Quote for the Day

“So many of us in the world are aspiring to upward mobility, and I feel the Lord calling me to downward mobility, to embrace a life of prayer and poverty.” — Michael Gaworski, fbp

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday of the 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless each of you!

Indeed, the Lord is kind and merciful! Our first reading this morning, along with the Gospel, speak of God’s great mercy and his forgiveness.

Paul recounts for us in the first reading how God showed his mercy and forgiveness toward him. Remember, Paul was a murderer. He had killed many Christians until he came to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and had come into the world to redeem it and all people from their sins. Paul came to know a great forgiveness and mercy in his life by the grace of God given to him without merit because that core Christian belief had bee preached to him, and he had experienced Jesus himself. He came to recognize his sin, and in the face of that sin he experienced God’s forgiveness and his call. And what did he do in response? He loved. That is why he says today that he has worked harder than all the other apostles, which is his way of saying that he has loved more because his sin had been greater and the forgiveness he received was complete.

Then in our Gospel we hear of the sinful woman who approaches Jesus, falls at his feet, washes them with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with ointment. This woman, facing her sin, responded with love. She loved the Lord, not only in her heart but also in her behavior, in her actions. She approached Jesus with confidence in receiving forgiveness, despite her serious sins.

My friends, when we approach God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we walk into that confessional, we need not fear. We walk in to put ourselves at Jesus’ feet like this sinful woman, and we do so in confidence that forgiveness is ours if we ask for it. What we do there is acknowledge our sins, and in doing so receive that forgiveness. What we do in that sacrament is love Jesus. Yes, do you ever think of it in that way? Our participation in that sacrament is an act of love for Jesus. We are, as it were, washing his feet, drying and anointing them. We love in response to our sin which has been forgiven.

“He who has been forgiven much, loves much,” we heard in the Gospel. Yes, my friends, when we face our sins, or the sins of others, our response must be love. Never condemnation, but love. We love because of the unmerited forgiveness which has been given to us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Love, my friends. Don’t condemn!

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Quote for the Day

“Strive to do everything for the love of God, whether you pray, or read; whether you are busy with household chores or lowly duties. Train yourself in all works of charity both for the healthy as well as for the sick.” — Blessed Baptista Varano, OSC

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday of the 23rd Week of the Year, Year 2

This is a late posting. Sorry! I have been very busy of late.

Here is my homily for yesterday evening’s Mass.

We have this beautiful responsorial psalm tonight on which to reflect. It speaks of a beautiful daughter being escorted into the palace of the king, born in with gladness and joy. Of course, this psalm symbolically represents us being born into heaven before God our King. In our Gospel, we have the Luke’s rendering of the Beatitudes in which we catch a glimpse of the mind of God, one might say.

Do you ever dream of heaven? I don’t mean a nighttime dream, but during the day…. do you ever imagine, dream of heaven?

Heaven, where, God willing and by his grace, we will one day come to a much more perfect and brilliant knowledge of the mind of God.

Yes, do you ever dream of heaven? O, all too often, as St. Paul reminds us in our first reading, we are preoccupied by worldly cares and concerns. Yes, we have a  sharper understanding of the world’s mind than the mind of God. We let our imaginations get caught up with worldly desires. But Paul tells us that the world is passing away, and he would want to spare us the difficulties of the world if he could.

In heaven, we will know the mind of God in a much more perfect and brilliant manner than we can possibly imagine now. A part of the mind of God is expressed in the Beatitudes. We are always blessed by God, even now, and will be especially so in heaven, for God always holds us in mind. He never forgets and is never distracted from us. We are blessed in God’s mind, even now as we suffer in this world.

I would encourage all of you to dream of heaven. Take a few minutes every day to imagine, to dream, of what heaven will be like when we come to know the mind of God in a newer, more direct and powerful way. Sit back, close your eyes, and dream. God loves you.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 23rd Week of Ordinary Time

Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass.

We have St. Paul warning us today about creating scandal among those whose faith is weak. Why is it that faithful Catholics are a cause of scandal among those who do not believe?

We here present this morning believe that God sent his only Son into the world, and that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, that he is a divine person who has two natures: human and divine. We believe that he was sent into the world to redeem it, to redeem us, that he died and rose again from the grave and now sits at the right hand of the Father while still remaining with us here on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit who has been infused into our souls.

Yes, we believe this; we have this “knowledge” as St. Paul says today in the reading.

Why, then, do we cause scandal to the weak of faith?

Perhaps it is because faith requires action. Faith without works is dead and scandelous.

Perhaps, as we heard in the Gospel, we want to be forgiven, but we fail to forgive.

Perhaps it is because we do not want to be condemned, yet we condemn others.

Perhaps it is because we do not want to be judged harshly, yet we harshly judge others.

Perhaps it is because we want to be given to in our need, but we fail to give to others in their needs.

Yes, our faith demands action. If we truly believe, we must stop condemning, judging, hoarding and failing to forgive.

My friends, Jesus is among us, even in the lives of the unbelievers. We must not sin against Jesus. We must not condemn, judge, accuse, or withhold from Him by doing so with the person in our midst.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 2014

Here is my homily for the past weekend. Sorry for the late post. God bless all!

 

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

September 6/7, 2014

Ez 13: 8-10; Rom 13: 8-10; Mt 18: 15-20

 

We are in this together, this which we call life and the Church. We are in this together, yet we hear ringing in our ears a lot of familiar attitudes, sayings such as “It’s none of my business!” or “Live and let live” or “It is a private matter and I have no reason to oppose it” or “It is happening on the other side of the world. We don’t have to get involved.”

Yes, my friends, we are in this together, not just as individuals. Yes, as Americans, we value our individual liberties and freedoms, and we are reluctant to place the common good of all people over and above our individual cares and concerns. We are reluctant to see how we are responsible for each other.

 Yet, we are in this together, this which we call life; this which we call the Church. We are one body, one parish, one Church. We are responsible for one another. What you do affects me and all of us around you. What I do affects you and all those around me. What we do here, in this parish, affects the broader community in which this parish exists. What we must do as a Church affects the entire world.

 Sounds like a lot of responsibility, doesn’t it? Well, it is. That is one reason why being a Catholic can be very challenging. We must live our lives with the full knowledge that we are responsible for each other in every way. I may not bear the guilt of your sin, nor you mine, but I must bear your needs, as you must bear mine.

 In other words, we must love one another as St. Paul tells us in our first reading today, and as our Lord tells us so often in the Gospels.

So many people love that scripture passage, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and so they should. I ask you, though, what you think are the implications and obligations of such a commandment.

 “Love your neighbor as yourself” so often get diluted down into some sort of permissive attitude. Something like, “If they are good people, that’s all that matters. What they do or how they live is ultimately of no account. Just be a good person, and it won’t matter what you believe, or what religion you practice, or what sins you commit.”

 I would say to you that is not what the love your neighbor commandment means.

 Our first reading and the Gospel today are clear. There are times and places when we must call each other into account. There are times when we must do so, not to beat someone down in anger, not to castigate or humiliate, but call into account in love and to do so when someone is playing around with evil, playing with something dangerous in their lives, because to love means we assist each other to avoid evil, to help each other out of patterns of life that pull us away from God, goodness and the Church, out of sinful patterns in life that draw us into darkness, confusion, vice, and isolation.

 We are in this together, so Christian love demands at times Christian correction. Remember, it is out of love, not hatred, not vengeance, not spite that we do so, but out of love.

 The early Christians understood this and lived this in a very simple, loving, and effective way. The Church today continues to live this way. Two thousand years ago the sense of mutual responsibility for each other, the need for fraternal correction, was easily understood and accepted. The Christian community was central to their lives and the people were invested and committed to the Church. In 2014, cultural values have changed and we are more concerned about ourselves and not involving ourselves “in other people’s business.”

 Don’t be nosey, but be loving. Don’t be condemning, but be faithful to the truth. Don’t be nagging, but be concerned and speak out to others of your concerns for a brother or sister in Christ.

 Each of us, especially we the clergy – deacons, priests, and bishops – as well as you the laity, needs to examine our consciences and ask ourselves whether we are living only for our own well-being or whether we are living for others; whether we are excusing ourselves from the responsibilities we have to speak the truth, to approach each other in a spirit of love and correction, to recognize that when someone is on the fringes, vulnerable and misled we must pull him in, support him and show him again the path of light, truth, love, i.e., the path of Jesus Christ and the Church.

 We the clergy must live, not in self-concern but in love for you. To do this, despite our sins, we must speak the truth who is Jesus Christ. And you, my dear people of God, must do the same for us.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Saturday, September 6, Votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin Mary and Opening Mass for Deacon Aspirants

Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass opening the aspirancy year for deacon aspirants in the Diocese of Winona.

Homily for Aspirants
September 6, 2014
Winona, MN

Humble and bold. Two words we don’t often associate in our minds. Humble and bold… we find them both in the person of Mary.

The humble virgin Mary, docile to God’s will, God’s word, yet the most bold of all the witnesses of the Word made Flesh, of her Son and Lord, Jesus.

No, it was not Peter. No, it was not James or John or Paul who was the boldest yet most humble of all the witnesses of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus….. No, it was Mary, for from her heart came these words:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior
For He has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations shall call me blessed!

It was Mary who bore the most humble but bold witness to her Son. It was Mary who bore the Word of God in her heart and then conceived Word in her womb.

Only because of her faith in that Word that came to her, who she nurtured in her Immaculate Heart, was she then able to conceive and bear the Son of God, her creator and Savior, Jesus.

Mary kept close to her heart the Word made Flesh. She said, “Yes.” She said, “Fiat.” She said, “Let it be done to me.” St. Augustine would later write that Mary was more blessed for hearing God’s word and keeping custody of it in her heart than because of the flesh she gave to her divine Son. Since this was true, Mary was able to stand by her Son as he died on the cross, stand by Him without staining her Immaculate Heart. She knew it was by virtue of her faith in God’s Word that she had been able to conceive that Word in her womb, and it was by faith in that Word that she was able to give bold witness to her Son when he gave up his life on the Cross.
Mary, who surpasses all of us in her sanctity and her fidelity, remains like us, a member of the Church, and a member of the Body of Christ her Son, a witness to her Son’s death and resurrection.

You too are members of the Body of Christ. You also carry God’s Word in your hearts.

My brother deacon aspirants, you are more blessed and find greater dignity in the Word you nourish in your hearts and profess with your lips than in the office you may bear in the future. You are first, and most importantly, members of the Body of Christ, from which you must never separate yourselves.

You cannot become that Icon, you cannot become the Image of Jesus the Servant unless first you have welcomed the Word in your hearts, treasured it, nurtured it, obeyed it, followed it, trusted it. Mary would not have become the Mother of God had she not first accepted and kept the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart. You cannot become the Icon of Jesus the Servant if you do not first hold in purity of heart the Word entrusted to you. Mary could not have endured the passion and death of her Son without cradling in her heart the Word that had come to her. You cannot endure the trials and difficulties of ministry without knowing and nurturing and loving the Word entrusted to you.

Yes, diaconal ministry can be modeled after Mary. Deacons too are to give humble yet bold witness to the Gospel. Their’s is a vocation of humble service, not arrogant rule, but their’s is also a vocation of boldly proclaiming the Gospel. There is no place for the timid there. They must teach and preach boldly, with conviction and faith arising from a pure conscience.

My brothers, thank you for responding to your call. To all you wives here present, I thank you for the sacrificial love you live out on a daily basis in the support you give you husbands. Without you, we could do very little.

May God bless us all!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless all!

Stay awake! You know not the time or the hour.

Could our Lord be any clearer? God our Father has over the course of history revealed to us who he is. He has given us the presence of his Son Jesus Christ. He has given us the faith. He has blessed us with so much! And we now are to be faithful stewards, custodians, of what we have been given.

The faith which is ours has been given to us to preserve and protect. The Church treasures the deposit of Faith, and proclaims it to our world. Yes, the Church takes a lot of heat for doing so, yet it must. We too, as members of the Church, must defend and preserve the Faith with which we have been blessed.

Our faith has so many daily implications. All the men out there this morning, the majority of whom are married, God has given you a precious gift in your wife. Do you treasure her, preserve her? Are you keeping faithful custody of the gift of your wife?

We have been given the presence of God’s only Son. We have been given the Eucharist. Do we treasure this gift which we approach every morning here at the altar? Do we preserve and proclaim God’s presence in our lives? Are we faithful stewards?

God has gifted us beyond measure, and he has entrusted to us the preservation, development and passing on of his gifts until the day of his return. They are ours to treasure. They are ours to value.

God values us higher than any other created thing. He hold us in his awareness constantly.

Ought we not strive to do the same with Him?

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Inspirational!

Need some inspiration today? Watch this and be moved to tears.

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Guest Homily for the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary

Today is the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary. It is also the 5th Anniversary of my Ordination. I, along with eleven other men were ordained deacons at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona Minnesota on this day in 2009.

To commemorate both of these, I am posting for you a guest homily for today. The homilist is Deacon Joseph Weigel, my classmate and good friend. To him and all in the class of ’09, I extend my diaconal blessing.

August 22, 2014

Deacon Joe Weigel

I wish to share a few thoughts about today that make it rather  special. First, this is the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, a late feast of the Church, officially established in the 1950s. Note its placement, eight days after the feast of the Assumption; an octave of Mary, so to speak. This day used to be the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which instead was moved to the second Saturday after Pentecost. As with all feasts surrounding Mary the key is not Mary but God working through her. She herself is mainly revered for the one thing that really sets her apart … she said yes. Through her yes, God set things in motion which gave us our redeemer who offers us redemption and eternal life with Him in heaven. Everything about Mary is about her Son. God overshadowed her with the Holy Spirit, He assumed her into heaven, and He crowns her as queen. As she said in front of her cousin Elizabeth, “my soul magnifies the Lord”. When we use a magnifying glass to look at a rare stamp or coin or precious jewelry we don’t do it to expound on the rare qualities of the magnifier, but rather we look through it to the object we are most interested in. Mary isn’t Queen of Heaven because of any great quality that she had or anything she had done… it was to point out who she was in relationship to Jesus. People get confused about queenship. We tend to focus on the medieval or even modern definition of royalty. But Christ’s kingship is based on the Davidic view of royalty. The queen in that view isn’t the wife of the king (for they had many) but it is the mother of the king. King Solomon’s queen wasn’t one of his wives, it was his mother, Bathsheba. Mary is Queen because Jesus is King. In the same vein, Mary was named Mother of God by the council of Ephesus in 431 not because of who she was, but to emphasize that Jesus was truly God and truly human. It’s all about Jesus. Mary is like the moon. She shines because of the Son. Without the sun we would never even see the moon. She reflects the Son, as we should.

Two other points about today… on the last day of this mini-octave of Mary I am thinking of my mother-in-law Mary who passed away three weeks ago. She and my father-in-law Chuck would have celebrated 63 years together on Monday and this Mass is celebrated in their honor.

And lastly, today is the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. I ask you to please support all deacons but especially those in my class who celebrate today. They really are a great group of guys who have done and continue to do good works across our diocese. If my class did anything right, it was our choice of representative to speak at our ordination. We didn’t pick the man with the highest degree, or the most dynamic speaker, or oldest, or anything like that. We picked the humblest, unassuming, and most sincere man of our group. A man who worked for 30 years with his hands out in the fields or in the shop servicing farm equipment. He was and is a true servant, and just like Mary, his greatness is in his reflection of Jesus.

 

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Quote for the Day

“He alone is true God, without beginning and without end. He is unchangeable, invisible, indescribable and ineffable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, blessed and worthy of all praise.” — St. Francis of Assisi

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Iraqi bishop warns that West will suffer from Islamism :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Today I read with interest this article from the Catholic News Agency. It is a sobering assessment from a man who is in the midst of a terrible persecution.

We here in the West seem to be turning a blind eye to all of this. One has to ask, “Why?” Why do we seem to minimize or even deny the reality of what is happening in the Mideast, the war that is in fact occuring, and the annihilation of huge swaths of minority peoples there?

I truly believe we must prepare ourselves, spiritually, religiously, and culturally, for what will be a huge struggle here in the West in a matter of years.

Log on to this link to read the Archbishop’s comments.

Iraqi bishop warns that West will suffer from Islamism :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass. God bless each of you.

Our Lord presents to us many different images of the “Kingdom of God” in the gospels, especially the Gospel of Matthew. You know the images. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, yet when planted grows into a large tree in which birds of the air find a home. The Kingdom of God is like a field in which is buried a great treasure which a man sells everything he has to go and buy that field. The Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price. The Kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea which collects both the good and the bad, the old and the new. In today’s gospel, we hear that the Kingdom of God is like a great wedding feast to which many are invited but few are chosen.

Why does our Lord use so many images to convey to us the Kingdom of God? Perhaps it is because with each image we are given an idea of the various ways we must prepare ourselves if we are to enter that Kingdom.

If the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, then we must have faith. If the Kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price, then we must be willing to give our all, to fully commit ourselves to the Lord if we are to enter into his Kingdom. If the Kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea, then we must have courage to encounter the world, like our Holy Father is reminding us so often in the past year. Finally, in today’s first reading from Ezechiel, in our responsorial psalm, and in our Gospel reading, we learn that we must be pure to enter God’s Kingdom. Our Lord said on the Sermon on the Mount that “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Yes, to enter into the Kingdom requires that we be pure, that we be cleansed of all that separates us from God. Before we can approach that Kingdom this morning here at this altar, we must be cleansed from our impurities and with a clear conscience come forward. Ezechiel said that God would put within us natural, cleansed hearts, that He would wash us from all our idols, all our impurities. The Gospel spoke of the wedding feast and the patron of that feast inviting many, but only a few showed up, and one of them was improperly prepared, impure.

My friends, let us approach this altar this early morning with a clear conscience, with a pure heart, a heart that has been cleansed, so that we may, in faith, see clearly the God whom we love.

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Mass for 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here is the televised Mass for last Sunday. The video is courtesy of the Diocese of Winona.

http://youtu.be/th3HuQXhWcM

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Holy Father’s Words to the Asian Bishops

Take the time to not only read this, but study it. It is rich! From the Holy Father in spelling to the Asian bishops.

Dialog with others, he recalls St Pope John Paul II saying, is rooted in the incarnation itself.

Here are the pope’ words.

 

I offer you a warm and fraternal greeting in the Lord as we gather together at this holy site where so many Christians gave their lives in fidelity to Christ. I have been told that some are nameless martyrs, since we do not know all their names: they are saints without a name. But this makes me think about the many, many holy Christians in our churches: children and young people, men, women, elderly persons… so very many of them! We do not know their names, but they are saints. It is good for us to think of these ordinary people who are persevering in their lives as Christians, and the Lord alone recognizes their sanctity. Their testimony of charity has brought blessings and graces not only to the Church in Korea but also beyond; may their prayers help us to be faithful shepherds of the souls entrusted to our care. I thank Cardinal Gracias for his kind words of welcome and for the work of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in fostering solidarity and promoting effective pastoral outreach in your local Churches.

On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the Church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all. This is the challenge before you! Dialogue, in fact, is an essential part of the mission of the Church in Asia (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29).

But in undertaking the path of dialogue with individuals and cultures, what should be our point of departure and our fundamental point of reference, which guides us to our destination? Surely it is our own identity, our identity as Christians. We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. We can’t dialogue, we can’t start dialoguing from nothing, from zero, from a foggy sense of who we are. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak. In other words, an attentiveness in which the Holy Spirit is our guide. A clear sense of one’s own identity and a capacity for empathy are thus the point of departure for all dialogue. If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us. And if our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures. Fearlessly, for fear is the enemy of this kind of openness.

The task of appropriating and expressing our identity does not always prove easy, however, since – being sinners – we will always be tempted by the spirit of the world, which shows itself in a variety of ways. I would like to point to three of these. One is the deceptive light of relativism, which obscures the splendor of truth and, shaking the earth beneath our feet, pulls us toward the shifting sands of confusion and despair. It is a temptation which nowadays also affects Christian communities, causing people to forget that in a world of rapid and disorienting change, “there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Gaudium et Spes, 10; cf. Heb 13:8). Here I am not speaking about relativism merely as a system of thought, but about that everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our sense of identity.

A second way in which the world threatens the solidity of our Christian identity is superficiality, a tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that really matter (cf. Phil 1:10). In a culture which glorifies the ephemeral, and offers so many avenues of avoidance and escape, this can present a serious pastoral problem. For the ministers of the Church, it can also make itself felt in an enchantment with pastoral programs and theories, to the detriment of direct, fruitful encounter with our faithful, and others too, especially the young who need solid catechesis and sound spiritual guidance. Without a grounding in Christ, the truths by which we live our lives can gradually recede, the practice of the virtues can become formalistic, and dialogue can be reduced to a form of negotiation or an agreement to disagree. An agreement to disagree… so as not to make waves… This sort of superficiality does us great harm.

Then too, there is a third temptation: that of the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations. Jesus clashed with people who would hide behind laws, regulations and easy answers… He called them hypocrites. Faith by nature is not self-absorbed; it “goes out”. It seeks understanding; it gives rise to testimony; it generates mission. In this sense, faith enables us to be both fearless and unassuming in our witness of hope and love. Saint Peter tells us that we should be ever ready to respond to all who ask the reason for the hope within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). Our identity as Christians is ultimately seen in our quiet efforts to worship God alone, to love one another, to serve one another, and to show by our example not only what we believe, but also what we hope for, and the One in whom we put our trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12).

Once again, it is our living faith in Christ which is our deepest identity, our being rooted in the Lord. If we have this, everything else is secondary. It is from this deep identity – our being grounded in a living faith in Christ – it is from this profound reality that our dialogue begins, and this is what we are asked to share, sincerely, honestly and without pretence, in the dialogue of everyday life, in the dialogue of charity, and in those more formal opportunities which may present themselves. Because Christ is our life (cf. Phil 1:21), let us speak “from him and of him” readily and without hesitation or fear. The simplicity of his word becomes evident in the simplicity of our lives, in the simplicity of our communication, in the simplicity of our works of loving service to our brothers and sisters.

I would now touch on one further aspect of our Christian identity. It is fruitful. Because it is born of, and constantly nourished by, the grace of our dialogue with the Lord and the promptings of his Spirit, it bears a harvest of justice, goodness and peace. Let me ask you, then, about the fruits which it is bearing in your own lives and in the lives of the communities entrusted to your care. Does the Christian identity of your particular Churches shine forth in your programs of catechesis and youth ministry, in your service to the poor and those languishing on the margins of our prosperous societies, and in your efforts to nourish vocations to the priesthood and the religious life? Does it make itself felt in their fruitfulness? This is a question I raise, for each of you to think about.

Finally, together with a clear sense of our own Christian identity, authentic dialogue also demands a capacity for empathy. For dialogue to take place, there has to be this empathy. We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns. Such empathy must be the fruit of our spiritual insight and personal experience, which lead us to see others as brothers and sisters, and to “hear”, in and beyond their words and actions, what their hearts wish to communicate. In this sense, dialogue demands of us a truly contemplative spirit of openness and receptivity to the other. I cannot engage in dialogue if I am closed to others. Openness? Even more: acceptance! Come to my house, enter my heart. My heart welcomes you. It wants to hear you. This capacity for empathy enables a true human dialogue in which words, ideas and questions arise from an experience of fraternity and shared humanity. If we want to get to the theological basis of this, we have to go to the Father: he created us all; all of us are children of one Father. This capacity for empathy leads to a genuine encounter – we have to progress toward this culture of encounter – in which heart speaks to heart. We are enriched by the wisdom of the other and become open to travelling together the path to greater understanding, friendship and solidarity. “But, brother Pope, this is what we are doing, but perhaps we are converting no one or very few people…” But you are doing it anyway: with your identity, you are hearing the other. What was the first commandment of God our Father to our father Abraham? “Walk in my presence and be blameless”. And so, with my identity and my empathy, my openness, I walk with the other. I don’t try to make him come over to me, I don’t proselytize. Pope Benedict told us clearly: “The Church does not grow by proselytizing, but by attracting”. In the meantime, let us walk in the Father’s presence, let us be blameless; let us practice this first commandment. That is where encounter, dialogue, will take place. With identity, with openness. It is a path to greater knowledge, friendship and solidarity. As Saint John Paul II rightly recognized, our commitment to dialogue is grounded in the very logic of the incarnation: in Jesus, God himself became one of us, shared in our life and spoke to us in our own language (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29). In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all. I am not referring to political dialogue alone, but to fraternal dialogue… “But these Christians don’t come as conquerors, they don’t come to take away our identity: they bring us their own, but they want to walk with us”. And the Lord will grant his grace: sometimes he will move hearts and someone will ask for baptism, sometimes not. But always let us walk together. This is the heart of dialogue.

Dear brothers, I thank you for your warm and fraternal welcome. When we look out at the great Asian continent, with its vast expanses of land, its ancient cultures and traditions, we are aware that, in God’s plan, your Christian communities are indeed a pusillus grex, a small flock which nonetheless is charged to bring the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. A true mustard seed! A very small seed… May the Good Shepherd, who knows and loves each of his sheep, guide and strengthen your efforts to build up their unity with him and with all the members of his flock throughout the world. And now, together, let us entrust your Churches, and the continent of Asia, to Our Lady, so that as our Mother she may teach us what only a mother can teach: who you are, what your name is, and how you get along with others in life. Let us all pray to Our Lady.

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