30 July 2014

'You give them something to eat.' Sunday Reflections, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Rockox House, Antwerp [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Now when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Stamps issued in Chile for the beatification of Fr Alberto Hurtado SJ, 16 October 1994

Fr John Griffin, a Columban colleague from New Zealand, who after many years in the Philippines went to work in Chile wrote about a great saint of our times, San Alberto Hurtado SJ, a native of that country, in the last printed edition of Misyon, the Columban magazine I edit in the Philippines, March-April 2008.

One story he told in that article is a perfect expression of what happened in today's gospel. But first a little background in that same article:

Overall, Fr Hurtado is best known and remembered throughout Chile for his Hogar de Cristo (Christ’s Home) Foundation. The seed for this was sown late one night when he was on his way home to San Ignacio. He met a man who was in poor health, had eaten nothing all day and had nowhere to go.
This was the priest’s first encounter with such poverty and it moved him greatly. He did what he could for the man and then asked: ‘What are our Catholics doing for those who have no roof over their heads?’ He began asking this question during his retreats and so was born the idea of ‘Hogar de Cristo’. He formed a board of directors from people eager to help – six men and 30 women. Land was available alongside the Jesuit parish of Jesus the Worker and the first night-shelters were built and an appeal for funds began. By 1945 there were five shelters that had been able to house 12,000 poor men. Now it was time to do something for the numerous ‘street kids’ who spent their nights under the many bridges over the Mapocho River which runs for miles through Santiago. These youngsters needed educations as well as shelter and land was donated for this purpose a few miles to the north of the city near Colina railway station and a children’s home was built.
Today's gospel tells us: Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

Fr Griffin continues about San Alberto: 
Providence was always on his side. At a meeting one night his board of directors was unwilling, for lack of funds, to approve a new project. In the midst of discussions there was an unexpected call for Fr Hurtado to attend to someone at his front door. He had a brief conversation with the caller who said she wanted to leave a gift to help the great work he was doing.
He gratefully put her envelope in his pocket, wished her a good evening and returned to his meeting. He looked at the contents of the envelope as he sat down. Then he tossed a check onto the table saying, ‘There you are, you of little faith!’ It was for one million pesos – worth about US$30,000 at that time.
The directors on the board of Hogar de Cristo were being prudent, as they were supposed to be and, in being so, following what Jesus teaches us elsewhere in the gospels. But Father Alberto was listening to what Jesus said to the Apostles today: They need not go away; you give them something to eat.
I'm sure that when Father Alberto threw the check on the table and said 'There you are, you of little faith' he did so with a smile that expressed both irony and gratitude and that the board members saw the irony and felt the same sense of gratitude.
Once again we find the presence of Jesus in the needs of others - and in one who joyfully lives the Gospel.

Smile and move forward! Total sacrifice is perpetual joy. The squaring of the circle? No. Because there is a secret link between the gift of self, out of love, and peace of soul. (San Alberto in a retreat to priests, 1948.)

The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ's cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, No 5, 2013.)


+++


 A Hymn to Alberto Hurtado SJ
Written by Pablo Coloma for the beatification of Blessed Alberto on 16 October 1994, Sung by Pablo Coloma and Ximena Concha

Alberto, hoy resuena tu nombre                         
Se escucha tu palabra encendida
Tu rostro hoy recorre las calles
Tu huella marca un nuevo camino
Profeta que anunciaste el Reino
Supiste denunciar el dolor
Reíste con un canto a la vida
Mostraste un camino mejor.

Alberto, your name resounds today,
your enlightening word is heard,  
your face is seen today on the streets,
your footprints mark a new path.
A prophet who proclaimed the Kingdom,
who knew about pain,
who laughed with a song to life,
who showed a better way.

Alberto contemplé tu figura
incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.

Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.
Tu vida fue un regalo divino,
una historia que hizo de este Chile un hogar.
 
Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing
and others who understood that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life was a divine gift,
a story that made this Chile a home.

Maestro que enseñaste a vivir
la vida como lo hizo Jesús,
mirando en los hombres que sufren
su cuerpo castigado en la cruz.
 
A teacher who taught how to live
as Jesus did,
looking at those who suffer,
his body punished on the cross.

Apóstol, compañero de pobres,
viviste en tu carne el dolor
de tantos que viván despreciados,
tus manos fueron pan y un hogar.

Apostle, companion of the poor,  
you lived in your flesh the pain
of the many who are despised,
your hands were bread and a home.

Alberto contemplé tu figura

incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.
Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.

Tu vida derramada en las calles
se alsa inmensa hasta el cielo en las manos de todos.
 
Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing and others who understood
that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life poured out on the streets
is infinitely raised to heaven in the hands of all.


Hymn for San Alberto's Canonisation
Canción para un santo amigo
Written by Jaime De Aguirre and Sergio Bravo, sung by Cecilia Echenique

Padre Hurtado estas conmigo.
Me abres la puerta de tu hogar
Siento que tengo un santo amigo,
un santo que conmigo se sienta a conversar

Father Hurtado, you are with me.
you have opened the door of your home for me;
I feel I have a holy friend,
a saint who sits down to chat with me.

Padre hurtado tu me pides
que hasta que duela debo dar.
Que nunca puedo conformarme
pues cuando sufre alguien 
es Cristo que ahí esta.
 
Father Hurtado, you ask me
to give until it hurts,
that I can never be at ease
because whenever someone suffers Christ is there.

Contento, Señor, contento,
es un regalo de Dios,
un santo que es el milagro
de hacer el mundo mejor.

How joyful, Lord, how joyful,
a saint who is a gift from God,
a miracle
to make a better world.

Lo veo en Valparaíso,
lo esperan en Puerto Montt.
Por todas partes buscando
que a nadie le falte Dios.
 
I see him in Valparaíso,
they wati for him in Puerto Montt.
Looking everywhere
so that no one will miss God’s presence.

Obrero entre los obreros,
minero en el mineral,
compañero en el trabajo,
amigo en la soledad.
 
A worker among workers,
a miner among miners,
a companion at work,
a friend in loneliness.

Contento, Señor, contento.
Contento me siento yo.
El santo de los chilenos
hoy llena el mundo de amor.
 
How joyful, Lord, how joyful.
I feel joyful.
The saint of the Chileans
now fills the world with love.

Padre Hurtado eres conciencia, 
conciencia de la humanidad,
sueñas con un país de hermanos
poniendo en nuestras manos el pan de la unidad.
 
Father Hurtado, you are
the conscience of mankind,
you dream of a country of brothers
holding in our hands the bread of unity.

Padre hoy tienes tantos hijos,
todos te quieren saludar.
Gracias por mostrarme a Cristo, por las obras que yo he visto.
hoy tomo mi lugar.
 
Father, today you have many children,
all wanting to greet you.
Thank you for showing us Christ, for the works that I've seen.
Today I take my place.

Contento, Señor, contento,
 es un regalo de Dios,
un santo que es el milagro
de hacer el mundo mejor.

How joyful, Lord, how joyful,
a saint who is a gift from God,
a miracle
to make the world better.

Lo veo en Valparaíso,
lo esperan en Puerto Montt.
Por todas partes buscando
que a nadie le falte Dios.
 
I see you in Valparaíso,
they wait for you in Port Montt.
Looking everywhere
so that no one will miss God’s presence. 

Contento, Señor, contento.
Contento me siento yo.
El santo de los chilenos
hoy llena el mundo de amor.
 
How joyful, Lord.
I feel joyful.
The saint of the Chileans

now fills the world with love.

Antiphona ad communionem     Communion Antiphon (Wisdom 16:20.)


Panem de caelo dedisti nobis, Domine,
You have given us, O Lord, bread from heaven,
habentem onme delectamentum,
endowed with all delights
et omnem saporem suavitas.
and sweetness in every taste.




 

25 July 2014

'One pearl of great value.' Sunday Reflections, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Chaldean Catholic Church
ܥܕܬܐ ܟܠܕܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ
Ecclesia Chaldaeorum Catholica



Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Matthew 13:44-52 [or 13:44-46] (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
[“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”]

Fr Ragheed Ganni (20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)

We have been given the most precious 'pearl' of all, our Christian faith. And at the heart of that 'pearl' is the Eucharist, the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, as Vatican II tells us in Lumen Gentium No 11. Fr Ragheed Ganni, a priest of the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is in full communion with Rome, spoke in Bari, Italy, about the Eucharist on Saturday 28 May 2005, the eve of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to close a Eucharistic Congress there.

This is what Father Ragheed said (emphases added):

Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live.

This is true today when evil has reached the point of destroying churches and killing Christians, something unheard of in Iraq till now.

On June 2004 of last year, a group of young women were cleaning the church to get it ready for Sunday Mass. My sister Raghad, who is 19, was among them.

As she was carrying a pale of water to wash the floor, two men drove up and threw a grenade that blew up just a few yards away from her.

She was wounded but miraculously survived. And on that Sunday we still celebrated the Eucharist. My shaken parents were also there.

For me and my community, my sister's wounds were a source of strength so that we, too, may bear our cross.

Last August in St Paul Church, a car bomb exploded after the 6pm Mass. The blast killed two Christians and wounded many others. But that, too, was another miracle—the car was full of bombs but only one exploded. Had they all gone off together the dead would have been in the hundreds since 400 faithful had come on that day.

People could not believe what had happened. The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back.

On 7 December, the eve of the Immaculate Conception, a group of terrorists tried to destroy the Chaldean Bishop's Residence, which is near Our Lady of the Tigris Shrine, a place venerated by both Christians and Muslims.

They placed explosives everywhere and a few minutes later blew the place up. This and fundamentalist violence against young Christians have forced many families to flee. Yet the Churches have remained open and people continue to go to Mass, even among the ruins.

It is among such difficulties that we understand the real value of Sunday, the day when we meet the Risen Christ, the day of our unity and love, of our [mutual] support and help.

There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say 'Behold the Lamb of God, Behold, who takes away the sin of the world', I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love.

In normal times, everything is taken for granted and we forget the greatest gift that is made to us. Ironically, it is thanks to terrorist violence that we have truly learnt that it is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and risen, that gives us life. And this allows us to resist and hope.

Father Ragheed

Two years later, on 3 June 2007, Trinity Sunday, Father Ragheed was murdered after celebrating Mass in Mosul, along with three subdeacons, Basman Yousef DaudWahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed.

Last Sunday, 20 July, for the first time in almost 2,000 years Mass was not celebrated in Mosul, where Father Ragheed, who gave up his profession as an engineer to become a priest, had served. Christians had been driven from their homes by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

This video, with a recent news report from Al Jazeera, is one of many available on YouTube.

Last Sunday Pope Francis expressed his concern for the Christians of Iraq in his Angelus talk.

The Christians of Iraq, all of whom are Arabs, are descended from people who became Christians in the time of the Apostles. They have lived and passed on the Christian faith for 2,000 years. In 2003 there were 50,000 Chaldean Catholics and 35,000 Syrian Catholics, all in full communion with Rome, and many Orthodox Christians, in Mosul. Now there are hardly any.

And one Muslim, Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, was killed by ISIS militants in Mosul the other day for protesting at the way Christians were being treated.

The Christians of Iraq, and of Syria, desperately need our prayers. Perhaps we can unite ourselves with them as we take part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the 'pearl of great value', this weekend in our local church, something the Catholic and Orthodox Christians of Mosul have been able to do for 2,000 years but may never be able to do there again.

Perhaps too we can join with Father Ragheed in prayer to Our Blessed Mother. His recording of a hymn to her was played during his funeral procession.


A translation of the hymn:

We honor you with hymns O Mother of God, 
you are the pride of the whole earth, 
because the Word of God whom the Father sent, 
chose to take His human body from you. 

The generations call you blessed, 
all nations and people's honor you 
and ask for mercy by your prayers. 
You are a generous earth in which plants of joy always grow.

St Elijah's Monastery, south of Mosul, founded in the 6th century [Wikipedia]


Further reading on the situation of Iraq'a Christians


'Beautiful Witness of Fidelity to Christ' in Iraq.





Baghdad (AsiaNews) 21 July 2014The jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant 'commit atrocities in the name of religion, but go against the dictates of the Koran. Iraqis of all religions and of all ethnic groups must be committed so that the great common heritage of this country is not destroyed', writes the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Mar Raphael Louis Sako I, in an open letter addressed 'to all those who care about national unity' and sent to AsiaNews. Below is the full text of the message. 

To the people of conscience and good will in Iraq and the world,

To the voice of the moderates, our Muslim brothers and sisters in Iraq and the world,

To all concerned about the continuation of Iraq as a nation for all its citizens,

To all leaders, thinkers, and human rights activists,

To all defenders of the dignity of the human person and the freedom of religions,

Peace and God's Mercy.

The takeover of the Islamist jihadists of Mosul and their announcement of an Islamic state, and after days of composure and anticipation, the situation had turned negative on the Christians of the city and surrounding areas. The first signs of this reversal were the kidnaping of the two nuns and three orphans who were released after 17 days, We were encouraged by this development and we considered it a glimmer of hope, and a breakthrough. Only to be surprised by the latest developments,   the Islamic state issued a statement calling on Christians openly to convert to Islam, and either pay Jizya without specifying a ceiling, or leave their city and their homes, with their clothes only, without any luggage, and issued a "fatwa" that the homes will become the property to the Islamic state.

They have marked the letter "N" on the homes of Christians for "Nazarenes"!!! As they have marked on the homes of Shiites with the letter (R) for "Rejectors". Who knows what is holding in the coming days as the laws of the Islamic state is based on what they claim to be the Sharia law, including the redefinition of identities on the basis of religion and sectarianism.

These requirements offend Muslims and the reputation of Islam, which says "you have your religion and we have ours," and "There is no compulsion in religion", and it is in contradiction of a thousand and four hundred years of history and a lifetime of the Islamic world, and coexistence with different religions and different peoples, east and west, respecting their beliefs and living in fraternity. The Christians  and in particular in our East, and since the advent of Islam, have shared together sweet and bitter memories, their bloods were mixed in defense of their rights and their land, and together they built, cities, civilization and heritage. It is shameful that Christians are being rejected, expelled and diminished. It is obvious that this would have disastrous consequences on the coexistence between the majority and the minorities, even among Muslims themselves, in the near and long term. Hence, Iraq is heading to a humanitarian, cultural, and historical disaster.

Therefore we call unto them, a warm, brotherly, urgent and serious call, and we appeal to our fellow Iraqis who support them to reconsider their strategy, and respect the unarmed innocent people, of all ethnicities, religions and sects. The Quran commands respect to the innocent,  and does not call to seize the property of people forcibly, it calls on helping the widow, the orphan, the destitute and the defenseless, and even recommend to help the seventh neighbour. We also call on Christians in the region to adopt rationality and acumen, and calculate their options well and understand what is planned for the area, and come together in love and think through together and in solidarity to build confidence in themselves and their neighbours, gathering around their church, being patient, enduring and praying until the storm passes. 

+ Louis Raphael I Sako

Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church 17 July2014


Monastery of the Martyrs Saint Behnam and his Sister Sarah
A Syriac Catholic monastery in northern Iraq founded in the 4th century [Wikipedia]