Saints in the paradise - Saint Alfonso Maria di Liguorio - Church San Gioacchino in Prati


Archbishop Follo: Readings for November 1, 2 and 4

With the wish to understand that holiness is to love Christ letting ourselves be loved Him, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and for love of God.

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November 1, 2018- All Saints Day
November 2, 2018- All Souls Day
November 4, 2018- XXXI Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B- Roman Rite Dt 6:2-6; Ps 17; Heb 7:23-28; Mk 12:28b-34
At the end of life, we shall be judged on love (St. John of the Cross)
II Sunday after the Dedication- Ambrosian Rite Is 56:3-7; Ps 23: Eph 2:11-22; Lk 14:1a.15-24
The Lord reveals Himself to those who love him 

  • All Saints Day: the feast of happiness.

Today’s readings help us understand who indeed is a Christian.
A Christian is the one who lives the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount as Christ does (Gospel). A Christian is the one who on his forehead carries God’s sign and wears the white vest purified by the blood of the Lamb (1st reading).  A Christian is the one who has been made son of God and lives with the burning hope to meet the Father (2nd reading).
I think that it is right to read or to listen to the reading of the beatitudes as a self-portrait of Jesus and as an indication of how to be part of a happy Person who carries the good news that God is present among and in us.
“To be Happy” is our vocation. In many men and women, who have been or who are still part of our life, we have seen this vocation become alive. These persons show us the path to be followed. With their testimony, they encourage and help us to walk along the road of a serious and generous sanctity.

  • Why do we celebrate All Saints Day?

When we remember true men and women who have welcomed Him totally in their lives, we celebrate God. All Saints Feast is a splendid invitation to authenticity. It is an awareness of the infinite mystery of our life: God is love. God loves us and we are made saints when we have our roots in this true Love. It reminds us that “all is Grace” and makes true the last sentence of the book “Diary of a Country Priest” by G.Bernanos: I have only one longing: that I’m not a saint”.
Unfortunately, the word “saint” seems out of fashion in today’s world. It sounds like an echo from a world long gone. Too often it is used with an ironic meaning: a saint is a naïve person. We prefer to call a “good man” the one who dedicates himself to the common good and a “gentleman” the one who has an impeccable behavior that we should imitate.
For the Christian, the model to imitate is the Saint, who is not only someone to call upon when in need. It is a model not only of a good life dedicated to the others but of a life which is the answer to God’s love. It is a model of the true man who adheres to Christ and with Him becomes the cornerstone for the entire world.
The saints are not a special group of men and women separated from us, spectators looking up at them from below and from outside. With their lives, they show us that the program of love explained in the Sermon of the Mount is overwhelmingly simple and clear.

  • How can we become a saint?

The answer is in the following recommendations.

  1. Ask for it every day and with humility.
  2. Ask our good Lord the grace to believe in the Beatitudes and to put them into practice

3   Make yours this sentence of Paul Claudel in “The Tidings Brought to Mary”: “Holiness’ is not getting stoned in the land of Pagania or kissing a leper on the mouth, but to do the will of God with readiness, whether to stay at our place or at a higher’ up”.

  1. Let’s “Contemplate the face of the saints and find comfort in their speeches” and we will understand that “everything is grace”. When we enter in a dialog of love in which we “loose ourselves in God” doing his will and realizing his love, we discover that we are true persons and fulfill our vocation of man.

Saint Therese of the Baby Jesus, who died when she was only 24 years old, had shown us that being saints is not the result of a human effort, but it is a gift of God that we must share. This Saint Nun of Lisieux is worldwide known as the Saint who has taught to the world the “Little way of spiritual childhood”. She has often spoken about the necessity to “be little before God”. She found “a straight, very short, all new little way” to go to Heaven.

  • Remember the dead ones also as teachers

Sanctity is not something abnormal; it is normal. Sanctity is not a moral connotation but it is the fruit of God’s grace in the human person and in the Church. If the saints are models and teachers of Christian life so are the dead. To go to the cemeteries and to visit the tombs would be meaningless if we do not believe in the Resurrection for us and for those who have gone ahead of us in life and in faith.
Father Primo Mazzolari , pastor of Bozzolo, a small village in my dioceses of Cremona, used to say that the cemetery can be “ the first church of the village, namely a school, a house of justice and a house of reparation. If the bells would be silent, if the church would not be there anymore and the priest could not speak any longer, provided that the cemetery would remain in the village, then God would have his prophet and religion would have its ministers. In fact, the dead are the prophets and the angels of God who cry out to us: brothers, life is not here but up there.”
Let’s go to the Cemetery not to remember the dead as shadows but as persons who, being in the presence of God, make us understand the word of love of a welcoming Father.

  • Prayer sanctifies.

Let’s pray for our dead ones. Even Saint Augustine underlines the importance of the prayers for the dead “ A tear for the dead evaporates, a flower withers on the grave, a prayer, however, goes to the heart of the Most High”. Let’s stay at peace because: “we never lose those we love because we love them in the One we cannot lose”.
Let’s remember our dead above all during Mass because the dead, as well as the living, are sanctified by the gifts at the altar. Relating to this, Nicholas Cabasilas has written: “This divine and sacred rite of the Mass is twice sanctifying. In the first place, through the intercession. In fact, the gifts made, the mere fact of being offered, sanctify those who offer and those to whom they are offered and make God merciful to them. In second place, they sanctify through Communion because they are a real food and real drink, according to the word of the Lord. Of these two ways, the first is in common to the living and the dead since the sacrifice is offered for both the categories. The second way is just for the living because the dead cannot eat nor drink. What then? For this reason, will the dead not benefit of this sanctification and be less advantaged of the living? Not at all! The Christ is communicated to them in the way that He knows”. (“Explanation of the Divine Liturgy” chapter XLII)


                 1) The command of Love illuminates the heart and the mind
The liturgies of November 1st and November 2nd teach us that, if we believe in the eternal Love of God, we can understand that Heaven and Earth are open one to the other. Today’s gospel teaches us that Christ commands us to a love open towards heaven and towards the earth, a love which becomes light for our journey.
To the question: “Which is the first of all Commandments?” (Mk 12, 28) Jesus answers with two passages that are in the meditation of Israel:

  • The first is from the Deuteronomy (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength”)
  • The second is from Leviticus ( “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”)

Man’s duties are many but Jesus invites us not to get lost in the labyrinth of rules.  The essence of God’s will is simple and clear: to love God and humanity.
It is right that the law should consider many and different life situations, provided that it keeps into focus the center that gives life and impulse to the all structure. This center is love. Jesus answers to the question of the scribe that the first commandment is made of two commandments, which are strongly connected to each other as the two faces of the same reality. The measure of a true faith and the geniality of Christianity consist in the ability to maintain united the two loves -the one for God and the one for humanity-.
There are people who, in order to love God, exile themselves from humanity and there are people that to fight along with men, forget God.
To which kind of God do we call out if we declare to love Him but then we don’t take care of our brothers and sisters? Certainly, not to the God of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that, if we declare to love and to serve our neighbor but refuse to love the only Master, then we’ll be easily made slaves of idols.
What is even more serious is that, while we try to help our neighbor to become more human, we risk taking him farther away from his most deep need and from his most essential search, that of God.
The evangelist Mark quotes some words that are missing in Matthew and Luke: “Listen Israel, God our Master is the only Master”. God is the only Master. We must adore only Him.  We must love our neighbor but we must not adore him. To give ourselves totally to our neighbor doesn’t satisfy his thirst for Love. If we are open to God, then our openness to our neighbor is completed. God is the final aim of our being. We long for Him as the seed longs to come out from the earth. This is also the today’s teaching of the Ambrosian liturgy whose theme is “God reveals himself to the ones who love Him”.
  At this point, it is natural to ask ourselves how to acquire the God’s charity and how to let it grown in us. To answer this question, I’ll use the teaching of Saint Thomas of Aquinas:

  1. a) to acquire charity, the gift of God we must:
  2. listen diligently to the Word of God
  3. think constantly about good things
  4. b) to let charity grow in us, we must:
  5. detach ourselves from the terrestrial goods (at least with our heart)
  6. be patient in adversities.

These three feasts celebrate the Charity that sanctifies, vivifies and lightens our journey towards eternity.
These three fests remind us of the eschatological dimension of the Church, a dimension that is particularly lived in the Ordo Virginum, of which Blessed John Paul II said: «It is a source of joy and hope to see that the ancient Order of the virgins, witnessed in Christian communities since apostolic times, today is blooming again. Consecrated by the diocesan Bishop, they acquire a particular bond with the Church, to whose service they dedicate themselves while remaining in the world. Alone or associated, they constitute a special eschatological image of the celestial Bride and of future life when, finally, the Church will live in fullness the love for Christ the Bridegroom. «(Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Consecrated Life, No. 7, 25 March 1996).  The consecrated Virgins have an eschatological spirituality because their life tends towards the vision of God and are called to live and witness in a particular way an existence that must always be conformed to the reality ultimate and definitive, namely, eschatological. Synthetic etymological comment.  As G. Kittel points out in the Great Lexicon of the New Testament, III, 995-1000, the word eschatos (last), in its different forms (adjective, noun, adverb) is used several times in the New Testament to indicate the definitiveness of salvation in Christ, in the «present-future» tension. The term «eschatology» has different nuances, which allow us to glimpse the set of meanings that the word has: from the classic meaning of scatology as a discourse on the ultimate realities, to that of discourse on the future of history open to man by God, and to the one of eschatology as a finality to theological reflection on hope. In the «last things» – Novissima, the Novissimi: death, judgment, hell, heaven – we have the conclusion of the life of the new man, saved by Christ, and his raison d’etre.        Let us meditate on this passage of the prayer of the Consecration of the Virgins: «You want not only to render them to their original innocence but also to lead them to the experience of the goods of the world to come. And from now on you call them to stay in your presence as indeed before your face.»
Patristic reading
Golden Chain
Mc 12,28-34
Gloss.: After that the Lord confuted the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who tempted Him, it is here shewn how He satisfied the Scribe who questioned Him.
Wherefore it is said, «And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of (p. 247) all?»
Pseudo-Jerome: This question is only that which is a problem common to all skilled in the law, namely, that the commandments are differently set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Wherefore He brought forward not one but two commandments, by which, as by two paps rising on the breast of the bride, our infancy is nourished.
And therefore there is added, «And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God.» He mentions the first and greatest commandment of all; this is that to which each of us must give the first place in his heart, as the only foundation of piety, that is, the knowledge and confession of the Divine Unity, with the practice of good works, which is perfected in the love of God and our neighbour.
Wherefore there is added, «Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.»
Theophylact: See how He has enumerated all the powers of the soul; for there is a living power in the soul, which He explains, when He says, «With all thy soul,» and to this belong anger and desire, all of which He will have us give to Divine love.
There is also another power, which is called natural, to which belong nutriment and growth, and this also is all to be given to God, for which reason He says, «With all thy heart.»
There is also another power, the rational, which He calls the mind, and that too is to be given whole to God.
Gloss.: The words which are added, «And with all thy strength,» may be referred to the bodily powers.
It goes on: «And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.»
Theophylact: He says that it is like, because these two commandments are harmonious one with the other, and mutually contain the other. For he who loves God, loves also His creature; but the chief of His creatures is man, wherefore he who loves God ought to love all men. But he who loves his neighbor, who so often offends him, ought much more to love Him, who is ever giving him benefits. And therefore on account of the connection between these commandments, He adds, «There is none other commandment greater than these.»
It goes on: «And the Scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: (p. 248) for there is one God, and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.»
Bede: He shews when he says, «this is greater than all sacrifices,» that a grave question was often debated between the scribes and Pharisees, which was the first commandment, or the greatest of the Divine law; that is, some praised offerings and sacrifices, others preferred acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers before the law pleased God by that faith only, which works by love. This scribe shews that he was of the latter opinion.
But it continues: «And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.»
Theophylact: By which He shews that he was not perfect, for He did not say, Thou art within the kingdom of heaven, but, «Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.»
Bede: But the reason why he was not far from the kingdom of God was, that he proved himself to be a favourer of that opinion, which is proper to the New Testament and to Gospel perfection.
Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 73: Nor let it trouble us that Matthew says, that he who addressed this question to the Lord tempted Him; for it may be that though he came as a tempter, yet he was corrected by the answer of the Lord. Or at all events, we must not look upon the temptation as evil, and done with the intention of deceiving an enemy, but rather as the caution of a man who wished to try a thing unknown to him.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, he is not far who comes with knowledge; for ignorance is farther from the kingdom of God than knowledge; wherefore He says above to the Sadducees, «Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God.»
It goes on: «And no man after that durst ask Him any questions.»
Bede: For since they were confuted in argument, they ask Him no further questions, but take Him without any disguise, and give Him up to the Roman power. From which we understand that the venom of envy may be overcome, but can hardly lie quiet.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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