Sunday, October 2, 2022

Homily for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Oct. 2, 2022
Hab 1: 2-3; 2: 2-4
St. Francis Xavier, Bronx

“How long, O Lord?  I cry for help, but you do not listen!” (Hab 1: 2).

Habakkuk prophesied briefly at the beginning of the 6th century B.C., a very difficult time for Israel.  Within the kingdom of Judea, idolatry and political corruption were rife.  Externally, the Babylonian Empire threatened to conquer the kingdom.  The prophet questions God:  “Why do you let me see ruin?  Destruction and ruin are before me” (1:3).

Those are the cries of desperate people.  They sound like some of our contemporary experience as we observe and lament the war in Ukraine.  That’s only one of about 2 dozen wars and other conflicts going on around the world, in which tens of thousands of people, both combatants and civilians, are killed each year.

Battle of Hostomel, March 4, 2022, Skirmish Aftermath (Wikipedia)

We’re aware of the violence in our own society:  mass shootings, crime on the streets and in the subways, domestic violence, child abuse, and abortion.

If that’s not enuf suffering, nature wreaks violence upon us.  We’ve just witnessed Hurricane Ian tearing Florida apart, right after Fiona crushed Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  Similar storms—typhoons—frequently occur in the Far East and do similar damage but get less of our attention.  Every year thousands of people are displaced by floods like those that devastated Pakistan this summer.  Wildfires destroy hundreds of square miles of forest and hundreds of homes.  Famine causes mass starvation in the Horn of Africa and other parts of the world.

Besides all that, all of us suffer personal disruptions, difficulties, and challenges:  personal or family illness; family tensions; maybe a feud with relatives; worry about children’s schooling or distance or behavior; employment issues; financial stress.  These sorts of things hit us closer to home than anything in Florida or California or Ukraine.

Violence and ruin and worry are all around.  We ask God, like Habakkuk, “Why must I look at misery?” (1:3).

The Lord answered the prophet with a challenge to him to have faith.  Deliverance “will surely come” (2:3).  The just person—that is, one who is faithful to God—“shall live because of his faith” (2:4).

What does faith mean amid the natural and man-made violence and ruin and personal problems that we experience?  It means, 1st, trying to live by God’s designs.  If there’s violence from war and crime, from indiscriminate bombing, shootings in our schools and shopping malls, and the destruction of unborn people, those are human choices that pay no heed to God or to the image of God in every person.  If we live by faith, we do our best to respect everyone in our own lives, including family (first), co-workers, neighbors, people who provide services to us.  We try to foster conditions that enable other people to live better, e.g., thru food policy, housing policy, and immigration policy.

Intention (Antoni Piotrowski)

2d, faith means turning to God in prayer—even prayers of anguish like Habakkuk’s.  We pray for safety in storms, for relief from droughts, for the preservation of peace where it’s threatened and its restoration where it’s longed for, as in Ukraine, Yemen, Congo, West Africa, places overrun by drug cartels.  We can’t control the weather, and we can’t control human hearts.  God can convert war-like and violent hearts.  It seems that hearts also need to be converted if our climate is to be salvaged from rising seas, rising temperatures, deforestation, and polluted air.

3d, faith means having confidence in God’s power to make things right.  That may be a long-term prospect.  “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it” (2:3).  Act as regards your own power and ability, pray for God’s kingdom to come more evidently in human society, and wait patiently for God, who made things right for Jesus of Nazareth by raising him after his passion and will see us thru even a violent age and our own suffering; who forgives our personal sins, empowers us to act like Jesus toward our neighbors, and leads us toward eternal life—“if [we] have faith the size of a mustard seed” (Luke 17:6).

Commentators at America magazine offered some similar reflections today:

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2022/09/28/church-oz-tradition-243859?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=25078&pnespid=rqRmGj1aKfIRheLZqTGyH82GuhL1Tcp4Nfms0edorRZmNXHCwFfMFq8uJt0ULvnlnPTnQhxd

and

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2022/09/23/gospel-scripture-twenty-seventh-sunday-ordinary-time-243846?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=25078&pnespid=7_l_BS9XafILwubF_S.rA4jTvgv1DctyKeWh2u5ytgBmjPONrwp_i6MCxWQ7lbwghJrZUusG

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Bro. Zatti, Salesian

Bro. Zatti, Salesian

A joyful response that harkens back to Don Bosco

On October 9, Pope Francis will canonize Salesian Brother Artemides Zatti, a fellow Argentinean.

Salesian coadjutor Bro. Artemides Zatti (standing at rear) is portrayed in this photograph together with the medical staff of the San José Hospital, which the Salesians ran from the end of the 19th century and of which he was the real soul. In the image, dating from 1916, it is possible to see, in addition to Zatti, Salesian coadjutors Giovanni Cartella and Angelo Mori and Fr. Andrea Pestarino. The photograph, along with many others, is available at www.zatti.org. All images belong to the Salesian Historical Archives of Southern Argentina, Bahia Blanca office.

(ANS - Buenos Aires – September 27, 2022) – We are in Viedma, around 1940. For a few years now, Salesian coadjutor Artemides Zatti has been the soul of the San José Hospital that the Salesians have been running since the end of the 19th century in this city in Argentina’s Patagonia. It’s a place where the care of life is not limited to physical health but is offered to people in an integral way to all people.

A poor sharecropper had been hospitalized for several months. He was grateful for what Artemides Zatti had done for his health and for his whole person – without asking for anything since he was unable to pay. He wants to express his gratitude to him. Not knowing how to do so, he tells him, “Thank you for everything, Mr. Zatti. I salute you and extend many greetings to your wife as well, although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her....” “Neither have I,” Zatti replied, laughing.

In big things, one can pretend. In small things, one shows oneself as he is. And in this answer, we can trace something of Bro. Zatti’s life and heart.

Neighbor, Brother

Zatti had had to experience uprooting, emigration, the economic constraints that forced him to stop studying and to work, the difficulties in making his way in his community. All aspects that are symptoms of poverty – and this, paradoxically, help himed understand the pains and needs of the poor.

Living his Salesian vocation as a Salesian “coadjutor” or “brother” facilitates this closeness. Don Bosco thinks of Salesian coadjutors as having a close educational presence among young people and in working-class sectors. Don Bosco does this in a social context, that of Italy at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, in which there is a lack of empathy on the part of the people toward anything “conventual” or “cloistered.”

This simplicity and the absence of ecclesiastical “forms” in the Salesian coadjutors – which is not only about the habit or the tasks one performs, but also about the way of thinking, of looking at the world by understanding it as a place where the Kingdom of God grows and develops – allows them to be close and to be one more among others, and to reach out even to environments and people who, otherwise, would be far from the faith.

Thus, this vocation of the Salesian coadjutor will refer not so much to what one can or cannot do, but how to be in the doing. Thus, many times we find coadjutors doing tasks or proposals that are not usual in Salesian activity, as it was for Bro. Zatti to be a nurse.

Zatti’s vocation as a Salesian coadjutor is not the result of a lack or shortage because “he has no other choice,” given that the tuberculosis he had suffered while in the Salesian seminary in Bernal prevented him from continuing his dream of being a Salesian priest. Rather, based on that circumstance, he finds another way to develop his life and his desire to serve and be happy. As is often the case, out of pain and limitation can emerge a surplus of love and much broader horizons than foreseen.


This closeness of Bro. Zatti also expresses itself in another detail: he continued to move around on a bicycle. They offered to buy him a car, to move “faster” and “reach more people,” to be more effective – an offer he always refused. He prefered his bicycle, which allowed him to stop and spend time with people.

With joy

Dr. Ecay, a doctor at the hospital, once asked him, “Bro. Zatti, how is it you’re always in a good mood?” To which Zatti replied, “It’s easy, doctor: swallow bitter and spit out sweet.”

Having a cheerful face and responding with humor, even in the most difficult circumstances, comes from a heart that is at peace with God and feels loved by him, that knows how to relativize situations, identifying the essential.

Perhaps Bro. Zatti could have answered with an argument focused on the theology of religious life to that person sending his greetings to his wife. But his response was different, showing an understanding also that the vocation of the Salesian coadjutor is a bit more unknown and misunderstood, sometimes even with a lack of social recognition given the value society has of the figure of the priest. But this did not worry or sadden Zatti. He understood that what is essential continues to be the “people” – Da mihi animas, caetera tolle – and their well-being, and he devoted himself to them.

The nurses who would sometimes catch him at 5:30 a.m., before prayer with the Salesian community, prostrate in the chapel with his face pressed to the floor in deep prayer, knew where Zatti found the strength to continue on the sometimes bumpy and difficult path of service to others.

In community

There was always an excellent team at the hospital, which Zatti formed in his own image. Other Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians worked there, as well as several lay doctors and nurses. In everyone, the initial motivation was to be able to help those most in need with professionalism and an integral vision of the human being – and, from Zatti’s perspective, to help those who worked with him grow in faith.

One doctor who had serious doubts about his faith even said, “Here, in front of Zatti, my disbelief wavers. If there are saints on earth, he is one of them. When I am about to take the scalpel in the operating room and I see him helping in the operations, with his wisdom as a nurse and with the rosary in his hand, the atmosphere is filled with something supernatural....”

The prayer invoking Bro. Zatti’s intercession reads, “May the joy of seeing him shining in the Heaven of your saints help us to witness your Light.” May his life as a follower of Jesus in the style of Don Bosco encourage us all to know how to reexamine our path and, in our respective vocations and professions, to allow ourselves to be shaped by God in our daily actions.

Rector Major's Message for October

THE MESSAGE OF THE RECTOR MAJOR

Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, SDB

THEY STILL GO FORTH

The first missionary expedition was blessed by the Don Bosco’s tears as he said: “Who knows? This departure [for the missions], this humble beginning, may be the seed that will grow into a mighty tree.” That prophecy has come true.


That first Salesian missionary expedition was unforgettable. It was 1875, the feast of St. Martin of Tours. Though the world did not know, in that little corner of Turin called Valdocco an extraordinary enterprise was just beginning: ten young Salesians were departing for Argentina.

The Biographical Memoirs recount this event of epic significance: “As four o’clock was striking and the first notes of the carillon were echoing, a sudden furious noise was heard inside the house, with slamming of doors and windows. A wind had arisen so violent that it threatened to sweep away the Oratory. It may have been pure coincidence, but it is a fact that a similar violent wind broke loose in the very hour when the cornerstone of the church of Mary Help of Christians was laid. It happened once again during the consecration of the same church.”

The basilica was overflowing with people. “Don Bosco mounted the pulpit as Vespers ended. At sight of him, a profound silence fell over that vast sea of people, all trembling with emotion as they eagerly drank in his every word. Every time he referred directly to the missionaries his voice became choked, the words almost dying away on his lips. He manfully restrained his tears, but his audience wept.”

But my voice fails me, tears stifle my words. I only say that even though in this moment my soul is saddened at the thought of your departure, my heart is greatly consoled in seeing our Congregation strengthened; in realizing how we, in our insignificance, are yet able at this moment to contribute our little pebble to the mighty edifice of the Church. Yes, go forth bravely, but remember that there is but one Church that is spread over Europe, America, and the whole world and welcomes men of all nations who seek refuge at her maternal bosom. As Salesians, no matter in what remote part of the world you may be, never forget that here in Italy you have a father who loves you in the Lord and a Congregation that thinks of you in every circumstance, provides for your needs and will always welcome you as brothers. Go, then. You will have to face all kinds of trials, hardships, and dangers. Do not be afraid; God is with you. You will go, but you will not go alone because everyone will accompany you…. Farewell! Perhaps some of us shall not meet again on this earth.

“Then came the most [moving] moment of the whole ceremony, one which drew tears and sobs in every part of the church and sorely taxed the emotions of the youthful apostles. While the boys’ choir repeated the antiphon Sit nomen Domini benedictum ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum,[1] their beloved father and all the priests present gave the farewell embrace to the missionaries in the sanctuary. In his sermon, Don Bosco had promised he would give the missionaries some written mementos that should be a father’s testament to the sons he would perhaps never see again. He had jotted them down in a notebook while on a recent trip by train. He had had copies made, and he gave one to each missionary as he left the altar of Mary Help of Christians.”[2]

The tree grows

On September 25 this year, we relived that moment of grace for the 135th time. Today, they go by the names of Oscar, Sebastien, Jean-Marie, Tony, Carlos…. There are 25 of them, young men, prepared, who show in their eyes and carry in their hearts the understanding and courage of those first missionaries. They are the advance guard of what I requested of the entire Salesian Family for this six-year period: boldness, prophecy, and fidelity.

Don Bosco had made a small prediction: “In doing this we are entering upon a mighty undertaking, not because we have any pretensions, or because we believe we can convert the whole world in a few days; yet who knows? This departure [for the missions], this humble beginning, may be the seed that will grow into a mighty tree. It may be like a tiny grain of millet or of mustard seed that will grow, little by little, and accomplish great things. It may awaken in many hearts a desire to consecrate themselves to God in the missions, to join forces with us and reinforce our ranks. The extraordinary number of those who asked to be chosen makes me hope that it will.”[3]

“A missionary. What a name!” This is the testimony of one Salesian who has spent 40 years as a missionary: “One elderly person said to me: ‘Do not speak to me of Christ; sit here next to me, I want to smell your odor and if this is his odor, then you can baptize me.’”

Children in Bolivia assisted by the Salesians (ANS)

The fifth word of counsel that Don Bosco wrote to the missionaries was: “Take special care of the sick, of the children, of the aged, and of the poor.”

We live in a time that must be confronted with a renewed mentality that “knows how to go beyond boundaries.” In a world in which we run the risk of being hemmed in by borders more and more, the prophecy of our life consists of this, too: to show that we know no borders. The one reality that we possess is God, his Gospel, and our mission.

I dream that, in these coming years, to say “Salesians of Don Bosco” means to those who hear our name that we are consecrated persons who are “a little crazy.” Crazy because we love the young, above all the poorest, most abandoned and helpless ones, with a true Salesian heart. This seems to me to be the most beautiful definition today that one can possibly give to Don Bosco’s sons. I am convinced that our Father would want it to be precisely this way.

They still go forth so as to give their life to God—and not just in words. The Congregation has paid the price with its blood. The motto that the martyr Fr. Rudolf Lunkenbein had chosen for his ordination to the priesthood was: “I have come to serve and to give my life.” On his last visit to Germany, in 1974, his mother begged him to be careful because people had warned her about the risks that her son was running. He replied, “Mom, why are you worried? There is nothing more beautiful than dying for God’s cause. That would be my dream.”

I have the firm conviction that our Family must walk toward greater universality, without borders, over the next six years. Nations have boundaries. Our generosity, which sustains our mission, cannot and must not know limits. The prophecy to which we must give witness as a Congregation does not know boundaries.

A missionary once spoke of having celebrated Holy Mass for the indigenous people living in the mountains near Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was a young priest and hardly knew the Quechua language. At the end of Mass, as he was walking toward his house, he felt it had been a fiasco – that he had unable to get any of his message across.  Then an old farmer, poorly dressed, presented himself and thanked the young missionary for having come.  “Then he made an incredible move. Before I could open my mouth, the old campesino put his hands into the pockets of his cloak and took out two handfuls of multicolored rose petals. He stood up on tiptoe and, using gestures, asked me to help him by lowering my head. Then he dropped the petals on my head; I was speechless. He rummaged in his pockets again and managed to extract two more handfuls of petals. He kept repeating this gesture. His supply of red, pink, and yellow rose petals seemed endless. I just stood there and let it happen, looking at my huaraches (leather sandals), wet with my tears and covered with rose petals. When he had finished, he took his leave and I was left alone, with only the fresh fragrance of roses.”

I can tell you from experience that millions of families all over the world are full of gratitude to the Salesians, who have become the “Gospel” in their midst.

May God bless you.

Fr. Angel


[1] “May the Name of the Lord be blessed both now and for ever.”

[2] The Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco, XI (New Rochelle, 1964), 357-364. https://donboscosalesianportal.org/wp-content/uploads/BM_11_en.pdf.

[3] ibid. pp. 359-360.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Homily for Tuesday, 26th Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Tuesday
26th Week of Ordinary Time

Sept. 27, 2022
Job 3: 1-3, 11-17, 20-23
Christian Brothers, St. Joseph’s Residence, New Rochelle

“Job opened his mouth and cursed his day” (Job 3: 1).

An 18th-century image of Job,
probably of German origin

In yesterday’s 1st reading we were introduced to the undeserved suffering of Job, suffering plotted by Satan to tempt Job to curse God.

Instead, Job curses the day of his birth, laments that he’s alive, wishes for death.  His “path is hidden” from him, and God has hemmed him in (3:23), trapped him in a meaningless existence, left him with a sense of hopelessness.

Suicides rates and acts of violence like mass shootings indicate that those kinds of feelings aren’t rare.  Even if one doesn’t resort to those kinds of desperation, it’s possible for someone to feel that his life has been unfair or meaningless or without hope—to feel like Job.  That could happen even to religious as they regard their lives, their ministry, or their relationships.  Their paths might seem to be hidden.

As one comes toward the end of life, he might ask with Job, “Why is light given to toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit,” and “wait for death” and be “glad when they reach the grave” (3:20-22).  Such could be the final test of one’s faith in God, the test we pray to be spared when we pray “lead us not into temptation,” which interpreters tell us really means, “do not subject us to the final test” (Matt 6:13), as the NAB renders it.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), to his destiny, where he would be tempted by the fear of death.  Yet he would bravely and faithfully walk the path he’d started on.  He’d face “the final test” and overcome it.

We might anticipate our final test by looking back at the blessings in our lives—not a large family, flocks and herds and servants, such as Job initially enjoyed.  We might observe and count the blessings of brothers, of relatives, of past pupils.  More blessings might be hidden from us:  until Judgment Day, how can we know in what mysterious ways we’ve touched the lives of others for the better and helped them find their paths?  In this life we have only hints of that.  God hasn’t hemmed us in but given us extensive outreach for encouraging pupils, relatives, friends, and our brothers; for, even unawares, sharing the goodness of God with them and so enabled them, in turn, to be instruments of God’s goodness.

We may look forward to death like Job; but unlike Job, look for it as the culmination of God’s blessings, as our path into the heavenly Jerusalem where Jesus waits for us.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sending Forth the 153 Salesian Missionary Expedition

Sending Forth the 153rd Salesian Missionary Expedition


(ANS – Turin – September 26, 2022)
 – On Sunday, September 25, at the basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime presided over the Mass with the missionary sending off ceremony of 19 Salesians of Don Bosco and 9 Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Six Salesian missionaries did not receive their visas in time. For the Salesians, it was the 153rd missionary expedition, while for the FMAs it was the 145th missionary expedition.

The Rector Major was joined by his vicar, Fr. Stefano Martoglio, the general councilor for the missions, Fr. Alfred Maravilla, the general councilor for formation, Fr. Ivo Coelho, the general councilor for youth ministry, Fr. Miguel Angel Garcia Morcuende, and 20 provincials; many other presbyters concelebrated.

In his homily, Fr. Fernandez reiterated that it is thanks to the missionaries that today the Salesian charism is spread all over the world; without them, Salesians would be few and present only in Italy. “Our way of living together from all parts of the world is a prophetic word,” he explained, noting then how the circumstance of the missionary sending was a propitious occasion to say thanks to the Lord for the missionary call of these religious, a particular call within the common Salesian vocation that is able to transmit enthusiasm to young people in the name of the Lord, with a Salesian heart.

Don Bosco’s 10th successor resumed the dialog he had the night before with the new SDB and FMA missionaries: “Today the outlook, the approach, cannot be the same as in Don Bosco's time; we do not go to teach those who do not know. Instead, we go to share life, offering what we are, and surely to receive much more than what we offer.”

Commenting on the Word of God, the Rector Major pointed out that the Gospel of the day was crystal clear: there is a very rich man, whose name is not known because his heart is so hard that he has lost himself, and a poor man named Lazarus. The problem is not wealth, but a dead heart, unable to see anything beyond the self, unable to feel compassion and mercy. “Let us not forget that we were born for the poorest kids, not to do who knows what, but to meet them there where the neediest are in every part of the world.” Sometimes it is not about material poverty but the great emptiness in the meaning of life and extreme loneliness, sometimes nothing is missing, but everything is missing. “Take care of yourselves, but give your best, give life every day. So many are waiting for us without knowing us!” urged the Rector Major.

Following the profession of faith, the solemn commissioning and distribution of the missionary crosses at the hands of the Rector Major took place. On behalf of Mother Chiara Cazzuola of the FMAs, who was unable to attend, it was Sister Ruth del Pilar Mora, general councilor for the missions, who handed over the missionary cross to the FMA missionaries.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may Mary, Mother and Teacher, accompany and protect you. In the name of Don Bosco and in the memory of the First Missionary Expedition [of 1875], go and announce to the young and the poor of the world the joy of the risen Christ,” were the sending words of Fr. Fernandez Artime.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Homily for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sept. 25, 2022
Luke 16: 19-31
St. Francis Xavier, Bronx
Our Lady of the Assumption, Bronx

“There was a rich man who … dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus” (Luke 16: 19-20).

(by Gustave Dore')

The parable that Jesus tells today is addressed to the Pharisees.  Last week he addressed a parable to his disciples about a dishonest steward who was called to account for mismanaging his employer’s property (16:1).  Jesus followed that parable with a warning about loving money more than God, about serving wealth rather than God (16:13).

In the verses between that warning and today’s parable, the Pharisees reacted to the warning by mocking Jesus because, St. Luke tells us, they “were lovers of money” (16:14).  Jesus refutes them with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man about the misuse of wealth.

The rich man doesn’t have a name.  He’s often called Dives, the Latin word for “rich.”  We’d say he’s filthy rich.  He wears purple garments, the most expensive clothing known to the ancient world.  He wears fine linen—one commentator says this refers to his undergarments.[1]  He dines sumptuously every day, which means he compels his household staff to work even on the Sabbath.  He’s no observer of Torah.

While the Pharisees liked to think that wealth was a sign of God’s favor, Dives is offending God by the way he flaunts his wealth.  Worse, he ignores the poor man at his gate.  It’s not just that Lazarus is poor; he’s “covered with sores” (16:20), in need of medical care.  He’s desperately hungry (16:21).  In this too Dives violates Torah, which commands care for one’s neighbor in need.

Dives knows he’s there, even knows his name, which he uses when speaking to Abraham (16:24).  But he takes better care of his dogs than of Lazarus, for they enjoy scraps from his table, and Lazarus gets nothing.  In fact, the dogs treat Lazarus with a compassion the rich man lacks.  They attend to his sores in the way they know how.

Both men die.  Lazarus is carried to heaven by the angels, “to the bosom of Abraham” (16:22).  In ancient Israel people reclined at a dinner on couches, and the favored place at a banquet was at the host’s right.  Thus Lazarus is next to Abraham, at his bosom.  This is the same post held by the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper, close enuf to lean on Jesus and ask who was going to betray him (John 13:23-26).

We’re not told why Lazarus was carried to heaven.  It’s not because of his poverty, his poor health, or his hunger.  These aren’t virtues.  We surmise it’s because of his patience, which in some ways resembles the patience of Job.  He seems to have put his trust in God, which is implicit in his name; Lazarus means “God is my helper.”  Certainly he needed God’s help, because he got nothing from his neighbor.

We can note, too, that in all of Jesus’ parables, Lazarus is the only character with a name.  No one in the Good Samaritan has a personal name, nor in the Prodigal Son, the Workers in the Vineyard, last week’s Dishonest Steward, etc.  So perhaps we’re to pay attention to God’s helping him to attain the blessings in eternity that were cruelly denied to him on earth.  God proves to be his helper in the end after human beings have failed him.

Dives, however, was doomed to the torments of hell, reversing all the blessings he enjoyed selfishly in this life.  He was but the steward to what God had given him, and like last week’s steward he squandered his master’s property (16:1).  His example proves that you can’t serve both God and money.  Dives chose money:  purple garments, fine linen, sumptuous banquets.

We often hear a criticism of the doctrine of hell:  if God is so good, how can he condemn anyone to hell, to eternal torture, as portrayed in the fate of the rich man?  God in his goodness is warning us about conduct that leads to hell, to eternal alienation from God’s goodness.  Dives was alienated from his neighbor in need, and now that he’s in need, he shows not a spark of repentance.  He asks for the pity that he denied Lazarus on earth, and he wants Lazarus to come and wait on him—bring me a drop of water!  Be my messenger boy to my brothers.  What chutzpah!  There’s no sign of sorrow for his own behavior, just an expectation that Abraham and Lazarus should do his bidding like his household servants. He chose a hellish life, and, unrepentant, he continues a hellish life.

Jesus tells the doomed rich man—and the Pharisees, who love money—that if people would listen to Moses and the prophets (16:29)—like Amos today and last week—listen to all the teachings of the Scriptures, like today’s responsorial psalm (146:7-10), they would take care of their neighbors and would reach Abraham, God’s friend.  St. Luke adds a note about one risen from the dead (16:30-31), which alludes to Jesus, of course.  Jesus showed compassion for the sick, the poor, and sinners willing to hear God’s word and be converted.  Therefore God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, as he’ll also raise everyone who listens to the prophets, to the sacred Scriptures, and especially to Jesus himself.



[1] Kenneth E. Bailey, “The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man,” in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2008), p. 382.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Homily for Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina

Homily for the Memorial of
St. Pius of Pietrelcina

Sept. 23, 2022
Collect
Provincial House, New Rochelle

(from ANS)

The collect for Padre Pio references his share in the sufferings of Christ’s cross, which he experienced, as the prayer says, “by a singular grace”; and the wonders of God’s mercy shared “by means of his ministry.”

We all know that Padre Pio was a stigmatist, and so “singularly” shared in Christ’s passion.  What we might overlook is that in his early years as a friar with this charism he was misunderstood, examined by doctors, investigated, and for a time suspended from public ministry.  All that was not only an embarrassment but another form of suffering.

No one here is a stigmatist.  My surgical scars shouldn’t fool you.  But all of us share in Christ’s cross insofar as we are sometimes misunderstood or under-appreciated, and we all bear physical pain from various causes, such as illness, aching joints, just plain weariness.

Padre Pio was famous as a confessor, spending hours a day dispensing God’s mercy to the faithful.  Any of us who have spent an hour or 2 on occasion at this ministry know its physical discomforts—and the wonderful opportunity it provides to reconcile people with God and deeper their relationship with Christ; and often enuf, we’re edified by our penitents.  The mysteries of grace flow in 2 directions.

What we probably don’t know about Padre Pio is that he founded a hospital near his friary to provide another form of mercy for the poor.  That ought to encourage us, at least, to dispense the Lord’s mercy thru our compassion and kindness to our confreres, staff, and all others whom we meet.

Without our being stigmatists or hospital builders, each of us has his singular graces from God for growing in Christ and dispensing his mercy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Fr. Maksim Ryabukha Elected Auxiliary Bishop of Donetsk

Fr. Maksim Ryabukha, SDB, Elected Auxiliary Bishop of Archepiscopal Exarchate of Donetsk


(ANS - Vatican City – September 19, 2022)
 – The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has elected Fr. Maksim Ryabukha, SDB, as auxiliary bishop of the archepiscopal exarchate of Donetsk. Pope Francis has granted his assent, assigning to Bishop-elect Ryabukha the titular see of Stefaniacum.

Bishop Maksim Ryabukha was born on May 18, 1980, in Lviv. In 1998 he entered the Society of St. Francis de Sales, attending the novitiate at Pinerolo, Italy, where he made his first profession on Sept. 8, 1999; he then made his perpetual profession in Lviv on Aug. 19, 2005, and received priestly ordination on Aug. 4, 2007, also in Lviv.

After initial formation, he completed his studies in philosophy and theology at the Salesian Pontifical University. In addition, he also trained in human resource management at the Interregional Academy in Kyiv, as well as obtaining a Master’s degree in school administration from the Lviv Polytechnic University and a Master’s degree in social pedagogy from the National University of Transcarpathia.

His many roles include director of catechetics at Pokrov Parish of the Holy Mother of God in Lviv, administrator of St. John Chrysostom Parish in Kyiv, head of university pastoral ministry of the Archeparchy of Kyiv, local collaborator of the apostolic nunciature in Ukraine, teacher of pedagogy at the Greek Catholic Major Seminary in Kyiv.

At the level of Salesian communities, he was director of the youth center of the Lviv community (2007-2010) and Vynnyky (2010-2011), director and treasurer in Dnipro (2014-2015) and, from 2018 to the present, director and treasurer of the Kyiv house.

At the province level, he served as national delegate for youth ministry for the former Eastern Circumscription (2009-2012), and for the present vice province of Greek Catholic Ukraine, delegate for formation and vice provincial (2018-2021), and delegate for vocations ministry and the Salesian Family (2020-2021).