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1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.

4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”. He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, inasmuch as “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man”.

5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”. Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”. The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.

6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed “eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”. He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence”. Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”. With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”.

United by the same concern

7. These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.

8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.

9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion”. As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”.

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Never again! Never forget!

Statement of the Student Friars of the Order of Carmelites

Province of Bld. Titus Brandsma

While many supporters of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos are trying to revise history, glorifying the late dictator and dubbing his brutal and vicious martial law years as the “golden age” of our country’s economy or denying the liabilities of the family members on their role in the atrocities of those times, the dead, the disappeared, the torture victims, the poor who have been robbed of their future, and the whole country who have been stripped of its dignity, continues to call for justice and for the country, for all of us, to never forget.

But we have forgotten, and many of the young people who never experienced martial law and even those who did experience martial law seemed to have forgotten.

The Marcoses are back in power, one even trying to grab the second highest seat of the land, while we have a tyrannical president who publicly extols his family’s relationship with the late dictator and even shamelessly propagandizing the ambition of the younger Marcos for the presidency

Today, we allow ourselves to be ruled by a president who, by all indications, is more inclined in replicating the horrors of martial law rather than to address the concerns of the country such as rising inflation that leads to the rising cost of basic goods and the weakening economic power of the people; increasing number of extra-judicial killings and the rising criminality, which sadly, have implicated many police officers and other government officials who are supposed to protect the welfare of the people; and the continuing suppression, intimidation, and harassment of church people and development workers who are working to help the poor and the people in the margins.

Have we forgotten?

We, the Student Friars of the Order of Carmelites in the Philippines, celebrate the life and contemplate on the sacrifices of our Carmelite brothers and sisters – lay, religious, and priests – who offered their life for the freedom of our country from the tyrannical Marcos dictator.

We remember the Escalante Massacre of September 20, 1985 which killed 20 of our lay faithful in Escalante and injured around 30 others.Bro. Isagani Valle

We remember Bro. Isagani Valle, whose love for the poor granted him the crown of martyrdom on May 14, 1983, killed by the police in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. His bullet-ridden body was later put on public display in front of the municipal hall.

We remember Fr. Engelbert van Vilsteren who was hacked to death on January 1973 when he attempted to recover the body of a murdered teacher in one of the mountain barangays of Agusan del Sur.

We remember Fr. Jan Simon Westendorp, Sr. Henrica Berentsen of the Julie Postel Sisters and all the religious, priests and lay faithful who were martyred when, on their way to Cebu as part of their involvement with the rural missions amidst the repression of the Marcos dictatorship, their ship, M/V Doña Cassandra, sank off the coast of Camiguin on November 21, 1983.

And then there are our lay partners who were killed mercilessly for their involvement, most especially in the building of the Basic Ecclesial Communities during the Martial Law years, especially Manoling Malicay, Boy Lagurin, Loloy Algunas, and Ani Mariano.

These are but some of our brothers and sisters in the Carmelite Order – lay, priests, nuns, and brothers – who gave their lives to bring light in the darkest period of our country’s history and fight the evils of the dictatorship of Marcos. There are, of course, all those other victims of the Marcos atrocities.

Today, as we remember the declaration of the Martial Law in 1972, we are faced with the growing tyranny marked by a culture of impunity that denied justice for many victims of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and other unjust and inhuman acts.

Let us not forget and together, let us shout, “Never again to Martial Law!”


Septemper 2018

St. Elijah Student Friars Community

Order of Carmelites

Province of Bl. Titus Brandsma - Philippines

Martial Law
Activities prior General

During the World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain (16-21 Agust), our Order will celebrate the  Carmelite World Youth Day on the 17 of August as part of that worldwide youth gathering.


The Carmelite event will enable young people from Carmelite parishes, communities, schools, etc. to meet and share together the internationality and diversity of the Carmelite Order and its spirituality. It is open to all O.Carm. young people associated with our friars, nuns, affiliated congregations and lay Carmelite members.


for more info or registration, please visit our website


by Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.

Mt. 28, 18 — "Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

This text spells out our task in the present and the future. We, as members of the Church, are to carry on the mission of Christ. The end of our Rule points us towards the future. Like the innkeeper in the story of the Good Samaritan, we continue our work while keeping an eye on the horizon waiting for the Master's return.

More and more people in our western societies no longer count themselves as Christians. In some societies I suspect that the number of non-Christians and those who are actively opposed to the Catholic Church is growing. More and more children are being brought up with no sense of God. In fact, God does not enter into the thought of a number of people and is being excluded from many areas of human life. Religion is slowly being relegated to the private sphere as a personal hobby so long as it does not interfere with anyone else. Abortion is often presented now as a human right and those who are opposed are painted as enemies of women and of human progress.

Creative Fidelity

In the midst of our changing world, the primary challenge for us as individuals and as an Order is unchanging. We are called to be constantly faithful to the charism that God has given to us in trust for the Church and the world. Being faithful does not necessarily mean repeating what has gone before. Times change and so we must change our way of living and presenting the charism so that it can be an effective vehicle of evangelisation in a new era. We do not of course change the charism but we can and do change the way it is presented; we also add to it and enrich it by how we live it in our own day. We can learn a great deal from the prophet Elijah in this connection.

God speaks to us in many ways. One of these ways is through the cultural changes that our world is undergoing at present. We cannot claim to be faithful to God if we do not ponder the Scriptures but equally we cannot claim to be faithful if we do not listen to what God is saying to us from the heart of the world. A new kind of evangelisation is required for a new situation. We must seek to understand what is going on and why and then respond the best way we can. Perhaps we hide the face of Christ from some people by our tired words and tired ways. We must be careful lest we find ourselves speaking in a language of yesterday to the people of tomorrow.

All consecrated men and women "must continue to be images of Christ the Lord, fostering through prayer a profound communion of mind with him (cf Phil 2, 5¬11), so that their whole lives may be penetrated by an apostolic spirit and their apostolic work with contemplation." There can be no doubt that in the eyes of most people Carmel stands for prayer, contemplation, and the interior life. Carmelites do many different things, and that is one of our strengths, but in all these different apostolic works we are expected to express our spirituality. What we do must spring from what we are. We are most faithful to God when we are faithful to the vocation that has been given us. There is a distinction that I have always found helpful between working for God and doing God's work. We work for God in all sorts of ways and our apostolic labours may be very laudable but are they all according to the mind and heart of God? To do God's work means to do what God really wants of us. Our charism is spelled out clearly in our official documents. How do I incarnate this Carmelite vocation of living in allegiance to Jesus Christ through prayer, service and fraternity according to the inspiration of Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah?

The fundamental thrust of our lives has to do with the contemplative aspect of our charism. This does not mean that we all must become hermits but that we must be contemplatives in the midst of the different activities in which we are involved. Our prophetic and apostolic activity will naturally flow from our contemplative life. We cannot be contemplatives if we do not spend time alone with God but more than that, it is a process whereby God purifies and transforms our hearts so that we become like God. This process requires our consent to the action of God in our lives and a recognition that God works often in very human ways. The whole thrust of our spiritual tradition is about this process in which God transforms our selfishness into pure love. God will use all the ordinary events of daily life to reveal to us who and what we are. This is a very painful process and therefore it is much easier to forget about prayer and immerse ourselves in working for God while perhaps forgetting to do God's work. Am I faithful but also creative? Are we, the Carmelite family, faithful to God and yet creative, so that we can proclaim the Good news in a way that people in our own culture can actually hear it?

to be continued

by Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.


Despite the best efforts of vocation promoters, it seems that new vocations will be very few, at least for the foreseeable future, especially in the West. This will have major implications for the Church, the Order and each Province. To face up to closing houses or withdrawing from certain apostolic commitments can be very painful. However it is absolutely essential to prune the branches so that others may grow. If we do not close communities when necessary, it will mean that the men will suffer because they will have to do more and more work to cover what was done by more people in the past. Community life will also suffer. So, am I willing to let go of my apostolate and my house if the discernment of the brothers goes in that direction?

If our prayer is authentic, if it is a personal encounter with the One whom we know loves us, it will transform us from those who work for God into those who do God's work. We will begin to see people and situations no longer merely with our limited human sight but through the eyes of God. Our judgments will no longer be so conditioned by selfish considerations but our minds and hearts will be informed by the will of God. This will transform our way of being in the world. We will realise that we must plant or water the garden but only God can grant the growth.


Formation lasts at least a lifetime; we are not finished with it when we are solemnly professed. We have very good Constitutions and formation document. We have many more Carmelite resources available to us than in the past. Great progress has been made in the area of research and publishing. However, do we take the opportunities presented to us to read and reflect on this material so that we can deepen our understanding of the vocation to which we have been called?

What is formation for? It is an important ongoing process of growth. There is a need for continual Carmelite formation but we cannot be good Carmelites if we are not good human beings. There are certain basic human skills, which are required to make life in society bearable. If these have not been learned in the home environment, they must be quickly instilled at the beginning of formation. What happens when these ordinary human virtues are not learned during initial formation? Each of us has to ask ourselves whether we make community life pleasant or unpleasant for the others? There are several elements that must be borne in mind in the formation process. There is the human level, the intellectual level and the spiritual level. These elements obviously influence one another. All of these must be worked upon throughout the whole of life. These three elements are like the three legs of a stool. If one is out of balance, the whole stool is unbalanced. What about our lives? If there is an imbalance somewhere in our lives, what are we going to do about it? Formation is to help us in our becoming mature human beings, mature followers of Christ and mature Carmelites.

No one of course is perfect but hopefully all of us are on the spiritual journey. This journey requires a great deal from us because we are called to pass through the desert where we are purified and we grow to maturity in Christ. It is a great temptation to give up the journey because it is too difficult and settle down to mediocrity In the post-synodal document Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II pointed out the importance of the various phases of the formation process. He writes of the middle years that this phase can present the risk of routine and the subsequent temptation to give in to disappointment because of meagre results.

In this document it is also said, "Those in charge of formation must therefore be very familiar with the path of seeking God, so as to be able to accompany others on this journey."4 Those who know something of the path of seeking God, know that there are moments of disappointment and disillusionment, times perhaps when we feel like the Prophet Elijah who sat under a bush and had no desire to continue. (I Kings 19, 4) It is vitally important, I believe, that in the process of formation, which lasts the whole of one's Carmelite life, we should be helped to first of all be aware that darkness, disillusionment and disappointment are normal stages on the journey.

We have a profound impact on those who come to us, even if they decide not to continue walking the same path as we walk and so we have a sacred duty to give our candidates the best formation we can possibly give them. What must we do to be continually faithful to this duty? We also have a great impact on those we serve in our apostolic activities. What kind of impact do we have?

by admin



P. Giovanni Grosso (praeses)
P. Mark Attard (Mel)
P. Carlo Cicconetti (Ita)
P. Giuseppe Midili (Ita)
P. Conrad Mutizamhepo (Hib – Zim)
P. Christopher O’Donnell (Hib)
P. Aureliano Pacciolla (Neap)
P. Henricus Pidyarto (Indo)
P. Christian Körner (comm. de communicatione)
P. Miguel Norbert Ubarri (comm. de laicatu)
P. Raúl Maravi Cebrera (comm. de disciplinis et iuvenibus)
P. Desiderio Garcia Martinez (comm. de formatione)

John 13:31-35


a) Opening prayer:

Lord Jesus, help us understand the mystery of the Church as community of love. When you gave us the new commandment of love as the charter of the Church, you told us that it is the highest value. When you were about to leave your disciples, you wished to give them a memorial of the new commandment, the new statute of the Christian community. You did not give them a pious exhortation, but rather a new commandment of love. In this ‘relative absence’, we are asked to recognize you present in our brothers and sisters. In this Easter season, Lord Jesus, you remind us that the time of the Church is the time of charity, the time of encounter with you through our brothers and sisters. We know that at the end of our lives we shall be judged on love. Help us encounter you in each brother and sister, seizing every little occasion of every day.

b) Reading:

John 13:31-3531 When he had gone, Jesus said: Now has the Son of man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon. 33 Little children, I shall be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going, you cannot come.
34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35 It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.

c) A moment of prayerful silence:

The passage of the Gospel we are about to meditate, recalls Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples. Such a passage should be considered a kind of sacrament of an encounter with the Person of Jesus.


a) Preamble to Jesus’ discourse:

Our passage is the conclusion to chapter 13 where two themes crisscross and are taken up again and developed in chapter 14: the place where the Lord is going; and the theme of the commandment of love. Some observations on the context within which Jesus’ words on the new commandment occur may be helpful for a fruitful reflection on their content.

First, v.31 says, «when he had gone», who is gone? To understand this we need to go to v. 30 where we read that «as soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. It was night». Thus the one who went out was Judas. Then, the expression, «it was night», is characteristic of all the «farewell discourses», which take place at night. Jesus’ words in Jn 13,31-35 are preceded by this immersion into the darkness of the night. What is the symbolical meaning of this? In John, night represents the peak of nuptial intimacy (for instance the wedding night), but also one of extreme anguish. Other meanings of the dark night are that it represents the moment of danger par excellence, it is the moment when the enemy weaves plans of vengeance against us, it expresses the moment of desperation, confusion, moral and intellectual disorder. The darkness of night is like a dead end.

In Jn 6, when the night storm takes place, the darkness of the night expresses an experience of desperation and solitude as they struggle against the dark forces that stir the sea. Again, the time marker "while it was still dark" in Jn 20:1 points to the darkness which is the absence of Jesus. Indeed, in John’s Gospel, the light of Christ cannot be found in the sepulchre, that is why darkness reigns (20:1).

Therefore, “farewell discourses” are rightly placed within this time framework. It is almost as if the background colour of these discourses is separation, death or the departure of Jesus and this creates a sense of emptiness or bitter solitude. In the Church of today and for today’s humanity, this could mean that when we desert Jesus in our lives we then experience anguish and suffering.

When reporting Jesus’ words in 3:31-34, concerning his departure and imminent death, John recalls his own past life with Jesus, woven with memories that opened his eyes to the mysterious richness of the Master. Such memories of the past are part of our own faith journey.

It is characteristic of “farewell discourses” that whatever is transmitted in them, especially at the tragic and solemn moment of death becomes an inalienable patrimony, a covenant to be kept faithfully. Jesus’ “farewell discourses” too synthesize whatever he had taught and done so as to draw his disciples to follow in the direction he pointed out to them.

b) A deepening:

As we read the passage of this Sunday of Easter, we focus, first of all, on the first word used by Jesus in his farewell discourse: “Now”. «Now has the Son of man been glorified». Which «now» is this? It is the moment of the cross that coincides with his glorification. This final part of John’s Gospel is a manifestation or revelation. Thus, Jesus’ cross is the «now» of the greatest epiphany or manifestation of truth. In this glorification, there is no question of any meaning that has anything to do with “honour” or “triumphalism”, etc.

On the one hand there is Judas who goes into the night, Jesus prepares for his glory: «When he had gone, Jesus said: “Now has the Son of man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon” (v.31-32). Judas’ betrayal brings to maturity in Jesus the conviction that his death is «glory». The hour of death on the cross is included in God’s plan; it is the «hour» when the glory of the Father will shine on the world through the glory of the «Son of man». In Jesus, who gives his life to the Father at the «hour» of the cross, God is glorified by revealing his divine essence and welcoming humankind into communion with him.

Jesus’ (the Son’s) glory consists of his «extreme love» for all men and women, even to giving himself for those who betray him. The Son’s love is such that he takes on himself all those destructive and dramatic situations that burden the life and history of humankind. Judas’ betrayal symbolises, not so much the action of an individual, as that of the whole of evil humanity, unfaithful to the will of God.

However, Judas’ betrayal remains an event full of mystery. An exegete writes: In betraying Jesus, «it is revelation that is to blame; it is even at the service of revelation» (Simoens, According to John, 561). In a way, Judas’ betrayal gives us the chance of knowing Jesus better; his betrayal has allowed us to see how far Jesus loves his own. Don Primo Mazzolari writes: «The apostles became Jesus’ friends, whether good friends or not, generous or not, faithful or not, they still remain his friends. We cannot betray Jesus’ friendship: Christ never betrays us, his friends, even when we do not deserve it, even when we rebel against him, even when we deny him. In his sight and in his heart we are always his “friends”. Judas is the Lord’s friend even at the moment when he carries out the betrayal of his Master with a kiss» (Discourses 147).

c) The new commandment:

Let us focus our attention on the new commandment.

In v.33 we note a change in Jesus’ farewell discourse. He no longer uses the third person. The Master now addresses “you”. This «you» is in the plural and he uses a Greek word that is full of tenderness “children” (teknía). In using this word and by his tone of voice and openness of heart, Jesus concretely conveys to his disciples the immensity of the tenderness he holds for them.

What is also interesting is another point that we find in v.34: «that you love one another as I have loved you». The Greek word Kathòs «as” is not meant for comparison: love one another as I have loved you. Its meaning may be consecutive of causal: «Because I have loved you, so also love one another».

There are those who like Fr. Lagrange see in this commandment an eschatological meaning: during his relative absence and while waiting for his second coming, Jesus wants us to love and serve him in the person of his brothers and sisters. The new commandment is the only commandment. If there is no love, there is nothing. Magrassi writes: «Away with labels and classifications: every brother is the sacrament of Christ. Let us examine our daily life: can we live with our brother from morning till night and not accept and love him? The great work in this case is ecstasy in its etymological sense, that is, to go out of myself so as to be neighbour to the one who needs me, beginning with those nearest to me and with the most humble matters of every day life» (Living the church, 113).

d) For our reflection:

- Is our love for our brothers and sisters directly proportional to our love for Christ?
- Do I see the Lord present in the person of my brother and sister?
- Do I use the daily little occasions to do good to others?
- Let us examine our daily life: can I live with my brothers and sisters from morning till night and not accept and love them?
- Does love give meaning to the whole of my life?
- What can I do to show my gratitude to the Lord who became servant for me and consecrated his whole life for my good? Jesus replies: Serve me in brothers and sisters: this is the most authentic way of showing your practical love for me.


a) Psalm 23:1-6:

This psalm presents an image of the church journeying accompanied by the goodness and faithfulness of God, until it finally reaches the house of the Father. In this journey she is guided by love that gives it direction: your goodness and your faithfulness pursue me.

Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.
You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

b) Praying with the Fathers of the Church:

I love you for yourself, I love you for your gifts,
I love you for love of you
And I love you in such a way,
That if ever Augustine were God
And God Augustine,
I would want to come back and be who I am, Augustine,
That I may make of you who you are,
Because only you are worthy of being who you are.
Lord, you see,
My tongue raves,
I cannot express myself,
But my heart does not rave.
You know what I experience
And what I cannot express.
I love you, my God,
And my heart is too limited for so much love,
And my strength fails before so much love,
And my being is too small for so much love.
I come out of my smallness
And immerse my whole being in you,
I transform and lose myself.
Source of my being,
Source of my every good:
My love and my God.
(St. Augustine: Confessions)

c) Closing prayer:

Blessed Teresa Scrilli, seized by an ardent desire to respond to the love of Jesus, expressed herself thus:

I love you,
O my God,
In your gifts;
I love you in my nothingness,
And even in this I understand,
Your infinite wisdom;
I love you in the many varied or extraordinary events,
By which you accompanied my life…
I love you in everything,
Whether painful or peaceful;
Because I do not seek,
Nor have I ever sought,
Your consolations;
Only you, the God of consolations.
That is why I never gloried
Nor delighted in,
That which you made me experience entirely gratuitously in your Divine love,
Nor did I distress and upset myself,
When left arid and small.
(Autobiography, 62)

Jesus the Good Shepherd: 
his sheep know him
John 10,27-3


a) Opening prayer:

Come, Holy Spirit, to our hearts and kindle in them the fire of your love, give us the grace to read and re-read this page of the Gospel, to actively, lovingly and operatively remember it in our life. We wish to get close to the mystery of the Person of Jesus contained in this image of the Shepherd. For this, we humbly ask you to open the eyes of our mind and heart in order to be able to know the power of your Resurrection. Enlighten our mind, oh Spirit of light, so that we may understand the words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd; warm up our heart so as to be aware that these words are not far from us, that they are the key of our present experience. Come, oh Holy Spirit, because without you the Gospel will be dead letter; with you the Gospel is the Spirit of Life. Give us, oh Father, the Holy Spirit; we ask this together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother and with Elias, your prophet in the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

John 10,27-3b) Reading of the text:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

c) Moments of prayerful silence:

Silence protects the fire of the word which has entered in us through the listening of the Word. It helps to preserve the interior fire of God. Stop for a few moments in the silence, listening to be able to participate in the creative and re-creative power of the divine Word.


a) Key to the reading:

The passage of the Liturgy of this Sunday is taken from chapter 10 of St. John, a discourse of Jesus during the Jewish Feast of the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem which was celebrated at the end of December (during which the re-consecration of the Temple, which had been violated by the Syrian-Hellenists, was commemorated, the work of Judas Maccabee in 164 B.C.). The word of Jesus concerning the relation between the Shepherd (Christ) and the sheep (the Church) belongs to a true and proper debate between Jesus and the Jews. They ask Jesus a clear question and demand a response, just as concrete and public: “If you are the Christ, tell us the plain truth” (10,24). John, other times in the Gospel presents the Jews who intend to get a clear affirmation from Jesus concerning his identity (2,18; 5,16; 8,25). In the Synoptics a similar question is presented during the process before the Chief Priests (Mt 26,63; Mk 14,61; Lk 22,67). Jesus’ answer is presented in two stages (vv. 25-31 and 32-39). Let us consider briefly the context of the first stage where our liturgical text is inserted. The Jews have not understood the parable of the Shepherd (Jn 10,1-21) and now they ask Jesus a clearer revelation of his identity. In itself, the reason for their unbelief is not to be sought in the lack of clarity but in their refusal to belong to his flock, to his sheep. An analogous expression of Jesus may throw light on this as we read in Mk 4,11: “To you I have made known the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but the others who are on the outside, hear all things by means of parables”. The words of Jesus are light only for those who live within the community, for those who decide to remain outside these words are an enigma which disconcerts. To the unbelief of the Jews, Jesus opposes the behaviour of those who belong to him and whom the Father has given to him; and also the relationship with them.

Jesus’ language is not immediately evident for us; rather in comparing the believers to a flock leaves us perplexed. We are not, at all, strangers to the life of farmers and shepherds, and it is not easy to understand what the flock would represent for a people who are shepherds. The audience to whom Jesus addresses the parable, on the other hand, were precisely shepherds. It is evident that the parable is understood from the point of view of the man who shares almost everything with his flock. He knows his sheep: he sees the quality of each one and every defect; the sheep also experience his guidance: they respond to his voice and to his indications.

i) The sheep of Jesus listen to his voice: it is a question not only of an external listening (3,5; 5,37) but also of an attentive listening (5,28; 10,3) up to an obedient listening (10,16.27; 18,37; 5,25). In the discourse of the shepherd this listening expresses the trust and the union that the sheep have with the shepherd (10,4). The adjective “my, mine” does not only indicate the simple possession of the sheep, but makes evident that the sheep belong to him, and they belong in so far as he is the owner (10,12).

ii) Here, then, is established an intimate communication between Jesus and the sheep: “and I know them” (10,27). It is not a question of intellectual knowledge; in the Biblical sense “to know someone” means, above all, to have a personal relation with him, to live in some way in communion with him. A knowledge which does not exclude the human features of sympathy, love, communion of nature.

iii) In virtue of this knowledge of love the shepherd invites his own to follow him. The listening to the Shepherd involves also a discernment, because among the many different possible voices, the sheep choose that which corresponds to a concrete Person (Jesus). Following this discernment, the response is active, personal and becomes obedience. This results from the listening. Therefore, between the listening and following the Shepherd is the knowledge of Jesus.

The knowledge which the sheep have of Jesus opens an itinerary which leads to love: “I give them eternal life”. For the Evangelist, life is the gift of communion with God. While in the Synoptics ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’ is related to the future; in John’s Gospel it indicates an actual possession. This aspect is frequently repeated in John’s narration: “He who believes in the Son possesses eternal life” (3,36); “I am telling you the truth: whoever hears my words and believes in him who sent me has eternal life” (5,24; 6,47).

The relation of love of Jesus becomes concrete also by the experience of protection which man experiences: it is said that the sheep “will never be lost”. Perhaps, this is a reference to eternal damnation. And it is added that “no one will snatch them”. These expressions suggest the role of the hand of God and of Christ who prevent the hearts of persons to be snatched by other negative forces. In the Bible the hand, in some contexts, is a metaphor which indicates the force of God who protects (Deut 33,3: Ps 31,6). In others, the verb “to snatch” (harpázö) suggests the idea that the community of disciples will not be exempt from the attacks of evil and of temptations. But the expression “no one will snatch them” indicates that the presence of Christ assures the community of the certainty of an unflinching stability which allows them to overcome every temptation of fear.

b) Some questions:

To orientate the meditative reflection and the updating:

i) The first attitude which the Word of Jesus makes evident is that man has “to listen”. This verb in Biblical language is rich and relevant: it implies joyous adherence to the content of what is listened to, obedience to the person who speaks, the choice of life of the one who addresses us. Are you a man immersed in listening to God? Are there spaces and moments in your daily life which you dedicate, in a particular way, to listening to the Word of God?

ii) The dialogue or intimate and profound communication between Christ and you has been defined by the Gospel in today’s Liturgy by a great Biblical verb, “to know” This involves the whole being of man: the mind, the heart, the will. Is your consciousness of Christ firm at a theoretical-abstract level or do you allow yourself to be transformed and guided by his voice on the journey of your life?

iii) The man who has listened and known God “follows” Christ as the only guide of his life. Is your following daily, continuous? Even when in the horizon one foresees the threat or nightmare of other voices or ideologies which try to snatch us from communion with God?

iv) In the meditation of today’s Gospel two other verbs emerged: we will never be “lost, damned” and nobody will be able to “snatch” us from the presence of Christ who protects our life. This is the foundation and motivation of our daily assurance. This idea is expressed in such a luminous way by Paul: “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rm 8,38-39). When between the believer and the Person of Jesus is established a relation made by calls and listening, then life proceeds assured to attain spiritual maturity and success. The true foundation of this assurance lies in discovering every day the divine identity of this Shepherd who is the assurance of our life. Do you experience this security and this serenity when you feel threatened by evil?

v) The words of Jesus “I give them eternal life” assure you that the end of your journey as believer, is not dark and uncertain. For you, does eternal life refer to the number of years that you can live or instead does it recall your communion of life with God himself? Is the experience of the company of God in your life a reason for joy?


a) Psalm 100, 2; 3; 5

Serve the Lord with gladness! 
Come into his presence with singing! 
Know that the Lord is God! 
It is he that made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, 
and his faithfulness to all generations.

b) Final Prayer:

Lord, we ask you to manifest yourself to each one of us as the Good Shepherd, who by the force of the Paschal Mystery reconstitutes, animates your own, with your delicate presence, with all the force of your Spirit. We ask you to open our eyes, so as to be able to know how you guide us, support our will to follow you any place where you want to lead us. Grant us the grace of not being snatched from your hands of Good Shepherd and of not being in the power of evil which threatens us, from the divisions which hide or lurk within our heart. You, oh Christ, be the Shepherd, our guide, our example, our comfort, our brother. Amen!


Contemplate the Word of the Good Shepherd in your life. The preceding stages of the Lectio Divina, important in themselves, become practical, if orientated to lived experience. The path of the “Lectio” cannot be considered ended if it does not succeed to make of the Word a school of life for you. Such a goal is attained when you experience in you the fruits of the Spirit. These are: interior peace which flourishes in joy and in the relish for the Word; the capacity to discern between that which is essential and work of God and that which is futile and work of the evil; the courage of the choice and of the concrete action, according to the values of the Biblical page that you have read and meditated on.

The multiplication of the loaves for the hungry
Jesus teaches sharing
Luke 9:10-17

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading: the literary context:

Our text comes from the middle of Luke’s Gospel: Jesus expands and intensifies his mission in the villages of Galilee and he sends the twelve disciples to help him (Lk 9:1-6). This news reaches the ears of Herod, the same who had John the Baptist killed (Lk 9:7-9). When the disciples come back from their mission, Jesus invites them to go to a solitary place (Lk 9:10). Then follows our text concerning the multiplication of the loaves (Lk 9:11-17).
Immediately after this, Jesus asks: “Who do people say that I am?” (Lk 9:18-21). Then, for the first time, he goes on to speak of his passion and death and the consequences of all this for the disciples (Lk 9:22-28). Then we have the Transfiguration where Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah concerning his passion and death in Jerusalem (Lk 9:28-43). There follows another proclamation of his passion, to the consternation and incomprehension of his disciples (Lk 9:44-50). Finally, Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem to meet his death (Lk 9:52).

b) A division of the text as an aid to its reading:

Luke 9:10: They go to a place apart.
Luke 9:11: The crowd learns that Jesus is there and he welcomes them.
Luke 9:12: The disciples worry about the people going hungry.
Luke 9:13: Jesus makes a suggestion and the reply of the disciples.
Luke 9:14-15: Jesus’ initiative to resolve the problem of the people’s hunger
Luke 9:16: Eucharistic connotations and sense
Luke 9:17: The great sign: all will eat

c) The text:

Luke 9:10-17 10 On their return the apostles told him what they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place." 13 But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each." 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What did you like best and what struck you most in the text?
b) In what situation does the crowd find itself according to the text?
c) What is the reaction or feeling of the disciples before the situation of the crowd?
d) What is the reaction or feeling of Jesus before the situation of the crowd?
e) Which facts from the Old Testament story does this text recall?
f) Do you know of any initiatives of persons who, today, give the hungry crowd food to eat?
g) How do we help the crowd? Do we distribute fish or do we teach them to fish?

5. A key to the reading

for those who wish to go deeper into the theme.

a) The historical context of our text:

The historical context of Luke’s Gospel always has two aspects: the aspect of the times of Jesus, that is, the 30’s in Palestine, and the context of the Christian communities of the 80’s for whom he is writing his Gospel. 
At the time of Jesus in Palestine, the people lived in expectation of a Messiah who would be a new Moses and who would repeat the great signs worked by Moses in Exodus: leading the people through the desert and feeding them with manna. The multiplication of the loaves in the desert was for the crowd a sign that the messianic time had come (cf. Jn 6:14-15).
In Luke’s time, in the Greek communities, it was important to confirm the Christians in the conviction of their faith and to give them direction in the midst of difficulties. The way Luke describes the multiplication of the loaves, recalls the celebration of the Eucharist as celebrated in the communities in the 80’s, and helps them to deepen their understanding of the Eucharist in their daily lives. Besides, in his description of the multiplication of the loaves, as we shall see, Luke recalls important figures in the history of the people of God: Moses, Elijah and Elisha, thus showing that Jesus is truly the Messiah who is to come to fulfil the promises of the past.

b) A commentary on the text:

Luke 9:10: Jesus and the disciples go apart in a lonely place
The disciples return from the mission to which they were sent (Lk 9:1-6). Jesus invites them to go to a lonely place near Bethsaida, north of Lake Galilee. Mark’s Gospel adds that he invites them to rest a little (Mk 6:31). When Luke describes the mission of the 72 disciples, he is also describing Jesus’ revision of his missionary activity, an activity carried out by the disciples (Lk 10: 17-20).

Luke 9:11: The crowd seeks Jesus and Jesus welcomes them
The crowd knows where Jesus went and they follow him. Mark is more explicit. He says that Jesus and the disciples went by boat whereas the crowd followed on foot by another road to a specific place. The crowd arrives before Jesus (Mk 6:32-33). When Jesus arrives at the place of rest, He sees the crowd and welcomes them. He speaks to them of the Kingdom and heals the sick. Mark adds that the crowd was like sheep without a shepherd. Before such a situation, Jesus reacts as a “good shepherd”, leading the crowd by his words and feeding them with loaves and fishes (Mk 6,34ff).

Luke 9:12: The worry of the disciples and the hunger of the crowd
The day is fading, it is almost sunset. The disciples are worried and ask Jesus to send the crowd away. They say that it is impossible to find food sufficient for so many people in the desert. For them, the only solution is to let the people go to nearby villages to buy bread. They cannot imagine any other solution.
Reading between the lines of this description of the situation of the crowd, we find something very important. People forget to eat in order to stay with Jesus. This means that Jesus must have known how to attract people, even to the point that they forget everything to follow him in the desert.

Luke 9:13: Jesus’ suggestion and the reply of the disciples
Jesus says: “You give them something to eat”. The disciples are frightened, because they only have five loaves and two fish. But it is they who must solve the problem and the only thing that comes to their mind is to send the crowd away to buy bread. They can only think of the traditional solution, namely that someone has to obtain bread for the people. Someone has to get money, buy bread and distribute it among the crowd, but in the desert such a solution is impossible. They cannot see any other possibility. In other words, if Jesus insists on not sending the crowd away, then there is no solution to the hunger of the crowd. It does not occur to them that the solution could come from Jesus and from the crowd itself.

Luke 9:14-15: Jesus’ initiative to solve the problem of the hunger
There were five thousand persons. A lot of people. Jesus asks the disciples to make them sit in groups of fifty. It is at this point that Luke begins to use the Bible to throw light on the facts of Jesus’ life. He recalls Moses. It was Moses who first gave the hungry crowd something to eat in the desert after leaving Egypt (cf. Num chs. 1 to 4). Luke also recalls the prophet Elisha. It was he, in fact, who in the Old Testament, had made that a few loaves were more than sufficient to feed a multitude (2 Kings 4:42-44). The text suggests, then, that Jesus is the new Moses, the new prophet who must come into the world (cf. Jn 6:14-15). The multitude of the communities knew the Old Testament, and half an allusion would have been sufficient for them. Thus they discover gradually the mystery that is unfolding in the person of Jesus.

Luke 9:16: Recalling the Eucharist and its meaning
When the people sit on the ground, Jesus multiplies the loaves and asks the disciples to distribute them. It is important to note the way Luke describes this action. He says: “Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd”. This manner of speaking to the communities of the 80’s (and of all times) recalls the Eucharist. For these very words will be used (and are still used) in the celebration of the Supper of the Lord (22:19). Luke suggests that the Eucharist must lead to the multiplication of the loaves, that is, to sharing. It must help Christians to take care of the concrete needs of the neighbour. It is the bread of life that gives courage and leads the Christian to face the problems of the crowd in a new way, not from outside, but from among the crowd.

Luke 9:17: The great sign: all will eat
All will eat, all will be satisfied and there will be basketsful left over! An unexpected solution, performed by Jesus and born from within the crowd itself, beginning from the little that they had brought, five loaves and two fish. And there were twelve baskets full of scraps after the five thousand had eaten of the five loaves and two fish!

c) A deepening: The greater miracle:

Some will ask: “There was no miracle then? It was just a sharing?” Here are three reflections by way of an answer:

A first reflection: Which would be the greater miracle today: for instance, that on a certain day of the year, say Christmas, everyone has enough to eat and receives a Christmas hamper; or perhaps that people begin to share their bread so that no one goes hungry and there would be leftovers for other crowds. Which would be the greater miracle? What do you think?

A second reflection: The word Miracle (miraculum) comes from the verb to admire. A miracle is an extraordinary action, outside the normal, that causes admiration and leads to think of God. The greatmiracle, the greatest miracle of all, is (1) Jesus himself, God made man! Thus God becomes extraordinarily human as only God can be human! Another great miracle is (2) the change that Jesus succeeds in working among the crowd that is used to solutions from outside. Jesus succeeds in making the crowd face its problem from within and to take into account the means at their disposal. A great miracle, an extraordinary thing is (3) that through this gesture of Jesus’, all eat and there are leftovers! When we share, there is always more... and leftovers! So there are three great miracles: Jesus himself, the conversion of people and the sharing of goods leading to an abundance! Three miracles born of a new experience of God as Father revealed to us in Jesus. This experience of God changed all mental categories and the way of life, it opened an entirely new horizon and created a new way of living together with others. This is the greatest miracle: another world made possible!

A third reflection: It is difficult to know how things happened. No one is saying that Jesus did not work a miracle. He worked many miracles! But we must not forget that the greatest miracle is the resurrection of Jesus. Through their faith in Jesus, people begin to live in a new way, sharing bread with the brothers and sisters who have nothing and are hungry: “None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them to present it to the apostles” (Acts 4:34-35). When a miracle is described in the Bible, the greater attention is drawn not towards the miraculous aspect, but rather towards the meaning the miracle has for life and for the faith of the community of those who believe in Jesus, the revelation of the Father. In the so-called “first world” of the so-called “Christian” countries, animals have more to eat than human beings of the “third world”. Many people are hungry! This means that the Eucharist has not taken deep root yet nor does it reach out as it could and should.

6. The prayer of a Psalm: 81(80)

The God who frees and feeds his people

Sing aloud to God our strength; 
shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 
Raise a song, sound the timbrel, 
the sweet lyre with the harp. 
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, 
at the full moon, on our feast day. 
For it is a statute for Israel, 
an ordinance of the God of Jacob. 
He made it a decree in Joseph, 
when he went out over the land of Egypt. 
I hear a voice I had not known: 
"I relieved your shoulder of the burden; 
your hands were freed from the basket. 
In distress you called, and I delivered you; 
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; 
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. 
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! 
O Israel, if you would but listen to me! 
There shall be no strange god among you; 
you shall not bow down to a foreign god. 
I am the Lord your God, 
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. 
"But my people did not listen to my voice; 
Israel would have none of me. 
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, 
to follow their own counsels. 
O that my people would listen to me, 
that Israel would walk in my ways! 
I would soon subdue their enemies, 
and turn my hand against their foes. 
Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him, 
and their fate would last for ever. 
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, 
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

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Jesus welcomes and defends 
the woman with the ointment.
Poor people’s trust in Jesus 
Luke 7:36 to 8:3

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 

Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.


2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

The text of this Sunday’s Gospel puts before us two related episodes. The first episode is quite emotional. A woman who was thought to be a sinner in the city, has the courage to go into Simon’s house, a Pharisee, during a meal, to meet Jesus, wash his feet and cover them with kisses and ointment. The second episode describes Jesus’ community of men and women. 

As you read the text, imagine being in the Pharisee’s house at table and look carefully at the attitudes, actions and words of those present, the woman, Jesus and the Pharisees. Read again the brief information that Luke gives concerning the community that grew around Jesus and try to examine carefully the words used to show that the community was made up of men and women who followed Jesus.

c) A division of the text to help with the reading:

Luke 7:36-38: A woman washes Jesus’ feet in the house of a Pharisee
Luke 7:39-40: The Pharisee’s reaction and Jesus’ reply
Luke 7:41-43: The parable of the two debtors and the Pharisee’s reply
Luke 7:44-47: Jesus applies the parable and defends the girl
Luke 7:48-50: Love generates forgiveness and forgiveness generates love
Luke 8:1-3: The men and women disciples of Jesus’ community

c) Text:

Luke 7:36 to 8:336 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee's house and took his place at table, 37 suddenly a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment. 
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of person it is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.' 40 Then Jesus took him up and said, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' He replied, 'Say on, Master.' 41 'There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. 42 They were unable to pay, so he let them both off. Which of them will love him more?' 43 Simon answered, 'The one who was let off more, I suppose.' Jesus said, 'You are right.' 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, 'You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.' 48 Then he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' 49 Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, 'Who is this man, that even forgives sins?' 50 But he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'
8:1 Now it happened that after this he made his way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, 2 as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 Joanna the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What struck you most in the text? Why? 
b) What does the woman do and how does she do it?
c) What is the Pharisee’s attitude towards Jesus and towards the woman: what does he do and say? 
d) What is Jesus’ attitude towards the woman: what does he do and say?
e) The woman would not have done what she did unless she was absolutely certain that Jesus would welcome her. Do present day people who are marginalized have the same certainty in our regard as Christians? 
f) Love and forgiveness. Who are the women who follow Jesus? What binds them together? 
g) Jesus’ community: Who are the women who follow Jesus? What do they do?

5. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme

a) The literary and historical context of the text:

In chapter 7 of his Gospel, Luke describes the new and surprising things that happen among the people since Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. In Capernaum, he praises the faith of the foreigner: “Amen I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith! (Lk 7:1-10). In Naim he raises the widow’s son from death (Lk 7:11-17). The way Jesus proclaims the Kingdom surprises the Jewish brethren so that even John the Baptist is surprised and sends word to ask: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk 7:18-30). Jesus criticises the wavering of his adversaries: "They are like children who do not know what they want!" (cfr. Lk 7:31-35). And here, at the end of the chapter, that is our text (Lk 7:36 to 8:3), something else that is new begins to appear and to surprise in the Good News of the Kingdom: Jesus’ attitude towards women. 
At the time of the New Testament in Palestine, women were marginalized. They took no part in the synagogue nor could they witness in public life. From the time of Ezra (IV century B.C.), resistance towards women kept growing as we note in the stories of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Susanna, the Sulamite woman and many others. This resistance towards women did not find an echo in Jesus who welcomed them. In the episode of the woman with the ointment (Lk 7:36-50) we see anti-conformism in Jesus’ welcome of the woman. In the description of the community that was growing around Jesus (Lk 8:1-3), we see men and women gathered around Jesus, equal in standing as disciples.

b) A commentary on the text:

Luke 7:36-38: A woman washes Jesus’ feet in the house of a Pharisee
Three totally different persons meet: Jesus, a Pharisee and a woman who was said to be a sinner. Jesus is in Simon’s house, a Pharisee who had invited him to eat in his house. A woman comes in, kneels at Jesus’ feet, weeps, bathes his feet with her tears, loosens her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet, kisses them and anoints them with ointment. The act of loosening her hair in public was a sign of independence. This is the scene that causes the debate that follows.

Luke 7:39-40: The Pharisees’ reply and Jesus’ reply
Jesus does not retreat, does not reprove the woman but rather welcomes what she does. The woman is someone who, according to the observant Jews of the time, could not be welcomed. Seeing what was going on, the Pharisee criticises Jesus and condemns the woman: "This man, were he a prophet, would surely know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner!" In reply to the Pharisee’s provocation, Jesus tells a parable; a parable that will help the Pharisee and all of us to see the invisible call of the love of God who reveals himself in that scene.

Luke 7:41-43: The parable of the two debtors and the Pharisee’s reply 
The parable recounts the following: A creditor had to debtors. One owed him 500 denarii and the other 50. A denarius was equivalent to a day’s wage. Thus the wages for fifty days! Neither of the two could pay. Both were forgiven. Which of them will love him more? The Pharisee replies: "He to whom he forgave more!" The parable presupposes that earlier, both the Pharisee and the woman had received some favour from Jesus. Now, in their attitude towards Jesus, they show their appreciation for the favour received. The Pharisee shows his love, his gratitude, by inviting Jesus to his house. The woman shows her love, her gratitude with her tears, with kisses and with the ointment. Which of these actions shows a greater love; eating or the kisses and ointment? Does the measure of one’s love depend on the size of the present offered?

Luke 7:44-47: Jesus applies the parable and defends the woman
When he had received the correct answer from the Pharisee, Jesus applied it to the situation which arose with the coming in of the woman during the meal. He defends the sinful woman against the criticism of the practising Jew. What Jesus is saying to the Pharisees of all times is this: "He to whom little is forgiven, loves little!" The personal security that I, the Pharisee, create for myself because of my observance of the laws of God and of the Church, frequently prevents me from experiencing the gratuitous love of a forgiving God. What matters is not the observance of the law as such, but the love with which I observe the law. Using the symbols of the love of the sinful woman, Jesus answers the Pharisee who considered himself just: «You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love». It is as if he said: "Simon, in spite of the banquet you offer me, you have little love!" Why? The prophet Jeremiah had once said that in the future, in the new covenant, “no longer will they need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more”. (Jer 31:34). It is awareness of being freely forgiven that makes one experience the love of God. When the Pharisee calls the woman a “sinner”, he is considering himself to be a just man who observes and practices the law. He is like the Pharisee from the other parable who said: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, robbers, dishonest, adulterers, or even like this publican” (Lk 18:11). Simon must have thought: “O God, I thank you because I am not like this sinful woman!” But the one who went home justified was not the Pharisee but the publican who had said: “Be merciful to me a sinner!” (Lk 18:14). From the beginning, Pharisees always consider themselves sinless, because in all things they observe the law of God, they go to Mass, pray, give alms and pay their taxes. They place their security in what they do for God, not in the love and the forgiveness of God towards them. That is why Simon, the Pharisee cannot experience the gratuitousness of God’s love.

Luke 7:48-50: Love generates forgiveness and forgiveness generates love
Jesus says to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven you." Then the guests begin to think: "Who is this who even forgives sins?" But Jesus says to the woman: "Your faith has saved you. Go and sin no more!" Here we see Jesus’ new attitude. He does not condemn but welcomes. It is faith that enables the woman to know herself and to accept herself and God. In her exchange with Jesus, a new force breaks forth in her that enables her to be reborn. An important question comes to our mind. Would the sinful woman in the city have done what she did had she not been absolutely certain that Jesus would welcome her? This means that for the poor people of Galilee in those days, Jesus was someone to be trusted absolutely! “We can trust him. He will welcome us!” Do the marginalized people of today have this same certainty towards us Christians?

Luke 8:1-3: The disciples of Jesus’ community
Jesus went to the villages and towns of Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the twelve were with him. The expression “following Jesus” shows the condition of a disciple who follows the Master seeking to imitate his example and sharing in his fate. It is surprising that besides the men there were also women who “followed Jesus”. Luke places the men and women disciples on an equal level. He also says that the women servedJesus with their goods. Luke also mentions the names of some of these women disciples: Mary Magdalene, born in the city of Magdala. She had been delivered of seven demons. Joanna, the wife of Cuza, Herod Antipa’s procurator, who was governor of Galilee. Susanna and many others.

c) Further information:

i) Luke’s Gospel has always been considered the Gospel of women. Indeed, Luke is the one who most records occasions that show the relationship of Jesus with women. However, the novelty, the Good News concerning women, is not simply because of the many citations of their presence around Jesus, but in Jesus’ attitude towards them. Jesus touches them, allows them to touch him, without fear of being contaminated (Lk 7:39; 8:44-45.54). The difference between Jesus and the masters of the time is that Jesus accepts women as followers and disciples (Lk 8:2-3; 10”39). The liberating force of God, which acts in Jesus, raises women to assume their place of dignity (Lk 13:13). Jesus feels the suffering of the widow and joins in her sorrow (Lk 7:13). The work of the woman who prepares food, is seen by Jesus as a sign of the Kingdom (Lk 13:20-21). The persevering widow who fights for her rights is presented as a model of prayer (Lk 18:1-8), and the poor widow who shares her meagre goods with others is presented as the model of gift and of dedication (Lk 21:1-4). At a time when the witness of women was not considered valid, Jesus chooses women as witnesses of his death (Lk 23:49), of his burial (Lk 23:55-56) and of his resurrection (Lk 24:1-11.22-24).

ii) The Gospels record different lists of the names of the twelve disciples who followed Jesus. The names are not always the same, but there are always twelve names, evoking the twelve tribes of the new people of God. There were women who also followedJesus, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Mark’s Gospel defines their attitude in three words, three verbs: following, serving, going upto Jerusalem (Mk 15:41). The Evangelists do not give a list of the women disciples who followed Jesus, but their names are known to this day through the pages of the Gospels, especially of Luke, and they are:: Mary Magdalene (Lk 8:3; 24:10); Joanna the wife of Chuza (Lk 8;,3); Susanna (Lk 8:3); Salome (Mk 15:45); Mary, James’ mother (Lk 24:10); Mary, Cleophas’ wife (Jn 19:25); Mary, the mother of Jesus (Jn 19:25).

6. Prayer: A hymn to Love (1 Cor 13:1-13)

Above all, love!

1 Though I command languages both human and angelic -- if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains -- if I am without love, I am nothing.
3 Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned -- if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, 5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. 6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. 7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. 8 Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly; 10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways. 12 Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.
13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.

7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.





The difficult process of forming the disciples.
How to be born again.

Luke 9:51-62


1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.


2. Reading

a) A key to the reading: The literary context

In the context of Luke’s Gospel, the text for this Sunday is at the beginning of the new phase of Jesus’ activity. The frequent conflicts with the people and the religious authorities (Lk 4:28; 5:21.30; 6:2.7; 7:19.23.33-34.39) confirmed Jesus as being the Servant Messiah as foreseen in Isaiah (Is 50: 4-9; 53:12) and as assumed by Jesus himself from the beginning of his apostolic activities (Lk 4:18). From now on, Jesus begins to proclaim his passion and death (Lk 9:22.43-44) and decides to go the Jerusalem (Lk 9:51). This change in the course of events created a crisis among the disciples (Mk 8:31-33). They cannot understand and are afraid (Lk 9:45), because they still hold on to the old way of thinking of a glorious Messiah. Luke describes various episodes touching on the old mentality of the disciples: the desire to be the greatest (Lk 9:46-48); the will to control the use of the name of Jesus (Lk 9:49-50); the violent reaction of James and John at the refusal of the Samaritans to welcome Jesus (Lk 9:51-55). Luke also points out how hard Jesus tries to get his disciples to understand the new concept concerning his mission. This Sunday’s text (Lk 9: 51-62) gives some examples of the way Jesus tried to form his disciples.

b) A division of the text to help with the reading:

Luke 9:51-52: Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem
Luke 9:52b53: A village in Samaria does not welcome him
Luke 9:54: The reaction of John and James at the Samaritans’ refusal
Luke 9:55-56: Jesus’ reaction to the violence of James and John
Luke 9:57-58: Jesus’ first condition for following him
Luke 9:59-60: Jesus’ second condition for following him
Luke 9:61-62: Jesus’ third condition for following him

c) The text:

Luke 9:51-6251 When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. 
57 As they were going along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." 59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60 But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


3. A moment of prayerful silence

So that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.


4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) Which part of the text pleased you most and which touched you most?
b) What defects and limitations of the disciples can we discover in the text?
c) What teaching method does Jesus use to correct these defects?
d) What facts from the Old Testament are recalled in this text?
e) With which of these three vocations (vv. 57-62) do you identify yourself? Why?
f) Which of the defects of Jesus’ disciples is most prevalent in us, his disciples of today?


5. A key to the reading

that may help us to go deeper into the theme.

a) The historical context of our text:

The historical context of Luke’s Gospel always contains the following two aspects; the context of the time of Jesus in the 30’s in Palestine, and the context of the Christian communities of the 80’s in Greece for whom Luke is writing his Gospel.

At the time of Jesus in Palestine. It was not easy for Jesus to form his disciples. It is not simply the fact of following Jesus and living in community that makes a person holy and perfect. The greatest difficulty comes from “the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod” (Mk 8:15), that is, from the time’s dominant ideology, promoted by the official religion (the Pharisees) and by the government (the Herodians). Fighting against the leaven was part of the formation he gave his disciples; especially that the manner of thinking of the great had taken deep root and always raised its head again in the minds of the little ones, the disciples. The text of our meditation this Sunday gives us an insight into the way Jesus faced this problem.

In Luke’s time, within the Greek communities. For Luke, it was important to help the Christians and not leave them prey to the “leaven” of the Roman empire and pagan religion. The same applies today. The “leaven” of the neo-liberal system, spread by the media, propagates a consumeristic mentality, contrary to Gospel values. It is not easy for people to realise that they are being duped: “What I have in my hand is nothing but a lie!” (Is 44:20).

b) A commentary on the text:

Luke 9:51-52a: Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem
“Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven”. This statement shows that Luke reads Jesus’ life in the light of the prophets. He wants to make it quite clear to his readers that Jesus is the Messiah in whom is accomplished that which the prophets foretold. The same manner of speaking is in John’s Gospel: “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass form this world to the Father, ...” (Jn 13,1). Jesus is obedient to the Father, “he decisively set out towards Jerusalem”.

Luke 9:52b53: A village in Samaria does not welcome him
Hospitality was one of the pillars of community life. It was difficult for anyone to let someone spend the night outside without welcoming him (Jn 18:1-5; 19:1-3; Gs 19;,15-21). But in Jesus’ time, the rivalry between Jews and Samaritans urged the people of Samaria not to welcome Jews who were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and this led the Jews from Galilee not to pass through Samaria when they went to Jerusalem. They preferred to go through the valley of the Jordan. Jesus is contrary to this discrimination and, therefore, goes through Samaria. Consequently he suffers discrimination and is not made welcome.

Luke 9:54: The violent reaction of John and James at the refusal of the Samaritans
Inspired by the example of the prophet Elijah, James and John want to call down fire from heaven to exterminate that village! (2 Kings 1:10.12; 1Kings 18:38). They think that by the simple fact that they are with Jesus, everyone should welcome them. They still cling to the old mentality, that of privileged persons. They think that they can keep God on their side to defend them.

Luke 9:55-56: Jesus’ reaction to the violence of James and John
“Jesus turned and rebuked them”. Some versions of the Bible, basing their translation on some old manuscripts wrote: “You know not what spirit dwells in you. The son of man did not come to take the life of men, but to save it”. The fact that someone is with Jesus does not give that person the right to think that he or she is superior to others or that others owe them honour. The “Spirit” of Jesus demands the opposite: to forgive seventy times seven (Mt 18:22). Jesus chose to forgive the criminal who prayed to him on the cross (Lk 23:43).

Luke 9:57-58: The first condition for following Jesus
One says: “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus’ reply is very clear and without any hidden meaning. He leaves no room for doubt: the disciple who wishes to follow Jesus must impress this on his or her mind and heart: Jesus has nothing, not even a stone to lay his head on. The foxes and the birds are better off because they at least have holes and nests.

Luke 9:59-60: The second condition for following Jesus
Jesus says to one: “Follow me!” These were the words addressed to the first disciples: “Follow me” (Mk 1:17.20; 2:14). The reaction of the one called is positive. The person is ready to follow Jesus. He only asks that he may be allowed to bury his father. Jesus’ reply is hard: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God”. This is probably a popular proverb used for saying that one has to be radical in one’s decision making. The one who is ready to follow Jesus must leave everything behind. It is as though one were dead to all one’s possessions resurrected to another life.

Luca 9,61-62: The third condition for following Jesus
A third one says: “I will follow you, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home”. Again the reply of Jesus is hard and radical: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. Jesus is more demanding than the prophet Elijah when Elijah called Elisha to be his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21). The New Testament is greater than the Old Testament in its demands on the practice of love.

c) A further deepening: Jesus the formator

The process of the formation of the disciples is demanding, slow and painful, because it is not easy to give birth to a new experience of God in them, a new vision of life and of the neighbour. It is like being born again! (Jn 3:5-9). The old mindset keeps creeping back in the life of people, of families and communities. Jesus spares no effort in forming his disciples. He gave much time to this, not always successfully. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him and, in the moment of trial, all abandoned him. Only the women and John stayed close to him, near the cross. But the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to us after his resurrection, completed the work Jesus began (Jn 14:26; 16,13). Apart from what we have said concerning the text of this Sunday (Lk 9:51-62), Luke speaks of many other examples to show how Jesus went about forming his disciples and helping them to overcome the misleading mentality of the time:

In Luke 9:46-48 the disciples argue among themselves as to who is the greatest among them. The competitive mindset here is that of fighting for power, characteristic of the society of the Roman Empire, and it had already infiltrated the just-beginning and small community of Jesus! Jesus tells them to hold to the opposite way of thinking. He takes a child to his side and identifies himself with the child: “Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me!” The disciples were arguing as to who was the greatest, and Jesus tells them to look at and welcome the smallest! This is the point most stressed by Jesus and the one to which he witnessed: “[I] did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45).

In Luke 9:49-50, someone who was not part of the group of the disciples was using the name of Jesus to drive out devils. John saw him and stopped him: “Let us stop him because we do not know him”. In the name of the community, John stops a good action! He thought he owned Jesus and wanted to stop anyone from using the name of Jesus to do good. He wanted a closed community. This was the old mentality of the “Chosen people, a separate people!” Jesus replies: “Do not forbid him, because anyone who is not against you is for you”. The aim of formation cannot lead to a feeling of privilege and ownership, but must lead to an attitude of service. What is important for Jesus is not whether someone is part of the group or not, but whether the person is doing the good that should be done by the community.

Here are some more examples of the way Jesus educated his disciples. It was a way of giving human form to the experience he had of God the Father. You can complete the list:
* he involves them in his mission and on their return he goes over what happened with them (Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1-2; 10:1-12, 17-20)
* he corrects them when they go wrong (Lk 9:46-48; Mk 10:13-15)
* he helps them discern (Mk 9:28-29)
* he questions them when they are slow (Mk 4:13; 8:14-21)
* he prepares them for the conflict (Mt 10:17ff)
* he reflects with them concerning present problems (Lk 13:1-5)
* he sends them to look at reality (Mk 8:27-29; Jn 4:35; Mt 16:1-3)
* he confronts them with the needs of the people (Jn 6:5)
* he teaches them that the needs of the people are above ritual prescriptions (Mt 12,7.12)
* he defends them when they are criticised by their adversaries (Mk 2:19; 7:5-13)
* he thinks of their rest and nourishment (Mk 6:31; Jn 21:9)
* he spends time alone with them to teach them (Mk 4:34; 7:17; 9:30-31; 10:10; 13,3)
* he insists on vigilance and teaches them to pray (Lk 11:1-13; Mt 6:5-15).


6. Psalm 19 (18), 8-14

The law of God source of formation

The precepts of the Lord are right, 
rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, 
enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; 
the ordinances of the Lord are true, 
and righteous altogether. 
More to be desired are they than gold, 
even much fine gold; 
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 
Moreover by them is thy servant warned; 
in keeping them there is great reward. 
But who can discern his errors? 
Clear thou me from hidden faults. 
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; 
let them not have dominion over me! 
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression. 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, 
my rock and my redeemer.


7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Spirit will help us
understand Jesus’ words
John 14,23-29

1. Opening prayer

Shaddai, God of the mountain,
You who make of our fragile life
the rock of your dwelling place,
lead our mind
to strike the rock of the desert,
so that water may gush to quench our thirst.
May the poverty of our feelings
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night
and may it open our heart to hear the echo of silence
until the dawn,
wrapping us with the light of the new morning,
may bring us,
with the spent embers of the fire of the shepherds of the Absolute
who have kept vigil for us close to the divine Master,
the flavour of the holy memory.


a) The text:

John 14, 23-2923 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.

b) A moment of silence:

Let us allow the voice of the Word to resonate within us.


a) Some questions:

- “And we will come to him and make our home with him”: looking in our interior camp, will we find there the tent of the shekinah (presence) of God?
- “He who does not love me does not keep my words: Are the words of Christ empty words for us because of our lack of love? Or could we say that we observe them as a guide on our journey?
- “The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you”: Jesus turns to the Father, but everything which he has said and done remains with us. When will we be able to remember the marvels which divine grace has accomplished in us? Do we receive or accept the voice of the Spirit who suggests in our interior the meaning of all that has taken place, that has happened?
- “My peace I give to you: The peace of Christ is his resurrection”: When will we be able in our life to abandon the anxiety and the mania of doing, which draws us away from the sources of the being? God of peace, when will we live solely from you, peace of our waiting?
- “I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe”: Before it takes place... Jesus likes to explain to us beforehand what is going to happen, so that the events do not take us by surprise, unprepared. But, are we ready to read the signs of our events with the words heard from him?

b) Key for the reading:

To make our home. Heaven does not have a better place than a human heart which is in love. Because a dilated heart extends the boundaries and all barriers of time and space disappear. To live in love is equal to live in Heaven, to live in Him who is love, and eternal love.

v. 23. Jesus answered him: If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. In the origin of every spiritual experience there is always a movement forward. Take a small step, then everything moves harmoniously. And the step to be taken is only one: If a man loves me. Is it really possible to love God? And how is it seen that his face is no longer among the people? To love: What does it really mean? In general, to love for us means to wish well to one another, to be together, to make choices to construct a future, to give oneself... to love Jesus is not the same thing. to love him means to do as he did, not to draw back in the face of pain, of death; to love as he did takes us very far... and it is in this love that the word becomes daily bread to eat and life becomes Heaven because of the Father’s presence.

vv. 24-25. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. If there is no love, the consequences are disastrous. The words of Jesus can be observed only if there is love in the heart, otherwise they remain absurd proposals. Those words are not the words of a man , they come for the Father’s heart who proposes to each one of us to be like Him. In life it is not so much a question of doing things, even if they are very good. It is necessary to be men, to be sons, to be images similar to the One who never ceases to give Himself completely.

vv. 25-26. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. To remember is an action of the Spirit; when in our days the past is seen as something lost forever and the future is there as something threatening to take away our joy today, only the divine Breath in you can lead you to remember it. To remember what has been said, every word coming from God’s mouth for you, and forgotten because of the fact that time has gone by.

v. 27. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The peace of Christ for us is not absence of conflicts, serenity of life, health... but the plenitude of every good, absence of anxiety in the face of what is going to happen. The Lord does not assure us well-being, but the fullness of son-ship in a loving adherence to his projects which are good for us. We will possess peace, when we will have learnt to trust in that which the Father chooses for us.

v. 28. You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you’. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. We come back to the question of love. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced. But what is the sense of this expression pronounced by the Master? We could complete the phrase and say: If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father... but since you think of yourselves, you are sad because I am leaving, going away. The love of the disciples is an egoistic love. They do not love Jesus because they do not think of Him, they think of themselves. Then, the love which Jesus asks, is this love! A love capable of rejoicing because the other will be happy. A love capable of not thinking of self as the centre of all the universe, but as a place in which one feels open to give and to be able to receive: not in exchange, but as the “effect” of the gift received.

v. 29. I have told you before it takes place, so when it does take place, you may believe. Jesus instructs his own because he knows that they will remain confused and will be slow in understanding. His words do not vanish, they remain as a presence in the world, treasures of understanding in faith. An encounter with the Absolute who is always and for always in favour of man.

c) Reflection:

Love: a magic and ancient word as old as the world, a familiar word which is born in the horizon of every man in the moment in which he is called into existence. A word written in his human fibres as origin and end, as an instrument of peace, as bread and gift, as himself, as others, as God. A word entrusted to history through our history of every day. Love, a pact which has always had one name alone: man. Yes, because love coincides with man: love is the air that he breathes, love is the food which is given to him, love is the rest to which he entrusts himself, love is the bond of union which makes of him a land of encounter. That love with which God has seen in his creation and has given: “It is something very good”. And he has not taken back the commitment taken when man made of himself a rejection more than a gift, a slap more than a caress, a stone thrown more than a silent tear. He has loved even more with the eyes and the heart of the Son, up to the end. This man who became a burning torch of sin, the Father has redeemed him, again and solely out of love, in the Fire of the Spirit.


Psalm 37,23-31

The steps of a man are from the Lord,
and he establishes him in whose way he delights;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord is the stay of his hand.
I have been young, and now am old;
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging bread.
He is ever giving liberally and lending,
and his children become a blessing.
Depart from evil, and do good;
so shall you abide for ever.
For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
The righteous shall be preserved for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall possess the land,
and dwell upon it for ever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.


I see you, Lord, dwelling in my days through your word which accompanies me in my more intense moments, when my love for you becomes courageous, audacious and I do not give up in the face of what I feel that does not belong to me. that Spirit which is like the wind: blows where it wants and his voice is not heard, that Spirit has become space in me, and now I can tell you that he is like a dear fried with whom to remember. To go back to remember the words said, to the lived events, to the presence perceived while on the way, does good to the heart. I feel profoundly this indwelling every time that in silence one of your phrases comes to mind, one of your invitations, one of your words of compassion, your silence. The nights of your prayer allow me to pray to the Father and to find peace. Lord, tenderness concealed in the pleads of my gestures, grant me to treasure all that you are: a scroll which is explained in which it is easy to understand the sense of my existence. May my words be the dwelling place of your words, may my hunger be your dwelling, bread of life, may my pain be the empty tomb and the folded shroud so that everything that you want may be accomplished, up to the last breath. I love you, Lord, my rock.

This article is from the Citoc Magazine.

The Citoc Magazine is published twice a year by the Order of Carmelites. Submitted news, information, feature, articles, letters, photos, and other materials become the property of the Citoc Magazine.

Few Saints hold greater attraction for Carmelites of the Ancient Observance than Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi. Her twenty-five years of religious life, begun in 1582 at the age of sixteen, were spent entirely in a convent of their observance, Saint Mary of the Angels in Florence.[1] The mystical phenomena in her life, the spiritual wisdom of her writings, and, above all, the angelic sanctity which led to her official canonization by Pope Clement IX in 1669 have made her one of Carmel’s brightest lights and best-loved Saints.

Saint Mary Magdalen entered the Order the very year another, more widely-known Carmelite mystic, Saint Teresa, died. Her life and works were to continue the same high ideals of Carmel which were given new life by her illustrious predecessor. Probably Saint Mary Magdalen never heard of her Spanish Carmelite sister; today many outside the Order are familiar with Saint Teresa, but scarcely aware of “La Santa di Firenze”; yet the lives and writings of the two Saints are of one piece in calibre and stature. It is for Carmelites, especially those of the Ancient Observance, to present this fact to the world.

The bibliography on Saint Mary Magdalen is by no means as extensive or as scholarly as that concerned with Saint Teresa. Biographical and devotional literature exists in abundance, especially in Italian, though also in other languages by way of translation, but the larger part of this is diffuse and repetitious and nothing to the two contemporary biographies of the Saint, those of Puccini and Cepari.[2] Saint Mary Magdalen emerges from the pages of these books as an extraordinary prodigy of the supernatural—which she was— but unreal, unappealing, without human qualities, hardly the robust girl of strong features and dark piercing eyes whose authentic portrait still exists in the convent in Florence. One reads these books without enlightenment and without a deeper understanding of the Saint.

There are, however, some notable exceptions to this type in some of the modern, popular biographies of the Saint, in the anonymous Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi,[3] in La Santa di Firenze, which was also published anonymously,[4] in Vaussard’s life of the Saint,[5] or in Raphael Cione’s short but illuminating introduction to his collection of selected critical texts of the Saint’s writings.[6] Any of these four books might serve as an easy introduction to the Saint; each gives an accurate if cursory survey of her life and doctrine. Unfortunately none of them has as yet found its way into English.

But the two most important books about Saint Mary Magdalen remain the original biographies. Vincent Puccini, the last ordinary confessor of the Saint, wrote her life in 1609, and two years later edited her personal accounts of the ecstasies she experienced and added these to the second edition of his work. Virgil Cepari, S.J., the last extraordinary confessor, began publication of her life in 1626, but it was not until 1669 that his work was completed, the last fifteen chapters being written by Joseph Fozi, S.J. Both books, which have gone through numerous editions and translations, are the primary printed sources for a study of the Saint. Each has the merits of contemporary and eye-witness reports. Their shortcomings, which were to characterize subsequent biographies as well, are due to faulty hagiographical standards; there is an overemphasis on the extraordinary, a failure to place events in their proper setting, and a neglect of the personality of the Saint. Cepari seems to have organized his material more neatly, set down facts in better chronology and sequence, and, in general, presented a more readable life, but both biographies are authoritative and deserve a careful reading.

Puccini’s edition of the Saint’s writings has been the source for most of the other editions of her works. This is indeed unfortunate, since his edition mutilated the original text. He added and deleted where he willed, joined different compositions on the same subject, bowdlerized strong statements of the mystic, and inserted pious reflections of his own. Such a method could not but give an unsatisfactory text, not only from the view point of the genuine thought of the Saint, but even for the style of her writings. Certain critics have found her writings heavy and uninspiring, traditional in their pietistic and devotional preoccupation, dry in their scholastic division into points.[7] Puccini’s method is at least partially responsible for this unfavorable criticism, a criticism that is not warranted by the original text. Recently selected passages taken from the manuscript accounts of the Saint have been published.[8] The manuscripts, five large volumes written in the careful hand of the sisters in the convent appointed to be secretaries of the Saint, still exist in good condition in the convent in Florence. Their publication may well be the beginning of a more extensive and a deeper study of the real contribution of this Saint.

Saint Mary Magdalen deserves to be better known, both inside and outside the Order. It is said that Saint Gertrude was relatively unknown until two-and-a-half centuries after her death, when the first readable edition of her works was published.[9] It is now a little over three centuries since the death of Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi. May we not hope that a new edition of her works and a serious investigation by Carmelite scholars of her mystical life and doctrine will vastly increase her influence in the Church? What are we waiting for?




[1] Until 1520, sixty-two years before Saint Mary Magdalen’s entrance, the convent of Saint Mary of the Angels was immediately subject to the General of the Order in Rome. At that time, however, it was taken from the jurisdiction of the General and placed under the Archbishop of Florence. The Roman rite replaced the Carmelite rite at that time. Ventigmilia, Historia Chronologica Priontin Generalium (Roma, 19), p. 179. These changes, however, did not detract from the essentially Carmelite life of the convent.

There is absolutely no basis for the claim that Saint Mary Magdalen was a discalced Carmelite. At the tercentenary of her death, in 1907, this idea was suggested, but it was effectively answered by members of our Order in Italy. The articles appeared in the Italian press of that time.

[2] V. Puccini, Vita della Madre Suor Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (Firenze, 1609); V. Cepari, S.J.—G. Fozi, S.J., Vita della serafica verg. S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (Roma, 1669).

[3] [Teresa del Bambino Jesu], S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (Firenze, 1942). The authoress is a member of the Carmelite convent of Florence and signs herself as “Una Carmelitana del Monastero di S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi.”

[4] [Gesualda dello Spirito Sancto], La Santa di Firenze (Firenze, 1906). Suor Gesualda is a sister of Suor Teresa (see above) and a member of the same convent.

[5] M.-M. Vaussard, Sainte Marie-Madeleine de Pazzi (Paris, 1925).

[6] R. Cione, ed., S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi nell’ estasi.... (Milano, 1926).

[7] F. Casnati, “Rassegna Letteraria; Mistici,” Vita e Pensiero, 16 (1925 55-59; Vaussard, op. cit., pp. 8-12.

[8] For example, Maurice Vaussard, ed., S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi; estasi e lettere scelte (Firenze, 1924); Cione, op. cit. Within the last few days the published text of the first volume of the MSS, prepared by Father Otger Steggink, O.Carm., has reached the United States: Otger Steggink, O.Carm., ed., I Quaranti Giorni (Roma, 1952).

[9] Saint Gertrude died in 1303, but her works were not diffused until the German (1505) and Latin (1536) editions were published. A. Poulain, Des Graces d’Oraison (Paris, 1922), 10th edition, p. 640.

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