O Mary, our Mother

 

O Mary, blessed Virgin,
You bore the Son of God in your womb,
waiting for nine months
before you could gaze at His face.

O Mary, sweetest Mother,
You waited for three long days
amid heart-breaking grief
before you heard the overjoying news
of Jesus’ resurrection.

What terrible pain did you face?
What suffering did you endure?
What a strength did you show us!

You exposed yourself to shame
when you decided to embrace God’s plan of love for humankind
by the message of an angel.

You had to flee to Egypt, when king Herod tried to kill your baby Child.
You entrusted to God all those things
that were not so easy to understand,
storing them up in your heart,
with unfailing faith.

You followed Jesus
for every step of the way,
till that dreadful day,
when you saw Him hanging on a cross
dying and being buried.
You stood under the cross with steadfast faith.
From that throne of pain your Son asked you to be mother of John
and by that disciple you became mother of us all.
From the cross the body of Jesus was handed to you,
The same body that you, as a young mother, hold in your arms so many times.

Dear Mary, how much pain did you endure to be the mother of my Saviour!
Dear Mother, I want to take you in my home as well.

O Mary, Woman of true Hope,
you kept vigil, waiting for the new dawn of the Resurrection.
O Mary, Woman of Faith,
intercede for me;
teach me how to face every trial
through faith in your Risen Son;
show me how to put all my trust in God.

Amen.

Second Sunday of Easter – … And Thomas replied: «My Lord and my God! »

 

… And Thomas replied: «My Lord and my God! »

(Jn 20:28)

 

“The doors were closed in the room where the disciples were” (Jn 20: 19).

The disciples are still shocked and feel lost: after they have shared the last three years of their life with Jesus, He died of a cruel death and now He is not with them anymore. Moreover, He is not in the tomb either.

Has He risen, as He had said?

Mary Magdalen, who was weeping helplessly, is now full of joy: she came back from the empty tomb, saying that, yes, she saw Jesus. He has risen from the dead.

It is the evening of that same day, but the disciples are still full of fear and closed in that house as inside a tomb.

But suddenly “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them: «Peace be with you»” (Jn 20:19).  As soon as He greets the disciples, He shows them the holes in his hands and his pierced side, so that they can recognise Him. He does not accuse, nor rebuke them. In his heart there is only joy and peace.

The wounds of his Passion have now become the precious seals of his Love… a Love that reigns victorious over death!

The disciples, looking at his wounded hands, recognise the same hands that touched gently, healed and freed so many people. And through that pierced side, they now can catch a glimpse of his heart, his divine mercy!

Their joy is brought to its fullness.

Only Thomas was not there. When he comes back, the disciples tell him about Jesus. But he is not happy with their testimony. He wants to experience it personally. He seeks for a personal encounter with his Master.

And then, eight days later, the Lord appears again. He shows Thomas his wounds: «Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe» (Jn 20: 27).

The resurrection has not closed the holes caused by the nails, and it has not healed the wound on Jesus’ side. Those signs left on his risen body are the glory of God, God’s love brought to the extreme point.

Therefore, those wounds will remain open for ever.

The Gospel does not say if Thomas put his finger on Jesus’ side or not. What we know for sure is that this experience touched the disciple so deeply, that he exclaimed: «My Lord and my God! » (Jn 20: 28).

His eyes, his sight led him to make his own profession of faith. He sees, he believes, and through those wounds he recognises Jesus’ features, the Lord’s love for him.

What about you, what about me?

«You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe» (Jn 20: 29)

This beatitude is addressed to each of us.

“You did not see him, yet you love him” (1 Pt 1:8), through the power of the Holy Spirit and thanks to the words of many witnesses (including St. Thomas!), “and so you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described”. (1 Pt 1:8)

This is the real Joy that we wish you could experience in abundance!

Christ, my hope, has risen!

Christ, my hope, has risen

Alleluia!

 

“God has raised him to life, and allowed him to be seen by certain witnesses. Now, we are those witnesses”

(cfr. Acts 10:40-41)

 

It was very early on that Sunday morning, and still dark.
Mary Magdalene hastened to the sepulchre, but, to her great shock, the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. So she immediately ran back, even faster, to tell the disciples what she had seen.

It is still dark, they still do not see.
But darkness is gradually turning into light, as the shadows of death are dispelled by the bright dawn of resurrection!

Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, they are all running: they all hurry to Jesus’ sepulchre and back again: even that place of grief will become a place of indescribable joy and awe. The place where we expect to find just the stench of death, becomes the place from where the perfume of the Gospel is spread to the whole world.

“Till this moment, they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9).

Run Peter, run! You will understand, you will see as clearly as in the sunlight. Jesus has risen indeed, as He had said!

Lord Jesus, I feel the urge to run as well.
Running to that sepulchre, bringing my regret for having betrayed You one more time.
Yes, because I was not there, when You were crucified.
I was not there, when You died.
I left your lifeless body nailed on the cross, and I could not bring myself to ask it to Pilate.
I did not take care of you, arranging your burial.
And, what’s more, I did not watch over the tomb, so that anybody dared to steal your defenceless body.
Will You forgive me once again, my Lord?

Run, run as fast as you can, because you still do not realise what He has prepared for you.
Run towards the greatest joy: Jesus has risen indeed!
And all your sin, fear, cowardice, unfaithfulness, weakness, are reduced to dust in the burning fire of his LOVE, by his holy Passion, death and Resurrection!

 

Rejoice, then, and be glad, because such God is our God!

 

Prayer of entrustment

 

O God, You are Ground and I am the seed.

You are the Branch and I am the leaf.

You are the Stem that gives me a chance to blossom.

You are the Stick and I am lame.

You are the Light that enlightens my darkness.

You are the Water in my dry land.

You are the Doctor, who heals my wounds.

You are the Hope that wins my discouragement.

You are the Courage in my doubts.

 You are the Strength and I am tired.

O God, you are the Risen One who gives me new life.

You are the Almighty and I am your creature.

You are the Lord who fills my emptiness.

O God, you are the Love and I am loved by You.

Amen

Holy Week – 3. Jesus lies in the tomb

HOLY SATURDAY

Jesus’ body lies in the tomb

 

The silence!

There is silence upon the earth today!

Even God seems to be absent.

And Jesus, who was sent to speak about His father and to show us His love, is dead. Jesus is now closed into a grave and a big stone is rolled across the entrance of the tomb.
God the Father seemed a bystander of His Son’s death, doing nothing to avoid it.
Jesus’ disciples have abandoned Him: one of them has betrayed Him; one of His best friends has denied Him and the remaining ones are scattered.

Many years following Jesus.
A lot of days listening to His doctrine.
So countless times seeing the sick healed and even some dead risen by the power of His hand.

And now, Jesus, were you not able to do the same for yourself? You gave healing and salvation to others, but not to Yourself. You knew the evil plotting, You could have spoken to Your disciples in order to have Your life saved, but You, Jesus, didn’t want to do it.
You preferred to lose your life.

The silence!

The circumstances of our present time remember us what the first community faced: today the whole earth is enveloped in a strange quietness as well.

In the calm that fills our cities, our streets, where are You, Lord?
Can it ever be true that You, o God, are absent?
Can it ever be possible that a virus is stronger than You, Jesus?

For long years we went to the Church and listened to Your words.
Many times we saw the wonderful deeds You work in the human lives, but now, diseases and death seem to win.

How are you working, o God?
Why don’t You show Your power?

Where are You, o Lord?
Are You absent, dead?

No!

Some small voice inside whispers to me: “Hope, my soul, do not lose your faith, Jesus will rise from the dead as He said. Believe in Him! He will bring us all with Him. He will make all things new, He will draw life from death and joy from sorrow, even in this present time”.

“Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? – said the angel – He is not here; He has risen.” (cfr. Lk 24:5-6)

“I will turn their mourning into joy. I will console them, give gladness for grief” (Jer 31: 13)

“Hope in Him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!” (Ps 26:14)

Prayer for times of trouble

 

Lord Jesus,
although You are God, You came among men,
sharing our human nature.

Lord Jesus,
You met people overwhelmed by illnesses and sins:
You Knew what suffering means.

You accepted to die a cruel and violent death:
You understood what pain is.

We beg You, o Lord, give
strength to those who are weak;
peace to those who are upset;
courage to those who are worried;
quietness to those who are scared.

Give me, o Lord,
to know for certain that You are very close to me;
that You walk on my own path;
that You will neither abandon nor forget me.

Amen.

Holy week – 2. Jesus is left alone

 

“You all will lose faith in me this night” (Mt 26:31)

 

JESUS IS LEFT ALONE

 

“When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)

 

In this passage of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking about his second coming, the one we are waiting for, the one in which each of us will be involved.

And what about his first coming? Sadly, when the Son of God came, He did not find faith on earth, but He was betrayed by the chosen people of God, Israel, who were supposed to recognise him as the Messiah. Another betrayal was also executed by the political authority of that time, Pontius Pilate, who was supposed to judge Him righteously and not to condemn innocent blood. And, worst of all, He was betrayed, disowned and abandoned by his closest friends, the disciples, those who knew Him more than anybody else.

“You all will lose faith in me this night” (Mt 26:31). This night is the night of the last supper, the night of Judas’ betrayal, the arrest, Peter’s denial. The night in which Jesus is left alone.

Although He knew that all these things were going to happen, He wanted to celebrate the Passover with his disciples. During that last supper, He gave them the total gift of Himself: his body and blood became the new Covenant between God and men, forever. The institution of the Eucharist shows the meaning of what is going to happen next: that same precious body and blood will be offered on the altar of the cross.

Why did He do that? He knew that everybody would have forsaken him, just few hours later. The answer is that God’s love surpasses any human understanding.

And, what’s more, Jesus still wants his disciples to stay with Him: He brings them to a small estate called Gethsemane, where the most bitter hours of his life will begin. He takes Peter, John and James with Him, but they are not going to contemplate his glory this time, as it happened on Mount Tabor. They are called to stay awake with Him and pray. Jesus is facing all his human weakness and anguish, and He does not keep it secret: “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death” (Mt 26:38). He does not conceal the innermost feelings of his hteart. No man who is close to death likes to be left alone. Everybody desires to be surrounded by the dearest relatives or friends. We need to feel that our loved ones are with us, feel the touch of their hands. And Jesus too, even though He is deeply immersed in the prayer to his Father, He comes back to the disciples three times, to seek their friendly help, the support of their prayer. But He finds them asleep. They do not realise what kind of sufferings He is enduring.

He is left alone in the middle of the battle between his spirit, who is willing, and the human nature, that is weak. And, at the end, love triumphs again: “My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt 26:42)

Dear friends, let us live this holy Triduum of our Lord’s Passion looking at Him, looking at how He endured all these sufferings just for love. And let us reflect upon Jesus’ inmost wish to find each of us awake, praying and surrounding Him with our love. Let us remain with Him, keeping vigil, as He follows the path of suffering that leads to the cross.

 

Dear Jesus, I have always looked at how much I need You,
but I had never thought that, in the most bitter hour of your agony,
You were looking for me.
You know I will betray, disown, desert You.
Yet You still ask me not to leave You alone,
and to love You back with my poor, little love.

Sweet Jesus, where do you need me to be?
What do You need me to do in the darkest night of this present time?
Where are You, so that I can make You feel my loving care?
So many brothers and sisters are dying alone in hospitals, because of this dreadful pandemic,
without the consoling presence of their loved ones.
Are You there, Lord Jesus?
If I am a doctor, a nurse, a care giver, help me to stay there with You, and fill with my love your last hours.
Whoever am I, help me to keep vigil, praying for this people as if I were there with them.

Thank You, Lord, for sharing the lot of humankind with us.
Thank You, Lord, for giving us new life, new hope and the whole Eternity!
Amen.

 

Letter from the Sisters Minor of Saint Francis

Dear brothers and sisters,

May the lord give you peace!

All the Christianity throughout the world is living a very particular Lenten season. Masses are closed to public in many Countries and here in England as well.

But the Lord Jesus is with us, He has promised to be with us, always! He will never leave us alone, nor will He deprive us of His Holy Spirit.

This time looks like an extended Holy Saturday, the only day of the liturgical year in which no Masses are celebrated… the silence of the holy sepulchre fills the air and everything is still. Jesus lies dead in the tomb. But death has not the last word over Him! Love overcomes death.

What kind of love is it? God’s unconditional, unexpected, immeasurable love for each of us.

So let us love God and love one another, let us pray and support one another in this difficult time.

May God bless you all and give you His peace!

Sisters Minor of Saint Francis

Holy week – 1. Palm Sunday

  • First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7
  • Responsorial Psalm: Ps 21
  • Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
  • Gospel: Matthew 26:14-27:66

This Sunday we remember Jesus as He makes His entrance in Jerusalem, the Holy City.

The crowd is overjoyed to see Him: they lay down their cloaks on the ground and wave branches of palm to welcome Him.
The air is filled with shouts of joy, and the Scriptures are fulfilled:

“Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!
See now, your king comes to you;
He is victorious, he is triumphant,
Humble and riding on a donkey” (Zc 9:9)

This is our king, meek and humble as no king has ever been. And so, Jerusalem opens its gates to Jesus, acclaimed as the Son of David, God’s promise for the people of Israel, the One who He Himself has sent.

O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors, let Him enter, the king of glory” (Ps 23:7)

These ancient doors are opened wide for Him. Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem definitely seals His own commitment for our salvation.
He will not turn back, He will not change His mind, because His love for us is unchangeable. He will not go through those gates again. He choses to have them closed behind Him. He will find suffering and death in that place He loves so much.

He will soon listen to that same crowd crying aloud “Crucify him!”, instead of “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. That same people will turn against Him, misled by Chief Priests. One of His dearest friends will betray Him, while the other ones will abandon Him and run away.

This Sunday seals the beginning of the Holy Week: infact, during the Mass, the Gospel of Jesus’ Passion is read as well.

What an unusual Holy Week we are about to live this year! There are no public celebrations, no gatherings, and each of us is going to spend it at home. But nothing can separate us from God’s presence. We still have the chance to live this Holy Week in a profound way: are you ready?

Get ready to go through those gates with Jesus, to enter in Jerusalem, amid the crowd waving palm branches. Try to make your way through the people and follow Jesus with your gaze: look at what He does, listen to the sound of His voice, how He speaks, feel His breath, His tiredness, His sorrow, His sufferings. Stand up under the cross, beside Mary and John, hold His sweetest body in your arms, and try to remember the road that leads to the sepulchre. Listen to the silence of that terrible night, where all the hopes of humankind are closed in the darkness of His tomb, sealed with a stone.

If you want to live this Holy Week in this way, we suggest you to take the Bible every day and read a passage of Jesus’ Passion. Meditate over it, pray, try to get into these scenes. Try to stay close to Jesus, don’t lose sight of His eyes: where is He looking at? What is He doing? Fix your eyes on Him.

Do you want to start this journey with Him? Shall you pass through the gates? We obviously cannot go back to two thousand years ago… so which kind of gates are we talking about?

O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors, let Him enter, the king of glory” (Ps 23:7)

There are other gates that our Lord Jesus, the king of glory, wishes to enter through today. If you want, you can open the gates of your heart, of your soul, and let Him enter. He will not change His mind, He will not turn back to get out. Let Him enter, the king of glory, Jesus, your Saviour. Let Him speak to you, let Him tell you about His passion, let Him show you why did He face all these sufferings for you: He has already opened the gates of His heart for you.