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John is the lamp, Jesus is the light


Father, you sent John to announce the coming of your Son, Jesus. He witnessed with great love for his Friend and Lord. In the fullness of time you sent us your Son as our Saviour. He witnessed to your love even unto death and he taught us to live in intimate friendship with you. Help us to welcome joyfully the presence of Christ, in order to live in communion with him and direct our lives towards you, in the light of his face. Let this light shine on us and reach out from us to our brothers and sisters whom you have put into our lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen..



 From the Gospel according to John  (5, 33-36)

 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.33



 * “You sent … the Father sent me”. The verb “to send” opens and closes this short passage, bringing together and summarising all that the richness of the Word that the Lord wishes to give us. The Jews send priests and levites to Jerusalem to question John (Jn 1,19). they send them to gain an advantage, to rob the witness of John and so to have him killed. The Father sends his Son Jesus from his own womb (Jn 1:1-2) as the Gift of grace and salvation for all humankind.

Sending is an action that belongs to the Father; it is up to us, the children to receive the One who is sent. In receiving, day after day, the experience of freedom and of growth in the spirit begins. Because of this we can then be the ones who are sent, as missionaries, and witnesses to God in the world. This is the pathway that lies ahead of us, the pathway that Jesus with these Words helps us to discover. He is willing to walk with us as Teacher, brother and friend, as a companion on the journey.

 * “he witnessed”. Here is another key word, repeated a number of times in this passage, in different expressions: testified, accepting such witness, a testimony, testify on my behalf.  The witness is the one who has seen and heard and therefore can recall and repeat, affirm, declare with certainty. The biblical term, from the Old Testament onwards, is very powerful because the root of the word, witness or testimony refers to an action that lasts a long time, or something that in itself has the power to reach beyond, even to eternity. What John does, what we see happening in the life of Jesus and then in the life of his disciples, throughout the centuries, is precisely this movement of going out of oneself, as an unconditional gift, through words and works, and the whole of one’s life. They went beyond, they launched out beyond the boundaries, saying once and saying often their yes to God. There was nothing that could stand in the way of their movement towards God and towards their neighbour.

 * “He was a lamp”.  The image of the lamp shines out in the centre of this passage, along with words that speak of light: burning, shining, light. Jesus thus point out the direction we have to take, the point on which to set our gaze. There is one sure light, a fire burning, in our night too (Ps 139,12). The lamp, that is the prophets (2 Pt 1,19) who are the witnesses to the Christ, the lamp that is John the Baptist particularly, especially at this time of Advent, has the task of leading us to the true light, that enlightens every human being (Jn 1.9), the light that never fades (Lk 1,78-79), the light that is life itself (Jn 8,12; 9,5): Jesus.

Then there is a sign, a sure proof that the Lord offers us: In this light, that comes from the Father, joy comes to life. All we have to do is look inside, stand before him in openness and sincerity, and also before ourselves, before our life, to see if we can see the signs of this joy. Just for a moment? Or even for ever?  ……..



* The movements in the journey of faith that the Lord puts before us, especially in this time of Advent, are very clear: from John to Christ, from witnessing to the true and faithful Witness, from lamp to light that never fades, from Christ to the Father ….

Do I feel that I am ready to take steps, an not remain stationary? Have I the desire, inside, to journey in this way, to truly move towards Christ, and with him, towards the Father? Or might I prefer, one more time, to let things be, wait for better times, and go on, I too, like the Jews, sending others to ask the questions, to find any king of speedy or superficial answer?

* Are my eyes open, is my heart ready to welcome the testimony of Jesus, the witness of the works that he does, the works of the Father, that reveal Him as the Son, as the Brother?  Or, am I blind, unable to see any sign of grace, of mercy, of the presence of God?

* Do I have within me a willingness to be a witness for Christ, a witness for the Father? Or, am I frightened, with no great desire, or not ready, or prefer to close myself off, instead of opening out?

* Is there a light in my life? Or, do I feel I am completely in the dark? Are there clouds all around me, clouds in my heart?  The lamp of the Word is lit, since the Father sent his Son, the living and eternal Word, in whom the Father has said everything. Do I want to listen, to remember, to repeat all that I have heard?

* Even in these few lines the relationship of love that exists between Jesus and his Father is very clear, a relationship that unites them and makes them one. I know that this relationship is open, because the Father invites me too, just like every other human being who comes into this world to enter and remain, to enjoy true joy.  Do I accept the invitation? Or, do I stay outside, and, a bit like the rich young man, walk away with a heavy heart? 


Final Prayer

Resp. The Lord said to me, “You are my son”!

How can young people keep their way pure?

By guarding it according to your word.

 With my whole heart I seek you;

do not let me stray from your commandments.

I treasure your word in my heart,

so that I may not sin against you.

 Blessed are you, O Lord;

teach me your statutes.

With my lips I declare

all the ordinances of your mouth.

 I delight in the way of your decrees

as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts,

and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.


(from Psalm 119)

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    The sending of the 72 disciples
    Rebuilding Community Life 
    Luke 10:1-12.17-20 


    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:

    Jesus’ preaching draws many people (Mk 3:7-8). A small community begins to form around him. At first, two persons (Mk 1:16-18); then another two (Mk 1:19-20); then twelve (Mk 3:13-19); and now in our text, more than seventy-two persons (Lk 10:1). The community continues to grow. One thing Jesus insists on is community life. He set the example. He never wished to work alone. The first thing he did at the beginning of his preaching in Galilee was to call people to live with him and share in his mission (Mk 1:16-20; 3,14). The ambience of fraternity that grows around Jesus is a foretaste of the Kingdom, a proof of the new experience of God with the Father. Thus, if God is Father and Mother, then we are all one family of brothers and sisters. Thus is the community born, the new family (cf. Mk 3:34-35).

    This Sunday’s Gospel tells us of practical things to direct the seventy-two disciples in their proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom and in rebuilding community life. Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and rebuilding community life are two sides of the same coin. One does not exist and cannot make sense without the other. While reading the text, try to look for this connection between community life and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

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

    Luke 10:1: The Mission 
    Luke 10:2-3: Co-responsibility 
    Luke 10:4-6: Hospitality
    Luke 10:7: Sharing
    Luke 10:8: Communion around the table
    Luke 10:9a: Welcoming those excluded 
    Luke 10:9b: The coming of the Kingdom 
    Luke 10:10-12: Wiping the dust from their feet 
    Luke 10:17-20: The names written in heaven

    c) Text:

     Luke 10:1-12.17-201 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself would be visiting. 2 And he said to them, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do his harvesting. 3 Start off now, but look, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Take no purse with you, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, let your first words be, "Peace to this house!" 6 And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. 7 Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. 8 Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put before you. 9 Cure those in it who are sick, and say, "The kingdom of God is very near to you." 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, 11 "We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near." 12 I tell you, on the great Day it will be more bearable for Sodom than for that town.
    17 The seventy-two came back rejoicing. 'Lord,' they said, 'even the devils submit to us when we use your name.' 18 He said to them, 'I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Look, I have given you power to tread down serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. 20 Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven.'


    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 pleased or struck you most in this text? Why? 
    b) Name each of the things that Jesus tells the disciples to do and the things to avoid.
    c) What does Jesus wish to clarify through each of these suggestions so different from those common in everyday life? 
    d) How can we put into practice what the Lord asks: “take no purse with you”, “do not move from house to house”, “salute no one on the road”, “wipe off the very dust from your feet”?
    e) Why are these suggestions of Jesus a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God?
    f) Jesus tells us to be attentive to the most important thing when he says: “your names are written in heaven!” What does this mean for us?


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

    a) The literary and historical context:

    A little before our text, in Luke 9:51, is the beginning of the second phase of Jesus’ apostolic activities, that is, a long journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51 to 19:29). The first phase took place in Galilee and began with the presentation of Jesus’ programme in the synagogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:14-21). In the second phase, he goes to Samaria, sends messengers ahead of him (Lk 9:52) and draws new disciples (Lk 9:57-62). The second phase begins with the appointment of the other 72 disciples and with the presentation of the programme that will guide them in their missionary activities (Lk 10:1-16). Thus Luke suggests that these new disciples are not Jews from Galilee but Samaritans, and that the place where Jesus proclaims the Good News is no longer Galilee but Samaria, the territory of the excluded. The aim of the mission given to the disciples is the rebuilding of community life. In Jesus days, many movements tried new ways of life and of sharing life: the Pharisees, the Essenes, the Zealots, John the Baptist and others. Many formed communities of disciples (Jn 1:35; Lk 11:1; Acts 19:3) and had their missionaries (Mt 23:15). But there was one great difference. The communities of Pharisees, for instance, lived apart from people. The community around Jesus lives among the people. Jesus’ proposal to the 72 disciples is to recover the old community values that were being lost, like hospitality, welcoming, sharing, communion around the table, accepting the excluded. Jesus tries to renew and reorganise communities in such a way that they may become an expression of the Covenant, an expression of the Kingdom of God.

    b) A commentary on the text:

    Luke 10:1: The Mission
    Jesus sends the disciples to the places he would be visiting. The disciple is Jesus’ spokesperson. He is not the master of the Good News. Jesus sends them in pairs. This allows for mutual help and thus the mission is not that of an individual but of the community. Two persons represent the community better.

    Luke 10:2-3: Co-responsibility 
    Their first task is to ask God to send labourers. All of Jesus’ disciples must feel responsible for the mission. Thus they have to pray to the Father for the continuance of the mission. Jesus sends his disciples like lambs among wolves. The mission is a difficult and dangerous task. The system within which they lived and within which we still live continues to resist the reorganisation of people living in community. Anyone who, like Jesus, proclaims love in a society organised on individual and collective selfishness, will be a lamb among wolves and will be crucified.

    Luke 10:4-6: Hospitality 
    Jesus’ disciples may not take anything with them, no purse, no sandals. All they can take with them is peace. This means that they had to rely on the hospitality of the people. Thus the disciple who goes carrying nothing but peace, shows he trusts people. He thinks that he will be accepted and that thus people will feel respected and confirmed. In this way the disciples were criticising the laws concerning exclusion and brought out the old values of community sharing of the people of God. Salute no one on the road means that they must not waste time with matters not pertaining to the mission. This may be a reference to the episode of the death the Sunamite’s son, where Elisha says to his employee, “Go! If anyone salutes you, do not answer” (2Kings 4:29), because this was a matter of life and death. Proclaiming God’s Good News is a matter of life and death!

    Luke 10:7: Sharing 
    The disciples must not move from house to house, but must stay in the same house. They must live together with and share in the life and work of the local people, and live on what they receive in exchange, the labourer deserves his wages. This means that they must trust in sharing. Through this new practice, they recovered one of the old traditions of the people of God, criticising a culture of accumulation that was characteristic of the Roman Empire and so proclaimed a new model for people to live together.

    Luke 10:8: Communion around the table
    The disciples must take what food and drink they offer. When the Pharisees went on a mission, they went prepared. They took with them purse and money so that they could provide for their own food. They maintained that they could not trust the food of the people because it was not always ritually “pure”. Thus the observance of the Law of legal purity, instead of helping to overcome divisions, weakened the life of communitarian values. Jesus’ disciples must not be separate from the people but rather accept communion around the table. When coming into contact with people they were not to be afraid of losing legal purity. The community value of fraternal living together is greater than the observance of ritual norms. By acting thus, they criticised the current laws on purity, and proclaimed a new way to purity, to intimacy with God.

    Luke 10:9aWelcoming those excluded 
    The disciples must look after the sick, cure lepers and drive out evil spirits (cf Mt 10:8). This means that they must welcome into the community those who had been excluded from it. The practice of solidarity is a criticism of a society that excluded a person from the rest of the community. And thus is recovered the ancient prophetic tradition of goêl. From earliest times, the strength of the clan or the community was revealed in its defence of the value of a person, a family and the possession of land, and was concretely practised every “seven times seven years” in the celebration of the jubilee year (Lv 25,8-55; Dt 15,1-18).

    Luke 10:9bThe coming of the Kingdom 
    Hospitality, sharing, communion around the table, welcoming the excluded (goêl) were four pillars for sustaining community life. But because of the difficult situation of poverty, unemployment, persecution and oppression from the Romans, these pillars were broken. Jesus wants to rebuild them and affirms that, if they go back to these four values, the disciples can proclaim to the four winds: The Kingdom of God is very near to you! Proclaiming the Kingdom does not mean teaching truth and doctrine, but bringing people to a new way of living and sharing, a new way of acting and thinking, based on the Good News that Jesus proclaims: God is Father and therefore we are all together brothers and sisters.

    Luke 10:10-12: Wiping the dust from their feet 
    How can we understand such a hard threat? Jesus came to bring an entirely new thing. He came to recover the communitarian values of the past: hospitality, sharing, communion around the table and welcoming the excluded. This explains the severity of the words used against those who refuse to accept the message. They are not refusing something new, but their own past, their own culture and wisdom! Jesus’ plan for the 72 disciples was aimed at digging up the memory, recovering the communitarian values of the oldest tradition, to rebuild the community and renew the Covenant, to renew life and thus to make God the new great Good News in the life of people.

    Luke 10:17-20: The names written in heaven
    The disciples come back from the mission and get together with Jesus to evaluate what they had done. They begin by telling their stories. With great joy, they inform him that, in the name of Jesus, they were able to drive out evil spirits! Jesus helps them in their discernment. If they were able to drive out evil spirits, it was because Jesus had given them that power. While they stay with Jesus, no evil can come to them. And Jesus says that the most important thing was not driving out evil spirits, but that their names are written in heaven. To have one’s name written in heaven means to be certain of being known and loved by the Father. Some time before this, James and John had asked to bring down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Lk 9:54). Now, through the proclamation of the Good News, Satan falls from heaven (Lk 10:18) and the names of the Samaritan disciples are entered in heaven! In those days, many thought that whatever was Samaritan was of the devil, of Satan (Jn 8:48). Jesus changes everything!

    c) Further information:

    The small communities being formed in Galilee and in Samaria are above all “a foretaste of the Kingdom”. The community around Jesus is like the face of God transformed into New News for the people, above all for the poor. Is our community like this?

    Here are some characteristics of the community that grew around Jesus. These are characteristics of the face of God revealed in them. They may act as a mirror for the revision of our community:
    i) “You have only one master, and you are all brothers" (Mt 23:8). The foundation of the community is not knowledge or power, but equality among the brothers and sisters. It is fraternity
    ii) Jesus insists on equality between men and women (Mt 19:7-12) and gives orders to men and women (Mt 28:10; Mk 16:9-10; Jn 20:17). They all “follow” Jesus from Galilee (Mk 15:41; Lk 8:2-3). 
    iii) They had a common house shared with the poor (Jn 13:29). Thissharing must reach the soul and heart of all (Acts 1:14; 4:32). It must reach the point that there are no secrets among them (Jn 15:15).
    iv) The power of service. “Any one who wants to be first among you, must be slave to all!” (Mk 10:44). Jesus sets the example (Jn 13:15). "The Son of man came not be served, but to serve" (Mt 20:28). "Here am I among as one who serves" (Lk 22:27). "We are useless servants!" (Lk 17:10)
    v) Because of many conflicts and divisions, Jesus insists that the community be a place of forgiveness and reconciliation, not of mutual condemnation (Mt 18:21-22; Lk 17:3-4). The power to forgive was given to Peter (Mt 16:19), the apostles (Jn 20:23) and the communities (Mt 18:18). God’s pardon is passed on to the community. 
    vi) They prayed together in the Temple (Jn 2:13; 7:14; 10:22-23). Sometimes Jesus forms smaller groups (Lk 9:28; Mt 26:36-37). They pray before meals (Mk 6:41; Lk 24:30) and frequent the synagogues (Lk 4:16). 
    vii) Joy that no one can take away (Jn 16:20-22) "Blessed are you!" Your name is written in heaven (Lk 10:20), their eyes will see what has been promised (Lk 10:23-24), the Kingdom is yours! (Lk 6:20).

    The community around Jesus is the model for the early Christians after the resurrection (Acts 2:42-47)! The community is like the face of God transformed into Good News for the people.


    6. Praying the Psalm 146 (145) 

    The face of God, confirmed by Jesus 

    Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, my soul!
    I will praise Yahweh all my life, 
    I will make music to my God as long as I live.

    Do not put your trust in princes, 
    in any child of Adam, 
    who has no power to save.
    When his spirit goes forth he returns to the earth, 
    on that very day all his plans come to nothing.

    How blessed is he who has Jacob's God to help him, 
    his hope is in Yahweh his God,
    who made heaven and earth, 
    the sea and all that is in them. 
    He keeps faith for ever,
    gives justice to the oppressed, 
    gives food to the hungry; 
    Yahweh sets prisoners free.

    Yahweh gives sight to the blind, 
    lifts up those who are bowed down.
    Yahweh protects the stranger, 
    he sustains the orphan and the widow. 
    Yahweh loves the upright,
    but he frustrates the wicked.

    Yahweh reigns for ever, your God, Zion, 
    from age to age.


    7. Closing prayer

    Lord Jesus, we thank you for your Word that has clarified for us the will of the Father. Grant that your Spirit may enlighten our actions and give us the strength to put into practice that which your Word has revealed to us. Grant that we, like Mary, your Mother, may not only listen to your Word but also put it into practice. Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

    The parable of the Good Samaritan
    Who is my neighbour?
    Luke 10:25-37

    1. LECTIO

    a) Opening prayer:

    Prayers of Blessed Giorgio Preca in Il Sacrario dello spirito di Cristo

    Lord God, you are present and I am in you: 
              Give me wisdom to know your spirit.
    Lord God, you are present and I am in you: 
              Grant me the gift of the spirit of the Master, my Christ Jesus.
    Lord God, you are present and I am in you: 
              Guide my every way with your light.
    Lord God, you are present and I am in you:
              Teach me to do your will at all times.
    Lord God, you are present and I am in you: 
              Do not let me stray from your Spirit, the Spirit of love.
    Lord God, you are present and I am in you: 
              Do not abandon me when my strength fails.

    b) Gospel reading:

    Luke 10:25-3725 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Picture) 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."
    29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" 30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

    c) Prayerful silent time:

    that the Word of God may enter into our hearts and enlighten our life.


    a) A key to the reading:

    This is chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel. It is the central part of Luke’s Gospel and it follows Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem: «Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road for Jerusalem» (Lk 9: 51). We know that for Luke, Jerusalem is the city where salvation will take place, and Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem forms a central theme. Luke’s story begins in the holy city (Lk 1: 5) and ends in the same city (Lk 24: 52). In this middle section, Luke will repeatedly insist on the fact that Jesus is going towards Jerusalem (for instance in Lk 13: 22; 17: 11). In this text, which tells the parable of the good Samaritan in the context of a discussion with a doctor of the law concerning the greatest commandment, we again find the theme of a journey, this time from Jerusalem to Jericho (Lk 10: 30). The parable is part of this middle section of the Gospel that begins with Jesus, a pilgrim together with his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. He sends them ahead to prepare for him to stop at a Samaritan village and there they only find hostility precisely because they were on their way to Jerusalem (Lk 9: 51-53). The Samaritans avoided pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and were hostile to them. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit” (Lk 10: 1). Seventy-two is the traditional number of pagan nations.

    The Fathers of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and others), keeping in mind all the symbolism associated with Jerusalem, the holy city of salvation, interpret this parable in a particular way. In the man who goes from Jerusalem to Jericho they see Adam who represents the whole human race expelled from Eden, the celestial paradise, because of sin. The Fathers of the Church see the thieves as the tempter who takes us away from God’s friendship with his wiles and who holds us slaves in our humanity wounded by sin. In the priest and the Levite they see the insufficiency of the old law for our salvation that will be accomplished by our Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, who, leaving the celestial Jerusalem, comes to the aid of our sinful condition and heals us with the oil of grace and the wine of the Spirit. In the inn, the Fathers see and image of the Church and in the inn-keeper they see the pastors into whose hands Jesus entrusts the care of his people, The departure of the Samaritan from the inn is seen by the Fathers as the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to sit at the right hand of the Father, but who promises to come back to reward each person according to his or her merit. Jesus then leaves the two denarii to the Church for our salvation, the two denarii that are the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacraments that help us on our way to holiness.

    This allegorical and mystical interpretation of the text helps us to accept well the message of this parable. The text of the parable begins with a dialogue between a doctor of the law who stands to put the Lord to the test by asking: «Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?» (Lk 10: 25). Jesus replies with another question: «What is written in the law? What do you read there?» (Lk 10: 26). We must see this dialogue as a confrontation between two masters, a thing quite common in those days as a system of clarifying and deepening points of law. The polemical tone prevailing here is different from that in Mark where the question is asked by a Scribe who «had listened to them debating (Jesus and the Sadducees), and had observed how well Jesus had answered them» (Mk 12: 28) then puts the question to Jesus. This Scribe is well disposed to listen to Jesus, so much so that Jesus ends the dialogue with: «You are not far from the kingdom of God» (Mk 12: 34). Matthew, however, places this question in the context of a debate between Jesus and the Sadducees with the Pharisees present who when they “heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question…” (Mt 22:34-35). Jesus gives an immediate reply quoting the commandment of love as found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

    Only in Luke’s text is the question not about which is the greatest commandment but about how to inherit eternal life, a question dealt with again in the Synoptic Gospels on the lips of the rich young man (Mt 19: 16; Mk 10: 17; Lk 18: 18). As in Mark, so also here, Jesus praises the doctor of the law: «You have answered right… do this and life is yours» (Lk 1:, 28). But the doctor of the law was not yet satisfied with Jesus’ answer and wanting «to justify himself» (Lk 10: 28) for having asked the question asks again “and who is my neighbour”! This second question introduces and connects the following parable with the dialogue between Jesus and the doctor of the law. We also notice an inclusion between verse 26 that ends the debate and leads us to the tale of the parable in verse 37, which ends definitively the dialogue and the parable. In this verse, Jesus repeats to the doctor of the law that he had defined the neighbour as one who was compassionate: «Go and do the same yourself». This phrase of Jesus reminds us of the words at the last supper as recorded in John, when, after the washing of the feet, Jesus invites his disciples to follow his example (Jn 13: 12-15). At the last supper, Jesus bequeaths to his disciples the commandment of love understood as willingness “to give one’s life” in love for each other as the Lord has loved us (Jn 15: 12-14).

    This commandment goes beyond the observance of the law. The priest and the Levite have kept the law by not approaching the poor wounded man who is left half dead, so as not to defile themselves (Lev 21: 1). Jesus goes beyond the law and desires his disciples to do as he does. «By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples» (Jn 13: 35). For the disciple of Jesus mere philanthropy is not enough. The Christian is called to something more, which he or she accomplishes in imitation of the Master, as the Apostle Paul said: «We are those who have the mind of Christ» (1 Cor 2: 16) «Because the love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that one man has died for all» (2 Cor 5, 14).

    b) Some questions to direct our meditation and practice:

    * What touched you most in the parable?
    * With whom in the story do you identify?
    * Have you ever thought of Jesus as the Good Samaritan?
    * Do you feel the need for salvation in your life?
    * Can you say with the apostle Paul that you have the mind of Christ?
    * What urges you to love your neighbour? Is it the need to love and be loved, or is it compassion and the love of Christ?
    * Who is your neighbour?

    3. ORATIO

    Canticle - 1Pt 2, 21-24

    21 Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.


    Contemplation is knowing how to adhere with one’s mind and heart to the Lord who by his Word transforms us into new beings who always do his will. “Knowing these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (Jn 13: 17)







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    Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus
    Which is the better part chosen by Mary?
    Luke 10, 34 – 42

    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 the Gospel for this Sunday narrates the visit of Jesus to the house of Martha and Mary. Jesus tells Martha: “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her!” Throughout the centuries, many times these words have been interpreted as a confirmation on the part of Jesus of the fact that contemplative life, hidden in the monasteries, is better and more sublime than the active life of those who work in the field of evangelisation. This interpretation is not very correct, because it lacks the foundation of the text. In order to understand the significance of these words of Jesus (and of any word) it is important to take into account, to consider the context, that is, the context of the Gospel of Luke as well as the broader context of the work of Luke which includes the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Before verifying the broader context of the Acts of the Apostles, let us try to gaze a bit at the text in itself and try to see how it is placed in the immediate context of the Gospel of Luke. During the reading, try to feel that you are present in Mary’s house and feel close to the environment and to the outreach or importance of the words of Jesus, not only as Martha hears them but also as the community for which Luke writes his Gospel hears them and also how we hear them, us, who today hear these such inspiring words of Jesus.

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

    Luke 10,38: Martha welcomes Jesus into her house
    Luke 10, 39-40a: Mary listens to the words of Jesus, Martha is busy with the service in the house
    Luke 10, 40b: Martha complains and asks Jesus to intervene
    Luke 10, 41-42: Answer of Jesus

    c) Text:

    Luke 10, 34 – 4238 In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord's feet and listened to him speaking. 40 Now Martha, who was distracted with all the serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.' 41 But the Lord answered, 'Martha, Martha,' he said, 'you worry and fret about so many things, 42 and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her.'


    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 is the point in this text which pleased you the most or struck you? Why?
    b) What would Jesus want to say with that affirmation: “one thing alone is necessary”?
    c) Which was the “better part” which Mary chose and which will not be taken from her?
    d) A historical event can have a more profound symbolical sense. Did you succeed in discovering a symbolical sense in the way in which Luke describes Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary?
    e) Read attentively Acts 6, 1-6 and try to discover the bond of union between the problem of the apostles and the conversation of Jesus with Martha.

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

    a) Context of the Gospel of Luke:

    In Luke 9, 51 begins the second stage of the apostolic activity of Jesus, the long journey from Galilee up to Jerusalem. At the beginning of the journey, Jesus gets out of the Jewish world and enters into the world of the Samaritans (Lk 9, 52). Even though He is not well received by the Samaritans (Lk 9, 53), He continues in their territory and even corrects the Disciples who think differently (Lk 9, 54-55). In responding to those who ask to follow Him, Jesus makes explicit the significance of everything that has happened, and indicates to them the demands of the mission (Lk 9, 56-62).

    Then Jesus appoints other seventy-two disciples to go on mission before Him. The sending out of the twelve (Lk 9, 1-6) was in the world of the Jews. The sending out of the seventy-two is for the non Jewish world. Having finished the mission, Jesus and the Disciples meet and evaluate the mission, and the Disciples give an account of the many activities that they carried out, but Jesus insists on the greatest certainty that their names are written in Heaven (Lk 10, 17-37).       

    Then follows our text which describes the visit of Jesus to the house of Martha and Mary (Lk 10, 38-42). Luke does not specifically indicate where the village of Martha and Mary is found, but in the geographical context of his Gospel, the reader imagines that the village is found in Samaria. From the Gospel of John we know that Martha and Mary lived in Bethany, a small village near Jerusalem (Jn 11, 1). Besides, John tells us that they had a brother named Lazarus.

    b) Comment on the Text:

    Luke 10, 38: Martha welcomes Jesus into her house
    “In the course of the journey, he came to a village and, a woman named Martha welcomed hum into her house” Jesus was on the way. Luke does not always say where Jesus was passing by, but many times that Jesus is on the way (Lk 9, 51,53-57;; 10, 1.38; 11, 1; 13, 22.23; 14, 25; 17, 11; 18, 31.35; 19,; 20, 1). Because Jesus was firmly decided to go up to Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51). This decision orientates Him during all the stages of the journey. The entrance into the village and into the house of Martha and Mary is a stage more of this long journey up to Jerusalem and forms part of the realization of Jesus’ mission. From the beginning, the objective of the journey is definitive: to carry out His mission of Servant, announced by Isaiah (Is 53, 2-10; 61, 1-2) and assumed by Jesus in Nazareth (Lk 4, 16-21).

    Luke 10, 39-40a: Mary listened to his words, Martha was taken up with the service.
    “She had a sister, named Mary, who sitting at the feet of Jesus, listened to his word; Martha, instead was all taken up with all the serving”. A normal supper at home, in the family. While some speak, others prepare the food. The two tasks are important and necessary, both complement one another, especially when it is a question of welcoming someone who is coming from outside. In affirming that “Martha was all taken up with all the serving” (diaconia), Luke evokes the seventy-two disciples who were also busy with many activities of the missionary service (Lk 10, 17-18).

    Luke 10, 40b: Martha complains and asks Jesus to intervene.
    “Martha came to him and said: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the service all by myself? Please tell her to help me’” Another familiar scene, but not so normal. Martha is busy only with the preparation of the food, while Mary is sitting, and is speaking with Jesus. Martha complains. Perhaps Jesus interferes and says something to the sister to see if she will help her in the service in the diaconia. Martha considers herself a servant and thinks that the service of a servant is that of preparing the food and that her service in the kitchen is more important than that of her sister who is speaking with Jesus. For Martha, what Mary does is not a service, because she says: “Do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the service all by myself?” But Martha is not the only servant. Jesus also assumes his role as servant, that is of the Servant announced by the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had said that the principal service of the Servant is that of being before God in prayer listening in order to be able to discover a word of comfort to take to those who are discouraged. The Servant said: “The Lord God has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple” (Is 50, 4). Now, Mary has an attitude of prayer before Jesus. And the question arises: Who carries out the service of a servant better: Martha or Mary?

    Luke 10, 41-42: Response of Jesus
    “The Lord then answered: ‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her” A beautiful answer and a very human one. For Jesus, a good conversation with persons, who are friends is important and even more important than eating (cf. Jn 4, 32). Jesus does not agree with the worries of Martha. He does not want that the preparation of the meal interrupt the conversation. and it is as if he would say: “Martha, it is not necessary to prepare so many things! A small thing suffices! And then come to participate in such a beautiful conversation!” This is the principal significance, so simple and human of the words of Jesus. Jesus likes a good conversation. and a good conversationwith Jesus produces conversion. But in the context of the Gospel of Luke, these decisive words of Jesus assume a more profound symbolical significance:

    i) Like Martha, the disciples also, during the mission, were worried about many things, but Jesus clarifies well that the more important thing is that of having their names written in Heaven, that is, to be known and loved by God (Lk 10, 20). Jesus repeats to Martha: “You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

    ii) A short time before the Doctor of the Law had reduced the commandments to one alone: “To love the Lord God above all things and your neighbour as yourself” (Lk 10, 27). Observing this only and better commandment, the person will be ready to act with love, like the Good Samaritan and not like the priest or the Levite who do not fulfil their duty well (Lk 10, 25-42). The many services of Martha should be carried out beginning by this unique service truly necessary which is the loving attention to persons. This is the better part that Mary has chosen and which will not be taken from her.

    iii) Martha is concerned about serving (diaconia). She wanted to be helped by Mary in the service of the table. But which is the service which God wants? This is the fundamental question. Mary is more in agreement with the attitude of the Servant of God, because, like the Servant, she is now in the attitude of prayer before Jesus. Mary cannot abandon her attitude of prayer in the presence of God. Because if she would do this, she would not discover the word of comfort to take to those who are wearied. This is the true service which God is asking from all.

    c) Broadening the information:

    A broader context of the Acts of the Apostles

    After the death and resurrection of Jesus the communities will be born. They will have to face new problems, for which they did not have solutions already foreseen. In order to orientate themselves in the solutions to the problems, the communities tried to remember the words and gestures of Jesus which could bring them some light. Thus, the episode of the visit of Jesus to the house of Martha and Mary was recalled and narrated in order to help clarify the problem described in Acts 6, 1-6.

    The rapid growth in the number of Christians created divisions in the community. The faithful of Greek origin began to complain of those of Hebrew origin and said that their widows were set aside, neglected, in the daily life. There was discrimination in the environment of the community and persons were lacking for the various services. Up to that moment the need had not arisen to involve other persons in the coordination of the community and in the fulfilment of the services. Like Moses, after leaving Egypt (Ex 18, 14; Num 11, 14-15), the Apostles also did everything alone. But Moses, obliged by the facts, shared the power and convoked other seventy leaders for the necessary services among the People of God (Ex 18, 17-23; Num 11, 16-17). Jesus had done the same thing: he convoked other seventy-two disciples (Lk 10, 1). Now, in the face of new problems, the Apostles did the same. They convoked the community and exposed the problem before everyone. Without doubt, the word of Jesus to Martha helped them to reach a solution. Below it is possible to read the two texts, one at the side of the other. Try to understand how they enlighten each other:


    1 About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. 2 So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; 3 you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom, to whom we can hand over this duty. 4 We ourselves will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.' (Acts 6, 1-4)

    38 In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord's feet and listened to him speaking. 40 Now Martha, who was distracted with all the serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.' 41 But the Lord answered, 'Martha, Martha,' he said, 'you worry and fret about so many things, 42 and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her.'


    The Apostles find themselves between two real needs, both of them very important, defined as service (diaconia): the service of the Word and the service of the tables. What to do? Which of the two is more important? The response of Jesus to Martha helped to discern the problem. Jesus said that Mary could not abandon the conversation with Him in order to go and help in the kitchen. Thus, Peter concludes: It would not be right for us to neglect the Word of God so as to give out food! And Peter defines the service of the Apostolate: “to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

    It is not said that one service is better than the other. What cannot happen is that the service of the Word be hindered by the unforeseen demands of the service at the table. The community was obliged to face the problem, be concerned to have enough people for all the services, so as to be able, to converse, thus, the service of the Word in its integrity. The service of the word proper of the Apostles (and of Mary at the feet of Jesus) had two dimensions: on the one side the listening to the Word, receiving it, incarnating it, announcing it, diffusing it through the active work of evangelisation and, on the other side, in the name of the community, respond to God in prayer, represent the community in a prayerful attitude before God. It is not a question of an opposition between the two services: word and table. Both are important and necessary for the life of the community. It is necessary to have persons available for both of them. In the economy of the Kingdom, besides, the service of the Word (Evangelisation) is the root, the source. It is the better part which Mary has chosen. The service of the table is the result, the fruit, it is its revelation. For Luke and for the first Christians, “the better part” of which Jesus speaks to Martha, is the service of evangelisation, source of all the rest.

    Mestre Eckhart, the great Dominican mystic of the Middle Ages interprets this episode in a very amusing way. He says that Martha already knew how to work and to live in the presence of God. Mary did not know and was learning. This is why she could not be interrupted. The great mystics are the proof that this text cannot be interpreted like a confirmation on the part of Jesus that contemplative life is better and more sublime than active life. It is not well to make a distinction of these two words, because one is completed, is founded and is made explicit in the other. The Carmelite Friar Saint John of the Cross in a little more than ten years he travelled 27,000 kilometres going through Spain. Saint Teresa of Avila was always on the move, very busy as she was with the foundation of so many monasteries. Jesus himself lived the profound unity of contemplative and active life.


    6. Recitation of a Psalm

    Psalm 145 (144): God deserves praise

    I shall praise you to the heights, God my King, 
    I shall bless your name for ever and ever.
    Day after day I shall bless you, 
    I shall praise your name for ever and ever.

    Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise, 
    his greatness beyond all reckoning.
    Each age will praise your deeds to the next, 
    proclaiming your mighty works.
    Your renown is the splendour of your glory, 
    I will ponder the story of your wonders.
    They will speak of your awesome power, 
    and I shall recount your greatness.
    They will bring out the memory of your great generosity, 
    and joyfully acclaim your saving justice.
    Yahweh is tenderness and pity, 
    slow to anger, full of faithful love.
    Yahweh is generous to all, 
    his tenderness embraces all his creatures.

    All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, 
    and your faithful shall bless you.
    They shall speak of the glory of your kingship 
    and tell of your might,
    making known your mighty deeds to the children of Adam, 
    the glory and majesty of your kingship.
    Your kingship is a kingship for ever, 
    your reign lasts from age to age. 
    Yahweh is trustworthy in all his words, 
    and upright in all his deeds.

    Yahweh supports all who stumble, 
    lifts up those who are bowed down.
    All look to you in hope 
    and you feed them with the food of the season.
    And, with generous hand, 
    you satisfy the desires of every living creature.

    Upright in all that he does, 
    Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
    He is close to all who call upon him, 
    all who call on him from the heart.
    He fulfils the desires of all who fear him, 
    he hears their cry and he saves them.
    Yahweh guards all who love him, 
    but all the wicked he destroys.

    My mouth shall always praise Yahweh, 
    let every creature bless his holy name for ever and ever.


    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.

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      Tel. 921-360219
      Email: carmelopiedrahita @
    • Monasterio Santa Ana
      Santa Ana, 34-C, 41002 Sevilla.
      Tel. 95-4380603 Fax 49-4901334
      Email: moncarse @
    • Monasterio Santa Ana
      Carretera los Hoyos, C. Cuesta Los Lirios, n. 5
      35017 Tafira Alta (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria).
      Tel. & Fax 928-351208
      Email: montafa @
    • Monestir de l'Amor Diví
      Santuari Diocesà de la Mare de Déu de Fàtima
      25300 Tarrega (Lleida).
      Tel. 973-310437
    • Monasterio de la Purísima Concepción
      Ponce de Léon, 11, 41710 Utrera (Sevilla).
      Tel. 95-4860289 Fax 95-5862221
      Email: carmelitasutrera @
    • Monasterio de la Sma. Encarnación del Verbo Divino
      Balmes, 41, 46001 Valencia.
      Tel. & Fax 96-3915759
      Email: monverdivalcom @
    • Monestir de la Presentació
      Portal Nou, 20, 43800 Valls (Tarragona).
      Tel. 977-600739 Fax 977-600085
      Email: aocarmel @
    • Monestir de la Mare de Déu del Carme
      Carretera de S. Martí s/n - Apartat 175
      08720 Vilafranca Del Penedes (Barcelona).
      Tel. 93-8900617 Fax 93-8173596
      Email: carmelusvila @
    • Monasterio de S. Juan Bautista
      Avenida Francisco Alcalá, 9
      21860 Villalba del Alcor (Huelva).
      Tel. 959-421063 Fax 959-420144
      Email: info@


    • Carmel of Mary
      17765 - 78th St. S.E., Wahpeton,
      North Dakota 58075.
      Tel. 701-6422360
      Email: carmelofmary @


    • Carmel of Our Lady of Nazareth
      P.O.Box 213, Cabanatuan City, 3100 Nueva Ecija.
      Tel. 44-4631277
    • Monasterio de N. Sra. de las Maravillas y San José
      P.O. Box 121, 6200 Dumaguete City (Negros Oriental).
      Tel. 035-2254960
      Email: carmelnuns_dgte @
    • Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family
      Tabe, Guiguinto, 3015 Bulacán.
      Tel. & Fax 6344-7602093
      Email: carmelgto @
    • Carmel of Jesus of Nazareth Monastery
      c/o San Andres Parish Convent
      Maramag, Southern Bukidnon
      Northen Mindanao.
      Mob. +639197410968
    • Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Trinity and
      Our Lady of Mount Carmel

      P.O. Box 44, Lawa-an, Roxas City (Capiz) 5800.
      Tel. 036-6210664
    • Mater Carmeli Monastery
      P.O. Box 24, Sta Ignacia, Tarlac 2303.
      Tel. 63.45.4930827 Fax 63.45.6050324
      Email: carmeltlc @


    • Zusters Karmelietessen
      K.V.H. "St. Anna", Veerstraat, 49,
      5831 JM, Boxmeer.
      Tel. 0485-565857
    • Zusters Karmelietessen
      Zargcentrum De Eghte
      afd Antonius, De Eghte 1,
      6101 EX, Echt.
      Tel. 0475-417777
    • Karmel "Titus Brandsma"
      Palestinastr. 107, 6418 HC, Heerlen (Limburg).
      Tel. 045-5413437
      Email: karmelheerlen @
    • Karmel "St. Jozef"
      Duyn en Daelseweg 15, 5391 EC, Nuland.
      Tel. 073-5342342
      Email: carmelnuland @
    • Karmel "St. Jozef"
      Carmelitessenweg, 1, 7625 TA, Zenderen.
      Tel. 074-2661219
      Email: @

    PERÙ +51

    • Monasterio de la Sma. Trinidad
      Casilla 55, Camaná (Arequipa).
      Tel. 54-571808
      Email: carmelitascamana @

    PORTUGAL +351

    • Carmelo do S. Coração de Jesus
      Rua António de Gouveia, 7800-277, Beja (Alentejo).
      Tel. 284388157
      Email: carmelobeja @
    • Mosteiro de Sagrada Família
      5160, Torre De Moncorvo (Bragança).
      Tel. & Fax 279-22351

    PUERTO RICO +851

    • Monasterio Sta. Maria del Monte Carmelo
      #745 Carretera 349, Mayagüez 00680-8323.
      Tel. 787-8346789 Fax 787-8320295
      Email: mtcarmelo @
    • Monasterio Carmelita San José
      P.O. Box 568, Trujillo Alto PR 00977.
      Tel. 787-7619548 Fax 787-2837235
      Email: mcsjose @

     VENEZUELA +58 

    • Monasterio de la Anunciación
      Apartado 71, Porlamar, N.Esparta.
      Tel. 0295-2871225
      Email: monjascarmelitas_porlamar @


    • Eremite Carmelitane di S. Martino alla Palma
      Via Triozzi Basso, 9, 50010
      S. Martino alla Palma (Firenze), Italia.
      Tel.: 0557309176

    I would like to focus on three great anniversaries or jubilees that fall this year.

    On July 16, 40 years ago, 12,000 pilgrims from all over Europe led by Cardinal Heenan and Archbishop Cowderoy, streamed to Aylesford for the rededication of the Shrine and the consecration of the altars. Perhaps we could say the renaissance of Aylesford. This anniversary year sees a new Prior and team at Aylesford - no doubt discerning the way ahead, renewing the vision for this treasure house of spirituality and reaffirming its place in the modern world.

    Where better to go in that discernment than Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral (and Doctrinal!) Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - promulgated also 40 years ago on December 7th. A second ruby jubilee! Arguably Gaudium et Spes, along with Lumen Gentium, were the most important bequest to us from Vatican II.

    Gaudium et Spes offers a vision of Church which is not just institution and hierarchy. It speaks of the Church as the People of God, the community of the baptised. The Church is all of us. Furthermore we could say that Gaudium et Spes provides for the justice and peace movement its Magna Carta from its very opening, and oft-quoted words:

    "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ."

    It spoke then of the terrible divide in our world between rich and poor. Never so much wealth and still colossal scandalous numbers going hungry. It highlighted the urgency of greater solidarity; it urged dialogue and engagement with the world to transform the world, promoting human dignity, freedom, and human rights. Its message is that peace is the fruit of justice. We are invited to know not so much an all-powerful God as an all-loving God.

    So we the Church are a pilgrim people, united in sacrament and solidarity, striving to follow the Lord in a broken and divided world. Sacrament AND solidarity. Prayer AND action. Love of God AND love of neighbour. We can't have God without neighbour or sacrament without solidarity. Here in Gaudium et Spes are planted the seeds of the preferential option for the poor - the poor at the centre and heart of the mission of the Church - subsequently crystallised in the social teaching of John Paul II.

    The pilgrim people needs food for the journey which comes in the Eucharist - but we still grow weary and occasionally our commitment flags. To energise us we look to our heroes, our saints, to those who have carried the torch of faith and justice before us. This brings us to our third anniversary.

    2005 is the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, a Gaudium et Spes bishop to his core and patron-saint-in-waiting of our justice and peace movement. At this moment we are waiting confidently and expectantly for Benedict XVI to announce that Romero's heroic sanctity and martyrdom will be recognised in his beatification.

    For me personally the greatest grace and privilege of my life is to have known and worked with Archbishop Romero and to have enjoyed his friendship. Let me tell you his story.

    It was a Tuesday morning 25 years ago. I was woken up by the telephone ringing. It was a call from El Salvador with the news that Oscar Romero had been assassinated. He had been shot dead with a single marksman's bullet just as he began to offer the bread and wine at a Mass he was celebrating in the little chapel at the cancer hospital where he lived with the Carmelite sisters. Like millions of others I was shattered; I felt sick. The news ricocheted round the world. It was not simply a killing. It was a great crime against humanity. The magnicide ended three dramatic years of Romero's ministry as Archbishop of San Salvador.

    It all happened on 24 March 1980 - twelve hours before Robert Runcie was installed in the Chair of St Augustine not far from here in Canterbury Cathedral. In fact on the spot where another turbulent priest, St Thomas a Beckett, was killed in 1170 on the orders of King Henry II for his defence of the rights and liberty of the Church.

    And it all happened in El Salvador, the tiny Catholic country in Central America, named after Christ the Saviour. The size of Wales, with a population of about 4 million, El Salvador was ruled at the time by a military-led junta. The order to kill Romero was given by Major Roberto D'Aubuisson with the knowledge and assent of the military high command. It was planned and executed by their death squads with a hired professional marksman. It happened with the complicity of the National Police (who were nowhere to be seen for two hours after the killing). And, it has to be said, it happened to the joy of the Catholic wealthy class who opened champagne and let off fireworks as news of the assassination spread on that evening of 24 March.

    It happened when El Salvador was poised on the brink of civil war - a country with grotesque economic exploitation, social deprivation and malnutrition in the countryside, on the coffee estates and cotton and sugar plantations. The whole unjust system - the institutionalised injustice - was kept in place through electoral fraud and wholesale repression. Killings, torture, disappearances, political imprisonment and forced exile were the routines of the military regime. Six priests and dozens of catechists were killed before Romero. Kidnappings and high profile murders were the response of the guerrilla left.

    Archbishop Romero, just simply 'Monsenor' as he was affectionately known by all his people, preached a gospel message of social justice, non-violent change, peace and reconciliation. In word and deed he acted out Gaudium et Spes and all the rich heritage of Catholic Social Teaching. He made incarnate the preferential option for the poor - the poor really did come first on his agenda. The joys and sorrows of his suffering people were indeed the joys and sorrows of his Church. The social teaching was not just words, words, words. He lived them out day by day. And in the end he gave his life for his people, a 20th century martyr for the poor.

    Three incredible years of ministry at the head of the archdiocese. Put alongside the three years of the public ministry of Christ the inevitable comparisons are there to be made. The preaching, the teaching. The compassion. The audacious challenges to the authorities. The doubts. The temptations. The agonies. The insults. The plotting. The hostility of the elders of the Church (in Romero's case the nuncio and his fellow bishops). The death threats; and the public execution. Romero was an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. According to Gustavo Gutierrez, if Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, is the homily of God, then Oscar Romero was the homily of Jesus Christ. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

    Born on the Feast of the Assumption 1917, he went to seminary at 13. he studied in Rome and was ordained in 1942. He was trained in the most traditional fashion, a product of the Gregorian University and the Jesuits. He became a great admirer of Pius XI and Pius XII. He loved the rosary from childhood to his death - but he had many devotions. He developed a deep prayer life in which (and through which) he could retreat to be with God and pray through his difficult challenges. He prized and recommended to others the intimate divine space of our conscience where we encounter ourselves and then go out and encounter God. It was a rich spirituality with clear mendicant and indeed Carmelite traits.

    In a homily on the Feast of Carmel in 1977 he said:

    The scapular is a sign of salvation…. If the Blessed Virgin were to give the scapular to Simon Stock today she would tell him "This is the sign of protection, a sign of God's teaching, a sign of humanity's integral vocation, for the salvation of the whole person, now in this life. All who wear the scapular must be persons who live now in salvation on this earth and they must feel content to develop their human powers for the good of others". ….When the Church demands a more just society, wealth better shared, and more respect for human rights, the Church is not meddling in politics. The church is telling people what the scapular says: only those will be saved who can use the things of earth with the heart of God.

    For 25 years from his ordination Romero was what we would describe as a zealous pastor, an indefatigable and popular preacher and catechist, parish priest, editor of the diocesan newspaper, vicar general and administrator of the cathedral. He promoted the local SVP, the cursillo movement, and alcoholics anonymous. He lived a life of simplicity and, according to his housekeepers, of austerity and fasting. He was guardian of the national shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace in San Miguel. Indeed he oversaw its refurbishment and rededication - a decade before the Aylesford ceremonies!

    Cut adrift from his diocese as an ecclesiastical bureaucrat in 1967, he had a difficult 'blue' period, seven years of pastoral famine. By all accounts he became sullen, awkward, pedantic and aggressively suspicious of new pastoral practice. Ordained an auxiliary bishop in 1970, he became close to the military government and flirted with Opus Dei.

    In 1977, against all the odds and all the predictions, to the dismay of the diocesan clergy and many religious, to the horror of the grassroots Christian communities, Romero was appointed archbishop of San Salvador.

    But two weeks after his installation the scales were dramatically shaken from his eyes by the murder, at the hands of a death squad, of his friend the Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande who worked to organise exploited rural workers into unions. The government lied to him. He paused and he prayed. It was his Gethsemane. He made an option - to put himself on the side of this poor peasantry which, he wrote at the time to a friend, "seems to have put me on the road to Calvary". To demonstrate the Church's abhorrence at the crime and to express the sorrow and mourning Romero cancelled all Masses throughout the diocese the following Sunday except for a single Mass in front of the metropolitan cathedral. This infuriated the government, the wealthy classes, the nuncio and some of his episcopal colleagues.

    The persecution of the Church actually intensified as Romero's legendary preaching week by week confronted the human rights violations, the political violence, the corrupt system of justice, the iniquitous land tenure system and the suffering of El Salvador's poor. He endeavoured to make the Word of God come alive in the concrete situation of El Salvador, in the lives of the poor. His homilies were broadcast each week on the diocesan radio station and brought him a massive audience beyond the packed cathedral. He teased out all the meaning from the Gospel and then applied it directly to contemporary El Salvador. The Mass was never a political rally but rather a giant catechetical workshop in the heart of the Eucharistic celebration where he told the truth about the situation in the country. His message was utterly consistent. No to the killings of the right. No to the violence of the left. Yes to political organisation. Yes to the option for the poor. Social Justice for the poor. Human rights for all. Yes to dialogue. He invited the wealthy groups to a change of heart - sometimes gently; sometimes more sharply. They believed he was deranged or duped. There began to be seen bumper stickers 'Be a Patriot. Kill a priest'. Six priests were killed before Romero. At the funeral of one of them he said, "My job seems to be going around collecting dead bodies".

    He brought hope to his people in a situation of escalating violence, suffering and tragedy. He generated international solidarity. He gave hope to many of us here in Europe and North America. Cardinal Hume offered him important support; CAFOD funded the reconstruction of his radio station twice after it was bombed and taken out of action. As violence intensified in February 1980 he appealed to President Jimmy Carter to stop military aid to Salvador's armed forces as it was being used to repress the people. The army and the government were livid. But the repression simply got worse. On 23rd March he made a direct appeal to the enlisted men in the army not to kill their fellow Salvadorans - the law of God 'Thou shalt not kill', he reminded them, was more important than an unjust order to shoot. He said, "I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God and in the name of this suffering people, stop the repression". The plan, long prepared, for his elimination was put into action. The next day he died at the altar after preaching a beautiful homily on the gospel text 'Unless a grain of wheat dies and falls into the ground…' (John 12:24)

    For three years Romero had staved off civil war - the only person who could be heard by both left and right in an ever-polarising context. Following his assassination the war was unstoppable and over the next 12 years it claimed more than 70,000 lives. Romero was a martyr for the option for the poor - which he lived and promoted; a martyr to the magisterium of the Church - to Gaudium at Spes and the whole body of Catholic social doctrine; but a martyr to political incomprehension too!

    Archbishop Romero's relevance to the Church and the justice and peace movement in 2005 is manifold. First and foremost he is a credible witness to the resurrection in this post-modernist age. A model Christian, his spirit gives us energy. His identification with the poor demonstrates that the 'option for the poor' is not just meaningless rhetoric from the late 20th century. The gospel is addressed to all but its privileged recipients are the poor. It is good news for the poor. It can be good news for us the rich - provided that WE in our lives are good news to the poor. He spoke the truth fearlessly, prophetically. He was an evangeliser par excellence. There was just no 'spin'. He unmasked the idolatry of the time and named it. The idolatry of wealth. The idolatry of national security. And the idolatry of the party organisation - on the left.

    Today we look not at tiny El Salvador but at our tiny globalised planet. The poor in Africa are our crucified peoples. The scandal of 1.2 billion people living on less than $1 a day; 40 million people living today with HIV - most without medication, social support or pastoral care - and no vaccine. The misuse and misallocation of our global resources - plenty for war and precious little for the global poor. The global divide widens. Global tension and conflict increase far beyond the Middle East. But we resolutely believe that 'another world is possible' - in John Paul's phrase 'a civilisation of love', a world of solidarity and justice. We really can 'Make Poverty History'. But global security must not be a new idolatry tied up simply with global anti-terrorist measures - we must rather struggle for human security for everyone and that must include our global war on abject poverty and destitution. Oscar Romero would be with us at the very front of the march.

    Ignacio Ellacuria, martyred himself in 1989, said that with Archbishop Romero God passed through El Salvador. I believe we could say that with Archbishop Romero God passed through the universal Church. He is the patron to whom we should pray 'Monsenor, guide and illuminate us in our work for justice and peace. Take our concerns to Jesus himself'.

    In this jubilee year of the martyrdom I was proud to be able to cooperate with the British province of the Carmelites in enabling the little house where Romero lived at the cancer hospital to be repaired and protected. It has long been a place of pilgrimage, 'a Holy Place'. The Anglicans have already in their own manner canonised Oscar Romero with his statue placed over the West Door of Westminster Abbey alongside Martin Luther King, seven years ago. We pray that his Cause will this year go forward in Rome too. It will bring joy and hope - gaudium et spes - to the bread-breaking justice-seeking pilgrim people of God throughout the world.

    My hope is that it may be possible to link all three anniversaries and that Oscar Romero and his spirituality of justice might become a special thread in the life of Aylesford, to strengthen and give joy and hope to the justice and peace movement here in England and to the greater glory of God.

    Julian Filochowski

    25th September 2005

    Your petitions will be remembered at Mass and in prayer by the Carmelites during these Novena days.

    Carmelite sister, Saint Edith Stein, was a born into an observant Jewish family. However, by her mid teens, became an atheist. On January 1, 1922, Edith Stein was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church.

    Edith Stein was arrested in 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where she died in a gas chamber.

    On May 1, 1987, Stein was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II and then canonized by him on October 11, 1998.

    • Carmelite Sisters of Our Lady
      General Superior
      Fatima Village, Piapi
      P.O. Box 156, Dumaguete City 6200, Filippine.
      Tel: 0063.35.226.1417 / 0063.35.422.5414
      Email: jcarmel @
    • Corpus Christi Carmelites 
      The Generalate
      Mt. St. Benedict
      St. Augustine, Trinidad, W.I.
      Tel: 868-6625149
      Email: supgen @
    • Handmaids of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
      Mother General
      Ruvadiki Convent
      5 Honde Street, Murambi, Mutare
      P.O. Box 2006, Mutare, Zimbabwe.
      Tel: 00263.20.61.203 Fax: 00263.20.65.157
      Email: hlmc @
    • Hermanas Carmelitas de Madre Candelaria
      Superiora General
      Avenida Mirador n. 12-05, La Campiña,
      1050 Caracas, Venezuela.
      Tel: 0212-7313764 Fax: 0212.731.32.58
      Email: nileve32 @
    • Hermanas Carmelitas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús 
      Superiora General
      C/ Gral. Asensio Cabanillas, 41, 28003 Madrid, Spagna.
      Tel: 91-5349943 Fax: 91-5549924
      Email: sgeneral.cscj @
    • Hermanas de la Virgen María del Monte Carmelo 
      Superiora General
      C/ Pradillo, 63, 28002 Madrid, Spagna.
      Tel: 91-4162076 Fax: 914166440
      Email: hvcarmelo.gen @
    • Congregação das Irmãs Carmelitas da Divina Providência
      Casa Central
      Rua Caraça, 648 Serra
      30220-260 BELO Horizonte, Brasile.
      Tel: 031-32254758 Fax: 031-32870877
      Email: @
    • Irmas Missionarias Carmelitas de Jesús
      Casa Central
      Rua Vicente Bezerra, 1
      Cx. Postal 40, 58900-000, Cajazeiras, PB, Brasile.
      Tel: 083-35311091 Fax: 083-3531.6065
      Email: montecarmelocz @
    • Istituto di Nostra Signora del Carmelo 
      Superiora Generale
      Via dei Baglioni, 10, 00164 Roma, Italia.
      Tel: 06-66153752 Fax: 06-66150980
      Email: inscarmelo @
    • Putri Karmel / Daughters of Carmel  
      Pertapaan Karmel
      Tromol Pos 1, Tumpang,
    • Malang 65156, Jawa Timur, Indonesia.
      Tel: 0341.788650 Fax: 0341.788651
      Email: justinikesumapkarm @
    • Suore Carmelitane delle Grazie
      Superiora Generale
      Via Saragozza, 4, 40123 Bologna, Italia.
      Tel: 051-331356 Fax: 051.58.5181
    • Suore Carmelitane Missionarie di S. Teresa del Bambino Gesù
      Superiora Generale
      Casa Madre B. M. M. Crocifissa
      Via del Carmelo, 3, 00058 Santa Marinella, Roma, Italia.
      Tel: 0766-533830 Fax: 0766-534922
      Email: sup.gen @

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