Pope Francis and the Least Among Us
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul meeting, Monday, September 28, 2015
By Dcn Bob Bonomi
Now that Pope Francis has returned home after his whirl-wind tour of Cuba and the US, we should take a moment and reflect on what kind of impact his visit had on each of us personally. I hope that you had an opportunity to see and hear him at one of his stops. The love, the energy and the joy that radiated from him everywhere he went is a living testimony to what happens when you center your life on Jesus. Although I was fortunate to see some of his presentations being broadcast live, I’m still working through the rest of the ones that were broadcast and recorded by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I encourage you to take some time and listen to his homilies, his presentations, and his off-the-cuff remarks that are still available through the USCCB website. They are inspiring – and humbling – especially since many of them are from his “going to the streets” and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: for example, visiting the sick and imprisoned, praying for those who died at the 9-11 memorial, listening to those who suffered abuse from those they trusted.
It seems appropriate to use his own words for our reflection today. They are taken from the Magnificat reflection for last Sunday, October 27th:
“Therefore following Jesus on the path of charity, going with him to the existential outskirts … For the Good Shepherd what is far, what is on the margins, what is lost and unappreciated is the object of greater care, and the Church cannot but make her own this special love and attention. The first in the Church are those who are the most in need, humanly, spiritually, materially, the neediest.” – Pope Francis
From today’s Gospel from St. Luke: “For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” These are the clients of St. Vincent de Paul that you serve.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
PRAYER FOR POPE FRANCIS AS HE VISITS THE USA
Heavenly Father, who bestows on your children gifts of love and truth, we thank you for giving us Pope Francis to be our holy shepherd. As he visits us in the United States, keep him safe in his travels. Grant him wisdom, understanding and prudence in his interactions with other world leaders, and help us to truly hear his messages with open minds and hearts. Before we judge, let us pray that we will discern Your will in his words and actions, and give us the grace and courage so we can embrace the challenges that are presented to us. As our heavenly Mother, the Virgin Mary, said “YES” to Your call to her, strengthen us to say “YES” to your call to us, too. We ask all this through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
- Deacon Bob Bonomi ©2015
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Who Do YOU Say That I Am?
Homily for Sunday, September 13, 2015
Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time - B
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi
“Who do you say that I am?”
With these words, Jesus puts his disciples on the spot. How would you answer?
Picture yourself as one of the disciples. In fact, picture yourself as Peter. You have been traveling with Jesus for some time now, and up to this point (at least in Mark’s Gospel), you would have heard Jesus:
• Teach about fasting and proper respect for the Sabbath
• Select you and 11 others to be his Apostles and to share in his mission
• Preach many parables and explain them to you
• Rebuke the wind and calm the violent sea
And you would have seen Jesus:
• Cleanse a man of an unclean spirit in the synagogue at Capernaum
• Cure Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of her illness
• Cleanse a leper
• Forgive a paralytic his sins AND then heal him of his paralysis
• Cure a man with a withered hand in the synagogue
• Free the Gerasene demoniac from the demons that possessed him
• Heal a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years
• Raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead
• Feed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish
• Walk on water and calm the winds
• Heal a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter
• Open the ears of a deaf man and remove his speech impediment
• Feed another 4000 men with seven loaves and a few fish, and just recently
• Open the eyes of a blind man.
Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Now, after all of these signs, Jesus turns to you and your buddies and asks, “Who do people say that I am?”
I try to imagine how he might have asked those questions. I mean, you’re all walking along the road, right? Headed for another town, kind of chatting among yourselves? No cell phones or other electronics to distract you? So would he have asked it in a casual sort of way? “Hey, tell me – who do people say that I am? Or, would he have been more forceful: “OK, now, tell me – who do people say that I am?”
In either case, the answers your fellow disciples give echo the comments that King Herod had heard about Jesus earlier in Mark’s Gospel after he had John the Baptist executed: He was curious about Jesus, and his advisors say that Jesus was John raised up from the dead;or he was Elijah; or he was just another prophet.
So the rest of the guys, they all say the same thing. John. Elijah. Just another prophet.
But then, Jesus stops and puts you on the spot.
“But who do YOU say that I am?”
What would you say, Peter? How would you answer that question today? As Peter, in your usual brash and impulsive way, jump right in. “You are the CHRIST!” Boldly! With a sense of pride, maybe? That sense of privilege that comes from being part of the elite inner circle? In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus even blesses you and promises you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. You’re probably feeling pretty smug about now, right? You, Peter: the Apostle.
But now, after all you’ve seen and heard, Jesus begins to teach you about how he has to suffer and die. He’s being brutally honest with you, not hiding anything or pulling any punches. He will rise again but he will be murdered.
At first, you refuse to believe it. Who would blame you? After all, think of all the wonderful signs that you’ve seen Jesus do. How could anything happen to him? He’s the CHRIST! He can do ANYTHING! And not only does Peter refuse to believe it, he REBUKES Jesus!
Isn’t there times in our lives that we presume that we know more than those around us, especially to those closest to us, because we do not want to believe what they have to say and so we, in our effort to help them, correct them?
But Jesus is swift to turn on Peter and condemn his attitude of arrogance. “You are thinking like a creature of earth, not of heaven. Not as God does.”
Not as God does. No. We don’t want to think like God; we do not want to face the evils of this world. We would rather live in denial than admit that something tragic could happen – is happening – to someone we know. To someone we love. Even to US. We don’t want the responsibility.
We all have a tendency to develop a false sense of security and confidence when everything is going well, and we often refuse to believe that anything could possibly go wrong. Jesus senses this in his followers and so he knows he must prepare them for the reality that is coming – his Passion, and the disciples own future trials. Not a future of earthly kingdoms and treasures, but one of heavenly promises and an eternity with God.
So Jesus turned from his disciples and called the rest of the crowd to him. He challenged them – he challenges us – with a tough command: "Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself and take up his own cross, and bring it to me." Jesus.
One final point. When we think about what is “our cross”, we may have a tendency to assume that Jesus means our own personal problems. That would be thinking as human beings do, but not as God does. In God’s eyes, in addition to whatever problems that we face personally, the cross we must pick up is the one assigned to us by God as seen through the Gospel: "Love your neighbor." "Whatever you do for the least of your brethren, you do for me." In other words, we must care for each other.
In the Letter of St. James today, we are given the cross which each of us must bear – the care of our brothers and sisters. James is blunt. You cannot have faith in God if you do not act when you see someone in distress and you have the ability to do so. That is Our Cross, and we must embrace it willingly.
In a message on his blog this week, Bishop Farrell made an impassioned plea about a humanitarian crisis to our faith - a message about the terror caused by ISIS in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, and the refugees fleeing for their lives. ISIS'[s efforts to cleanse the entire region of Christianity challenges all of humanity. It should call upon you to look deep into yourself and discover how you can, in St. James’ words, “demonstrate your faith from your actions”. I encourage you to read his message "We Cannot Ignore The Suffering Of Refugees" at: http://bishopkevinfarrell.org/ How we respond will be different for each of us. But if we are not moved by what we see and hear, if we do not respond somehow and show, by our actions the practice of our faith, then how can we say that we have any faith in God? What will God say to us, if we ask Him: Who do You say that I am?