Chủ Nhật, 23 tháng 4, 2017


Monday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 267

Reading 1ACTS 4:23-31
After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it,
they raised their voices to God with one accord
and said, "Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth
and the sea and all that is in them,
you said by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of our father David, your servant:

Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples entertain folly?
The kings of the earth took their stand
and the princes gathered together
against the Lord and against his anointed.

Indeed they gathered in this city
against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed,
Herod and Pontius Pilate,
together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
to do what your hand and your will
had long ago planned to take place.
And now, Lord, take note of their threats,
and enable your servants to speak your word
with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal,
and signs and wonders are done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Responsorial PsalmPS 2:1-3, 4-7A, 7B-9
R. (see 11d) Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
"Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!"
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
"I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain."
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD said to me, "You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish."
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaCOL 3:1
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 3:1-8
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." 
Nicodemus said to him,
"How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"
Jesus answered,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Meditation: "Unless one is born anew"
Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus' miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a devout Pharisee who sought to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as prescribed in the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers) and further elaborated in the numerous scribal laws, recorded in the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and  not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus' teaching and called him a Sabbath breaker. It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day's work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him as rabbi (a teacher of God's word and law) and acknowledged that Jesus' teaching came from God.
How can one get right with God and enter his kingdom?
Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Mosaic law - how can one get right with God and enter God's kingdom? Jesus' answer was brief and startling: "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see God." The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself. Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God's kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed from within, can't accomplish this by oneself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.
Rebirth to new life in the power of the Holy Spirit
What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The new birth which Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a life which is transformed through the power of God. This new life brings us into an experiential relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters (Romans 6:4; 8:10-11). This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all of his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life in the Spirit brings us into God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17).
What is the kingdom of God - which is also called the kingdom of heaven? God's kingdom - his reign and blessing as King over us - is the abundant everlasting life and power from heaven which God shares with those who accept him as the Eternal Father and Author of Life and Ruler of All he has created. Jesus explains in the prayer he gave to his disciples, what we call the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father, that God's kingdom is that society of men and women who acknowledge God as their Lord and Ruler and who obey his word and live according to his will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
We are sons and daughters of God and citizens of his kingdom
To be reborn in the Spirit is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed. Those who willingly accept God's rule in their lives become citizens of God's heavenly kingdom and members of God's family - his adopted sons and daughters. And they enter into possession of the life which comes from God himself, an everlasting life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin, oppression, and corruption. Do you know the joy and freedom of the new birth and abundant life which Jesus Christ has won for you?
"Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us abundant new life and power to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Renew in me the gift of faith to accept and obey your life-giving word and to cooperate with the transforming power of your Holy Spirit who changes us into your likeness. May your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today, tomorrow, and always."
A Daily Quote from early church fathersReborn and Fed by the Spirit, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"And then that rebirth, which brings about the forgiveness of all past sins, takes place in the Holy Spirit, according to the Lord's own words, 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God.' But it is one thing to be born of the Spirit, another to be fed by the Spirit; just as it is one thing to be born of the flesh, which happens when a mother gives birth, and another to be fed from the flesh, which appears when she nurses the baby. We see the child turn to drink with delight from the bosom of her who brought it forth to life. Its life continues to be nourished by the same source which brought it into being." (excerpt from Sermon 71.19)

Easter Weekday

(Acts 4:23-31; Psalm 2)

KEY VERSE: "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit" (v.5).
TO KNOW: Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish council), and one of the Jerusalem aristocracy. Nicodemus was curious about Jesus but he was afraid to come to him in broad daylight, so he came to him at night. Jesus told him that it was not enough to claim membership in the chosen people. To become a child of God, one must be "born from above" (v.3). Nicodemus misinterpreted this to mean human birth. Jesus helped him to understand that he could only enter God's kingdom through spiritual rebirth in Baptism, being born of "water and Spirit." Although the workings of the Spirit were invisible, like the wind, anyone could observe the results. Nicodemus' spiritual growth was seen later when he courageously defended Jesus before the Sanhedrin (Jn 7:50), and when he came to anoint Jesus' body for burial (Jn 19:39).
TO LOVE: Am I seeking to learn more about Jesus?
TO SERVE: Risen Lord, help me to trust in the mysterious workings of the Spirit.
Optional Memorial of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest and martyr

Disgusted by the greed, corruption, and lack of interest in justice by his fellow lawyers, Mark Rey abandoned the law. He became a priest, a Franciscan friar with his brother George. Mark Rey changed his name to Fidelis and gave away his worldly wealth to poor people and to poor seminarians. Fidelis served his friary as guardian, and worked in epidemics, especially healing soldiers. He led a group of Capuchins to preach to Calvinists and followers of Zwingli a theologian whose sermons began the Reformation in Switzerland. The success of this work, and lack of violence suffered by his mission was attributed to Fidelis spending his nights in prayer. He was, however, eventually martyred for his preaching.

Monday 24 April 2017

St Fidelis of Sigmaringen
Acts 4:23-31. Psalms 2:1-9. John 3:1-8.
Happy are all who put their trust in the Lord — John 3:1-8.
Unless you be born from above you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The statement made by Jesus to Nicodemus is blunt. The concept of life, as used by John, is identical with the kingdom of God. To enter the kingdom of God is to enter into the very life of God.
St Peter in one of his letters asks how beings created with the nature we have can also participate in the divine nature? This is not a moral problem, still less a legal problem. Of ourselves, we can do nothing to reach the divine level unless we are helped from outside ourselves. We are raised by God descending from heaven to our level and then bringing us up to his own level. O wonderful exchange! O the love of God for us!


A former lawyer who left his profession to become a Capuchin Franciscan priest, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen has his liturgical memorial on April 24.

Fidelis' life bridged the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a time of religious conflict in Western Europe. He died at the hands of a mob while preaching in Switzerland, where he had gone to combat the Calvinist heresy.

The future “Fidelis” received the name of Mark Rey at the time of his birth, during 1577 in present-day Germany. Mark studied at the University of Freiburg, and worked for a time as a private tutor. Eventually he went back to the university and earned his law degree around 1611.

Though he had already shown signs of devotion to God and studied canon law alongside civil law, Mark opted for a secular career as an attorney. Within a year he was known as “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his concern for the needy. Just as quickly, he became disgusted with the corrupt ways of his chosen field .

Leaving his legal practice behind, Mark decided to give his life directly to the service of Christ and the Church. In short order he received ordination as a priest, and joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Freiburg.

With his entry into the order he received the name “Fidelis,” meaning “faithful” -- after the words of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation, “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” As he embraced radical poverty and simplicity, the attorney-turned-Franciscan left his inheritance to a scholarship fund for poor seminarians, who also received his books.

Fidelis showed his love for God through prayer and fasting, while caring for his neighbors through preaching, writing, and the celebration of the sacraments. He showed particular care for the poor and sick, and was especially revered for his work among Austrian soldiers who were suffering from a plague epidemic.

During 1614 a Swiss Catholic bishop had sought help from the Capuchins, to restore the faith and counteract the spread of Calvinist Protestantism. In 1621, Fidelis was sent on the mission. He brought just four items: a Bible, a prayer book, a crucifix and a copy of the Capuchin rule.

The winter of 1621-22 was a busy period of preaching, instruction and theological disputation for the Franciscan priest. He preached not only in the pulpits of Catholic churches, but also in public places, and even in the meeting-places of the Calvinists themselves. Some Swiss Protestants responded with hostility, but many others were also brought back to the Church.

Like many cases of religious persecution during this time, Fidelis’ treatment at the hands of the Calvinists did not stem exclusively from doctrinal disagreement. National and cultural tensions also contributed, with many Swiss Protestants suspecting that the Catholic mission was part of an Austrian plot against their nation.

This volatile situation boiled over on April 24, 1622, when Fidelis’ preaching provoked a riot at a church in the village of Seewis. Some Austrian soldiers were killed in the uproar, and a would-be assassin shot at the priest.

After declining an offer of help from a Protestant, Fidelis was confronted outside the church by a mob, and told to choose between his Catholic beliefs and his life. Fidelis was defiant: “The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I fear not death.”

St. Fidelis was beaten and stabbed to death. The sight of his martyrdom, however, is said to have converted one of the Protestant preachers who led the mob. A succession of attested miracles led to his canonization in 1746.

Lectio Divina: 
 Monday, April 24, 2017
Easter Time

1) Opening prayer
Lord God, our Father,
you are not far away from any of us,
for in you we live and move and exist
and you live in us
through your Holy Spirit.Be indeed with us, Lord,
send us your Holy Spirit of truth
and through him deepen our understanding
of the life and message of your Son,
that we may accept the full truth
and live by it consistently.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 3,1-8
There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night and said, 'Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.'
Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. Nicodemus said, 'How can anyone who is already old be born? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born?'
Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised when I say: You must be born from above. The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

3) Reflection
• The Gospel today presents part of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears several times in the Gospel of:
John (Jn 3, 1-13; 7, 50-52; 19, 39). He was a person who held a certain social position. He was a leader among the Jews and formed part of the supreme tribunal, called the Synedrium. In the Gospel of John, he represents the group of Jews who were pious and sincere, but who did not succeed in understanding everything which Jesus said and did. Nicodemus had heard about the signs and the wonderful things that Jesus did, and he was struck, amazed. He wanted to speak with Jesus in order to understand better. He was a cultured person, who thought he believed the things of God. He expected the Messiah with the Book of the Law in his hand to verify if the novelty announced by Jesus would arrive. Jesus makes Nicodemus understand that the only way to understand the things of God is to be born again! Today this same thing happens. Some like Nicodemus: accept as new only what agrees with their ideas. What does not agree with their ideas is rejected and considered contrary to tradition. Others allow themselves to be surprised from facts and are not afraid to say: “I have been born anew!”
• John 3, 1: A man called Nicodemus. Shortly before the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist was speaking of the imperfect faith of certain persons who were interested only in the miracles of Jesus (Jn 2, 23-25). Nicodemus was one of these persons. He had good will, but his faith was still imperfect. The conversation with Jesus helped him to perceive that he has to advance in order to be able to deepen his faith in Jesus and in God.
• John 3, 2: 1st question of Nicodemus: the tension between what is old and what is new. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a prominent person among the Jews and with a good common sense. He went to meet Jesus at night and said to him: “Rabbì, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him”. Nicodemus gives an opinion of Jesus according to arguments which he, Nicodemus himself, has within himself. This is already important, but it is not enough to know Jesus. The signs which Jesus works can arouse a person and awake in the person some interest. They can generate curiosity, but they do not generate greater faith. They do not make one see the Kingdom of God present in Jesus. For this reason it is necessary to advance, to take one more step. Which is this step?
• John 3, 3: The response of Jesus: "You must be born again!” In order that Nicodemus can perceive the Kingdom present in Jesus, he should be born again, from above. Anyone who tries to understand Jesus only from his arguments alone does not succeed to understand him. Jesus is much greater. If Nicodemus remains only with the catechism of the past in his hand, he will not succeed to understand Jesus. He should open his hand completely. He should set aside his own certainties and his security and abandon himself totally. He should make a choice between, on the one hand, the security which comes from the organized religion with its laws and traditions and, on the other hand, launch himself to the adventure of the Spirit which Jesus proposes to him.
• John 3, 4: 2nd question of Nicodemus: How can anyone who is already old be born again? Nicodemus does not give in and returns with the same question with a certain irony: “How can a man be born when he is old? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born again?” Nicodemus takes the words of Jesus literally and, because of this, he understands nothing. He should have perceived that the words of Jesus had a symbolic sense.
• John 3, 5-8: The answer of Jesus: To be born from above, to be born from the Spirit. Jesus explains what it means: to be born from above or to be born again. It is “To be born from water and the Spirit”. Here we have a very clear reference to Baptism. Through the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist invites us to review our Baptism. He gives the following words: “What is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is Spirit”. Flesh means that which is born only from our ideas. What is born from us is within our reach. To be born of the Spirit is another thing! The Spirit is like the wind. “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so it is with anyone who is born of the Spirit”. The wind has within itself, a direction, a route. We perceive the direction of the wind, for example, the North wind or the wind coming from the South, but we do not know, nor can we control the cause why the wind moves in this or that direction. This is the way the Spirit is. "No one is the master of the Spirit” (Ecl 8, 8). What characterizes the wind best, the Spirit, is liberty. The wind, the Spirit, is free, He cannot be controlled. He acts on others and nobody can act on him. His origin is a mystery. The boat must first find the route of the wind. Then it has to place the sails according to that route. That is what Nicodemus should do and what we should all do.
• A key to understand better the words of Jesus on the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew language uses the same word to say wind and spirit. As we have said the wind has within it a route, a direction: the North wind, the wind from the South. The Spirit of God has a route, a project, which already manifested itself in creation. The Spirit was present in creation under the form of a bird which flew over the waters of the chaos (Jn 1, 2). Year after year, he renews the face of the earth and sets nature through the sequence of the seasons (Ps 104, 30; 147, 18). The same is also present in history. He makes the Red Sea move back (Ex 14, 21) and he gives quails to the people to eat (Nb 11, 31). He accompanies Moses and, beginning with him, he distributes the leaders of the people (Nb 11, 24-25). He took the leaders and took them to carry out liberating actions: Othniel (Jg 3, 10), Gideon (Jg 6, 34), Jephthah (Jg 11, 29), Samson (Jg 13, 25; 14, 6.19; 15, 14), Saul (1S 11, 6), and Deborah, the prophetess (Jg 4, 4). He is present in the group of the prophets and acts in them with the force which is contagious (1S 10, 5-6. 10), his action in the prophets produces envy in the others. But Moses reacts: “If only all Yahweh’s people were prophets, and Yahweh had given them his spirit!” (Nb 11, 29).
• All along the centuries the hope grew that the Spirit of God would have oriented the Messiah in the realization of God’s project (Is 11, 1-9) and it would have descended upon all the people of God (Ez 36, 27; 39, 29; Is 32, 15; 44, 3). The great promise of the Spirit appears in various ways in the prophets of the exile: the vision of the dry bones, risen by the force of the Spirit of God (Ez 37, 1-14); the effusion of the Spirit of God on all the people (Jl 3, 1-5); the vision of the Messiah-Servant who will be anointed by the Spirit to establish the right on earth and announce the Good News to the poor (Is 42, 1; 44, 1-3; 61, 1-3). They perceive a future, in which people, always more and more, are reborn thanks to the effusion of the Spirit (Ez 36, 26-27; Ps 51, 12; cf. Is 32, 15-20).
• The Gospel of John uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Just like in creation (Gn 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove, coming from heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus pronounces the words of God and communicates to us His Spirit (Jn 3, 34). His words are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63). When Jesus announces that he is going to the Father, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, so that he can remain with us. He is the Holy Spirit (Jn 14, 16-17). Through his Passion, death and resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism all of us receive this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the Apostles, he breathes on them and says: "Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs up from persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14). The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: "If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins they are retained” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us in order to be able to remember and understand the full meaning of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God any place (Jn 4, 23-24). Here is realized the liberty of the Spirit of whom Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit is, there is liberty” (2 Co 3, 17).

4) Personal questions
• How do you react before the new things which present themselves; like Nicodemus or do you accept God’s surprises?
• Jesus compares the action of the Holy Spirit with the wind (Jn 3, 8). What does this comparison reveal to me about the action of the Spirit of God in my life? Have you already had some experience which has given you the impression of being born again?

5) Concluding prayer
I will bless Yahweh at all times,
his praise continually on my lips.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice. (Ps 34,1-2)