Pentecost Sunday – … “Receive the Holy Spirit”…

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rm 5:5)

 

Each Sunday, during the Eucharistic celebration, we confess our faith in the words of the Creed.

What do we profess about the Holy Spirit?

“I believe on the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets”.

The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is the first Gift the believers received in the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had ascended to heaven.

Pentecost is regarded as the birth of the Church, which is baptised and sent all over the world to announce the Risen Lord, call to conversion and forgive sins.

“As the Father sent me, so am I sending you” (Jn 20:21).

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us to find out something more about Him:

“The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God. Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. […] When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him” (CCC 689)

After the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that, as soon as the Holy Spirit had been sent in their hearts, they would have been aware of his holy presence:

“I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept, since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you” (Jn 14: 16-17)

How can we recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit in us?

How does the Holy Spirit work in our life?

The Holy Scripture is full of the signs of the Holy Spirit, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation.

God’s Holy Spirit was already present, before the beginning of times, sweeping over the waters (Gen 1:2); He led the people of Israel from the Egyptian slavery to the freedom of the promised land, “by day in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (Ex 13:22; cfr. Ex 40: 36-38); He rested on Mount Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments; He spoke through the Prophets; John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (cfr. Lk 1:15).

In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfilled the plan of the Father’s loving goodness: through the Spirit, she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God (CCC 723).

The Holy Spirit accompanied the Lord’s mission from his baptism in the river Jordan on.

Jesus had promised his disciples to send the “Spirit of truth”, and after He was glorified He appeared to them and breathed the Holy Spirit on them (Jn 20:19-23).

St Cyril of Jerusalem depicts the Third Person of the Holy Trinity in a sublime way:

“His approach is gentle, his presence fragrant, his joke very light; rays of light and knowledge shine forth before him as He comes. He comes with the heart of a true protector; He comes to save, to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to console, to enlighten the mind.”

While St Basil the Great uses the metaphor of the sunrays:

“Even as bright and shining bodies, once touched by a ray of light falling on them, become even more glorious and themselves cast another light, so too souls that carry the Spirit, and are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and send forth grace upon others”.

 

We are these bodies, shining of God’s light! As members of the body of Christ, we join the prayer of the Church in this ancient and beautiful “Sequence of the Holy Spirit”:

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height,
Thy pure beaming radiance give:

Come, thou Father of the poor
Come, with treasures which endure,
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightful guest
Dost refreshing peace bestow:

Thou in toil our comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit Thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If Thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die;
Give us life with thee on high;
Give us joys that never end.

Amen

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter – the Holy Spirit and the circle of Love

 

Readings:

  • First reading: Acts 8:5-8.14-17
  • Psalm: 65 “Cry out with joy to God all the earth”
  • Second reading: 1Pt 3:15-18
  • Gospel: Jn 14:15-21

 

“I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever” (Jn 14:16)

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Lord’s farewell discourses that took place after the last supper. Jesus starts and ends up his speech speaking about the commandments He left to his disciples.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15); and “Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

These words seem to draw a “circle” that contains the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we are invited to join this circularity of Love: the Father in the Son, the Son in us and we in Him, and the Holy Spirit, who remains with us for ever.

Our human mind struggles to understand this “circle”, it is something that “slips from our grasp”. But, at the meantime, it sounds like an invitation to go more deeply into the fascinating mystery of the Holy Trinity.

“Oh, eternal Trinity, You are a deep Sea, into which the deeper I enter the more I find, and the more I find the more I seek; the soul cannot be satiated in Your abyss, for she continually hungers after You, the eternal Trinity, desiring to see You with light in Your Light” (St Catherine of Siena).

Which commandment does Jesus leave to his disciples? “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15: 12-13)

He loved us with a boundless love, laying down his life for each of us.

And He calls us to do the same: by this we will know if we truly love Him and if we really are his disciples.

But how can we manage to love so much? Certainly not by our own efforts.

It is the divine Love we have received that teaches us how to love!

“Christ’s love is a compelling motive” (2 Cor 5:14).

This compelling love, that moves us inwardly, is the Holy Spirit. We are temple of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of our baptism. And Jesus promised that He will pray the Heavenly Father to send the “Paraclete” (“advocate” or “defence lawyer”) to be with us for ever.

How does the Paraclete work in our lives? He is the One who guards us in our spiritual and daily battles. He is the Spirit of Truth. He upholds our cause in the Father’s court, where He defends us from the accusations of Satan, the prince of lies (cf. Zec 3:1; Jb 1:3)

As the Feast of Pentecost draws near, let us join the prayer of the Church that, in Christ, asks for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,
Come and dwell in me.
Promise of the Father, Gift of the Son,
Kindle in us the fire of your Love,
So that we can love our brethren unconditionally
Send me to inflame the earth.
Use me as You wish.
                                         Amen.

Fifth Sunday of Easter – … “Do not let your hearts be troubled”

Readings:

  • First reading: Acts 6:1-7
  • Psalm: Ps 32 – May your love be upon us, o Lord, as we place all our hope in you
  • Second reading: Pt 2:4-9

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. […] I am now going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too”. (Jn 14: 1-3)

There is a room, a place for me in heaven. There is a place for you.

There is room for the poor and the rich alike, for who is forgotten or forlorn, for the drunk and the drug-addicted… even for those who do evil, even for the murderer.

All those who have turned their back to God have still a place preserved for them in heaven. God’s Mercy is amazing! The only thing to do is to repent and ask forgiveness, to change life and return to God with all the heart. Sometimes it is not so easy. But we have the chance to do so, and his grace will help us. God leaves us free to decide whether to choose Him or not, whether to take our place in heaven or to refuse it.

As a couple, who is expecting, arrange a nice and cheery room for their child, so the Father has prepared us a place in his House, through his Son Jesus Christ.

And Jesus has worked on it with love. With all his love, with all his life indeed: through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross.

“I have ardently longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:14) – said the Master to his disciples during the last supper, on the night He was betrayed.

Our Lord’s desire to save us is far greater than our own wish to be saved.

He longed so ardently to bring us all in the Kingdom of Heaven, that He willingly underwent extreme suffering and death.

“I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too” (Jn 14:3)

These words show clearly the Lord’s loving concern for us.

He will accomplish what He has promised.

May you believe with all you heart that these words of Jesus are addressed to you.

How does heaven look like?

“What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

Our own eyes will see heaven one day.

Shall we let our place remain empty?

Shall we exclude ourselves from eternal joy, from the beatific vision of God?

 

Dear Lord,

thank you for having prepared a place for me in your Kingdom.

Thank you because it means that I have a place in your heart as well.

Help me to live my daily life keeping my eyes fixed on You,

Looking forward to the joy of seeing You face to face.

Do not let my sin, nor my own will, separate me from You,

Now and forever.

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!

 

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)

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.

 

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.