God is not only fatherhood to the Son, Jesus, but also to his disciples, so the house of God can accommodate them, can be their home as it is for Jesus: a reception that does not require merit, but free reception, Father, who welcomes all the children with the same love. Jesus leaves, visibly leaving his disciples, but "passed from this world to the Father" (cf. Jn 13: 1), he prepares rooms for us, opening the way of access to the affiliation with God the Father.


But here, Thomas, the "twin" disciple (Dídymos: 11,16; 20,24; 21,2) of each of us, addresses an objection to Jesus: "Lord, we do not know where you are to go; how can we know the way?" For Thomas, as it is for us, it is certainly not easy to understand that death itself, as an act of love, an action of not selfishly preserving life, but of giving it for the love of others, it is the way, the way to live with Jesus in God. Jesus then does not answer the question directly ("Where are you going?"), But he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me".


Wonderful and unheard words on a man's mouth! Jesus uses the metaphor of the path to say:

I myself am the way to go to the Father;

I myself am the truth as the knowledge of the Father;

I myself am eternal life, life forever as a gift from the Father "


The incarnation is all this, it is the Way of God, it the Truth of God it is the Life come which has come to us. The invisible God made visible to us (cfr Col 1,15ss).


We therefore believe in God because Jesus has revealed the Father to us and only through him we go to the Father. We do not believe in Jesus because we believe in God, it is viceversa. Our faith, as christians, begin there:

(But) when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to son ship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, and Father." So you are no longer a slave, but God's child… [Gal 4,4-6].

Advent is just the beginning of all of this and it should inspire in us one question, one very simple question: Why did God, or better, why did the second Person of the holy Trinity was incarnate? Why did he came towards us?


According to a long tradition in the Church God was incarnate to redeem men from their sins. During the night of the Pasqual Vigil we sing, before the liturgy of the Word begins "Felix Culpa", that means, "Happy Fault". Following this tradition the sin "obliged" God to incarnate to save his creatures and he did it our of love. Yet, there is also a second understanding of the incarnation of Christ. Since ever, God intended to incarnate, and the whole of the creation was made for this purpose, everything was created for the incarnation of Christ so that God could have shared his love with his creatures. Incarnation is not a consequence of the sin, but because of the Love of God. He created because he wanted to share his love and incarnation has always been in his mind even before sin. Redemption came because of sin, not incarnation. the incarnation is the model for the Creation, the whole universe is for Christ and Christ for the Universe. Incarnation is greater than redemption therefore redemption cannot force incarnation. The understanding of the incarnation as a matter of pure love and desire to share this love refuse an idea of sin-centered view.  Christ is the beginning, middle and end of the creation and he is at the centre of the Universe as the reason for its existence. We read in fact:

"for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible […] all things were created through him and for him" [Col 1,16].


The reason for incarnation is Love. The love of God, the infinite love God wanted to share it with someone who could love him back as he – the Father – loves. Christ was the only capable and therefore he created everything to let Christ come into existence as incarnate. No soul, that is ever created, will be able to love the Father as the Christ did, but it is for very same reason and everlasting desire of the Father that Jesus leaves us a new commandment:

"you must love one another as I have loved you". [Jn 13, 34-35].


If mankind had not sin Christ would still have come, since this was predetermined from all eternity in the mind of God as the supreme manifestation of his love. The incarnation is centered in love and not on sin. At some point God chooses to leave is "isolation" and create someone to love, Christ and in order to have Christ he created all things for love, so that all could love Him through Christ.


Important consequence is that what incarnation shows us is not the need of redemption, but the need to love for each one of us. Not only to be loved, but to Love and share this love. The Love of God is entirely free and since the beginning it embraces our own limitation, which is the incapacity to love as God loves simply because we are not love. From here the necessity to be entirely united to the Christ. If in nature we cannot love as God loves, we can by the grace. Where nature is limited grace is infinite. This is why we have been given the Way, the Life, the Truth; the Word of God. The Word of God must find place in us so that we can be satisfied and can say with Philip "show us the Father".


Seeking the face of God has always been the greatest desire of the human kind and it is well said by St. Augustine who wrote:

"You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you" .


The first step to re-animate this desire is understanding and believing that we need to leave beyond our self-centeredness and step into the sacredness of the other (cfr. Evangelii Gaudium, 105). Pope Francis reminds us that it is the duty of every consecrated person to seek the true God in the sequela Christi. The vows we have promised to live are this call for us, to make us every day more similar to Christ which is the Love that the Father desires and for which has created all things. By not living our vows and not becoming like Christ, alter Christus, we nullify the plan of the Creation. As consecrated persons we are called to see the signs of God in everyday life. Seeking God's face requires perseverance! With the eyes of faith in a world which ignores his presence and to continue to offer that world Christ's life of chastity, poverty and obedience as a credible and trustworthy sign.


It follows that evangelical counsels are, above all, a gift of the Holy Trinity. Consecrated life proclaims what the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, brings about his love, goodness and beauty (Vita Consecrata 20). As God the Father was made visible in Jesus his Christ so our life as consecrated people must make visible the marvels brought by God amongst the human family, we are witnesses not with our words, but by way of our life. We shall all sing the song of Symeon the new Theologian:

I see the beauty of your grace,

I contemplate its radiance,

I reflect its light: I am caught up by ineffable splendor;

I am taken outside myself as I think of myself;

I see how I was and what I have become.

O wonder, I am vigilant, I am full of respect for myself, of reverence and fear

as if I were before you.

I do not know what to do, not know where to sit or where to go,

where to put these members which are yours,

in what deeds in what works shall I use them,

this amazing divine marvels.


Consecrate life become a tangible sign of the Trinity in history. As God was made tangible in Christ as John said:


1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our joy complete. [1Jn 1-4]


Does our life bring joy to others? Not because of we say to them, but because the way we live.


God in his advent, has come towards us and he has called us to go towards others bringing them what he has brought to us: he made us know the Father, by the way of our life we shall made him known too.

·       Chastity is a reflection of the infinity love of God which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit (Rom 5,5) which respond of love for God and our brothers and sisters.

·       Poverty proclaims God as the only treasure. It is the total gift of ourselves as the gift of the three Divine persons that give to one another. This exchange of love within the Holy Trinity overflows into the creation to make it able to receive the Incarnate Christ.

·       Obedience shows the liberating beauty of dependence, which is a filial attitude, the behavior of the son and of the servant and shows the harmony amongst the three people of the Holy Trinity.


This time of Advent could really be the time, for each one of us,

·       to renew our life

·       to renew the desire to see the Father in our brothers and sisters

·       to renew our desire to welcome He who comes towards us

·       to renew the desire to go towards others

·       to renew our capacity to bring evangelical joy

·       to eliminate everything that is against Chastity, and Poverty and Obedience

·       to eliminate anything which is between me and God


Where shall we start for all this? Consecrated life should be nourished from the wellspring of a sound and deep spirituality! this is the primary requirement inscribed in the very essence of consecrated life as consecrated people should aspire, more than anyone else to the perfection of charity. The way is the way of Christ and with Paul we shall all say:

Indeed I count everything as a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord […] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. [Phil 3, 8.10].

Let's make Advent a time to GIVE UP whatever impeeds us to make of Jesus Chrsit and the love of the Father in the Spirit our only desire, a desire that come twards us.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Pope prays for South Sudan

Pope Prays for South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo

Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica

Pope Francis on November 23, 2017, offered prayers for South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo during services at the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica.

The Holy Father's Commentary

This evening, in prayer, we want to sow seeds of peace in the lands of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in all lands devastated by war. I had already decided to visit South Sudan, but it did not prove possible. Yet we know that prayer is more important because it is more powerful: prayer works by the power of God, for whom nothing is impossible.

For this reason, I offer heartfelt thanks to all those who planned this vigil and worked so hard to make it happen.


"The risen Christ invites us, alleluia!" These words of the song in Swahili accompanied the entrance procession, together with some images from the two countries for which we especially pray. As Christians, we believe and know that peace is possible because Jesus is risen. He gives us the Holy Spirit, whom we have invoked.

As Saint Paul reminded us shortly ago, Jesus Christ "is our peace" (Eph 2:14). On the cross, he took upon himself all the evil of the world, including the sins that spawn and fuel wars: pride, greed, lust for power, lies… Jesus conquered all this by his resurrection. Appearing in the midst of his friends, he says: "Peace be with you (Jn 20:19.21.26). He repeats those same words to us this evening: "Peace be with you!"

Without you, Lord, our prayer would be in vain, and our hope for peace an illusion. But you

are alive. You are at work for us and with us. You are our peace!

May the risen Lord break down the walls of hostility that today divide brothers and sisters, especially in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

May he comfort those women who are the victims of violence in war zones and throughout the world.


May he protect children who suffer from conflicts in which they have no part, but which rob them of their childhood and at times of life itself. How hypocritical it is to deny the mass murder of women and children! Here war shows its most horrid face.

May the Lord help all the little ones and the poor of our world to continue to believe and trust that the kingdom of God is at hand, in our midst, and is "justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17). May he sustain all those who day by day strive to combat evil with good, and with words and deeds of fraternity, respect, encounter, and solidarity.

May the Lord strengthen in government officials and all leaders a spirit which is noble, upright, steadfast and courageous in seeking peace through dialogue and negotiation.

May the Lord enable all of us to be peacemakers wherever we find ourselves, in our families, in school, at work, in the community, in every setting. "Let us wash the feet" of one another, in imitation of our Master and Lord. To him be glory and praise, now and forever. Amen

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Pope Francis Message for Missionary Day 2017

"I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed. I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord." (Pope Francis' message, 5)




The following is the Holy Father Francis' Message for the 91st World Missionary Day, to be celebrated on Sunday 22 October 2017.


Message of the Holy Father

Mission at the heart of the Christian faith


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


Once again this year, World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, "the very first and greatest evangelizer" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Day invites us to reflect anew on the mission at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away. So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?


Mission and the transformative power of the Gospel of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life


1. The Church's mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offers new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is the Way who invites us to follow him with confidence and courage. In following Jesus as our Way, we experience Truth and receive his Life, which is fullness of communion with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. That life sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love.


2. God the Father desires this existential transformation of his sons and daughters, a transformation that finds expression in worship in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4:23-24), through a life guided by the Holy Spirit in imitation of Jesus the Son to the glory of God the Father. "The glory of God is the living man" (IRENAEUS, Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7). The preaching of the Gospel thus becomes a vital and effective word that accomplishes what it proclaims (cf. Is 55:10-11): Jesus Christ, who constantly takes flesh in every human situation (cf. Jn 1:14).


Mission and the kairos of Christ


3. The Church's mission, then, is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching. Many movements throughout the world inspire high ideals or ways to live a meaningful life. Through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the kairos, the favourable time of salvation. Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth. "His resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force" (Evangelii Gaudium, 276).


4. Let us never forget that "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1). The Gospel is a Person who continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. Through Baptism, the Gospel becomes a source of new life, freed of the dominion of sin, enlightened and transformed by the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, it becomes a fortifying anointing that, through the same Spirit, points out new ways and strategies for witness and accompaniment. Through the Eucharist, it becomes food for new life, a "medicine of immortality" (IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, Ad Ephesios, 20, 2).


5. The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere. Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel. I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed. I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord. For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage. We can think too of countless testimonies to how the Gospel helps to overcome narrowness, conflict, racism, tribalism, and to promote everywhere, and among all, reconciliation, fraternity, and sharing.


Mission inspires a spirituality of constant exodus, pilgrimage, and exile


6. The Church's mission is enlivened by a spirituality of constant exodus. We are challenged "to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel" (Evangelii Gaudium, 20). The Church's mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice. The Church's mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the "already" and "not yet" of the Kingdom of Heaven.


7. Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom. A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, his crucified and glorious Body. That is why we should prefer "a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security" (ibid., 49).


Young people, the hope of mission


8. Young people are the hope of mission. The person of Jesus Christ and the Good News he proclaimed continue to attract many young people. They seek ways to put themselves with courage and enthusiasm at the service of humanity. "There are many young people who offer their solidarity in the face of the evils of the world and engage in various forms of militancy and volunteering... How beautiful it is to see that young people are 'street preachers', joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!" (ibid., 106). The next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in 2018 on the theme Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, represents a providential opportunity to involve young people in the shared missionary responsibility that needs their rich imagination and creativity.


The service of the Pontifical Mission Societies


9. The Pontifical Mission Societies are a precious means of awakening in every Christian community a desire to reach beyond its own confines and security in order to proclaim the Gospel to all. In them, thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone. World Mission Day, promoted by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.


Carrying out our mission with Mary, Mother of Evangelization


10. Dear brothers and sisters, in carrying out our mission, let us draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization. Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith. May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own "yes", conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time. May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death. May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman.


From the Vatican, 4 June 2017


Solemnity of Pentecost