Jesus bequeaths the gift of prayer

Lectio Divina:

 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

 

The image of the true vine, that is, Jesus


The pressing invitation to remain in Him


in order to bear the fruit of love


John 15: 1-8

1. OPENING PRAYER

Lord, You are! And this is sufficient for us, to live by, to go on hoping every day, to walk in this world, not to choose the wrong road of being closed and lonely. Yes, You are forever and from all time; you are constant, O Jesus! Your being is our constant gift; it is an ever ripe fruit that feeds and strengthens us in You, in Your presence. Lord, open our heart, open our being to your being; open us to life with the mysterious power of your Word. Help us to listen, to eat and savour this food for our souls, which is indispensable for us! Send us the good fruit of your Spirit so that He may bring about in us that which we read and meditate about you.

2. READING

 

a) To place the passage in its context:

These few verses are part of the great discourse of Jesus to his disciples during that intimate moment of the last supper and they begin with verse 31, chapter 13, and proceeding up to the end of chapter 17. This passage has a very tight, deep and inseparable unity, unequalled in the Gospels and sums up the whole of Jesus' revelation in his divine life and in the mystery of the Trinity. It is the text that says that which no other text in the Scriptures is capable of saying concerning Christian life, its power, its tasks, its joys and pains, its hopes and its struggle in this world in the Church. Just a few verses, but full of love, that love to the very end that Jesus chose to live for his disciples, for us, even to this day and forever. In the strength of this love, the supreme and definitive gesture of infinite tenderness, which includes all other gestures of love, the Lord bequeaths to his disciples a new presence. A new way of being. By means of the parable of the vine and its branches and the proclamation of the wonderful verb remain, repeated several times, Jesus initiates his new story with each one of us called indwelling. He is no longer with us, because he is going back to the Father, yet he remains within us.

 

b) To assist us in the reading of the passage:

vv. 1-3: Jesus reveals himself as the true vine, which brings forth good fruit, excellent wine for his Father, who is the vinedresser and who reveals to us, his disciples, the braches, that we must remain united to the vine so as not to die and so as to bear fruit. The pruning, which the Father accomplishes on the branches by means of the Word, is a purification, a joy, a chant.

 

vv. 4-6: Jesus passes on to his disciples the secret of being able to continue to live in an intimate relationship with him; that is by remaining. As He lives in them and remains in them and is no longer external to them or with them, so also they must remain in Him, inside Him. This is the only way to be completely consoled, to be able to hold on to this life and bear good fruit, that is, love.

 

v. 7: Once more, Jesus bequeaths the gift of prayer in the heart of his disciples, that most precious and unique pearl, and he tells us that by remaining in Him, we can learn true prayer, the prayer that seeks insistently the gift of the Holy Spirit and knows that it will be granted.

 

v. 8: Once more, Jesus calls us to Himself, asks us to follow him, to be always his disciples. The remaining brings forth mission, the gift of life for the Father and for the neighbour; if we really remain in Jesus, then we shall also really remain in the midst of our brothers and sisters, as gift and as service. This is the glory of the Father.

 

c) The text:

1-3: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word that I have spoken to you.

 

4-6: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

 

7: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

 

3. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER

As a branch, I now remain united to the vine, my Lord, and I abandon myself to Him, I allow myself to be overtaken by the sap of his silent and deep voice, which is like living water. Thus I remain in silence and stay close.

 

4. A FEW QUESTIONS

to help me remain, to discover the beauty of the vine, Jesus; to lead me to the Father, to allow Him to take over and labour in me, certain of His good labour as loving vinedresser; and to urge me to enter into the life blood of the Spirit to meet him as the only necessary thing that I must seek untiringly.

 

a) "I am": it is beautiful that the passage begins with these words, which are like a song of joy, of the victory of the Lord, that He loves to sing all the time in the life of each one of us. "I am": He repeats this infinitely, every morning, every evening, at night, while we sleep, even though we are not aware of this. In fact, He really is at our disposal; He is turned towards the Father, towards us, for us. I meditate these words and not only listen to them but allow them to penetrate me, my mind, my innermost memory, my heart, all my feelings and I ruminate on and absorb his Being into my being. In this Word, I now understand that I am not, unless I am in Him and that I cannot become anything unless I remain in Jesus' being. I try to enter into the depths of my being, overcoming fear, crossing the darkness that I find there and I gather those parts of my being, of myself, that are most lifeless. I take them delicately and bring them to Jesus and I hand them over to his "I am".

 

b) The vine recalls to mind wine, that precious and good fruit, and also recalls to mind the covenant that nothing and no one will ever be able to break. Am I willing to remain in that embrace, in that continuous yes of my life thus woven into his? Together with the Psalmist, shall I too raise the chalice of the covenant, calling on the name of the Lord and saying to him, yes, I too love you?

 

c) Jesus calls his Father the vinedresser, a very beautiful term that carries all the force of the love dedicated to working the land. It expresses a bending over the earth, a drawing close of body and being, a prolonged contact, a vital exchange. This is precisely the Father's attitude towards us! However, St. Paul says: "The farmer who has done the hard work should have the first share of the harvest" (2 Tim 2: 6) and St. James reminds us "See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops" (Jas 5: 7). Will I, the land, disappoint the patience of the Father who cultivates me every day, turns me over, gets rid of the stones, nourishes me with good fertiliser and builds a hedge all round me to protect me? To whom do I give the fruits of my existence, of my heart, of my mind, of my soul? For whom do I exist, for whom do I decide and choose to live every day, every morning, when I wake up?

 

d) I follow the text carefully and underline two verbs, which occur frequently: "to bear fruit" and "to remain". I understand that these two realities are a symbol of life itself and are woven together, each depending on the other. Only by remaining is it possible to bear fruit and, really, the only true fruit that we as disciples can bear in this world is precisely to remain. Where do I remain every day, all day? With whom do I remain? Jesus always makes the connection of this verb with that wonderful and enormous particle: "in me". Do I console myself with these two words "in me", that is am I inside, do I live in the depth, do I dig in search of the Lord as one digs for a well (cfr. Gn 26: 18) or for treasure (Pr 2: 4), or else am I outside, always lost among the ways of this world, as far as possible from intimacy, from a relationship from contact with the Lord?

e) Twice Jesus reminds us of the reality of his Word and reveals to us that it is his Word that makes us pure and it is his Word that leads us to true prayer. The Word is proclaimed and given as a permanent presence within us. It also has the ability to remain, to make its dwelling place in our heart. However, I must ask myself, what ears do I have to listen to this proclamation of salvation and goodness, which the Lord addresses to me through his Words? Do I allow room to listen in depth to that which the Scripture speaks to me all the time, in the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms and the apostolic Writings? Do I allow the Word of the Lord to find me and overtake me in prayer, or do I prefer to trust in other words, lighter, more human and more like my words? Am I afraid of the voice of the Lord who speaks to me urgently and all the time?

5. A KEY TO THE READING

As a branch, I seek to be ever more one with my Vine, that is, the Lord Jesus. Here and now, I drink of his Word the good sap, seeking to penetrate ever deeper so as to absorb the hidden nourishment that transmits to me real life. I pay attention to the words, the verbs, the expressions Jesus uses and which recall other passages of divine Scripture and, thus, I let myself be purified.

 

The meeting with Jesus, the "I am"

 

This passage is one of the texts where this strong expression appears, an expression that the Lord addresses to us in order to reveal himself. It is wonderful to walk through the Scriptures in search of other texts similar to this one, where the Lord speaks of himself to us directly, of his deepest essence. When the Lord says and repeats infinitely in a thousand ways, with a thousand nuances "I am". He does not do so in order to annihilate or humiliate us, but only to stress forcefully his overflowing love for us, which desires to make us partake of and live that same life that belongs to Him. When He says "I am", He is also saying "You are" to each one of us, to each son and daughter who is born into this world. It is a fruitful and uninterrupted transmission of being, of essence and I do not wish to let this be in vain. I wish to welcome it and welcome it inside me. So, I follow the luminous trace of the "I am" and I try to stop at each step. "I am your shield" (Gen 15: 1), "I am the God of Abraham your father" (Gen 24: 26), "I am the Lord who led you and still leads you out of the land of Egypt" (cfr. Es 6: 6) and from the hands of every Pharaoh who will threaten your life, "I am He who heals you" (Es 15: 26). I allow myself to be enlightened by the force of these words, which fulfil the miracle they speak of; they fulfil this miracle to this day, and for me, in this lectio. Then I go on reading in the book of Leviticus where at least 50 times this affirmation of salvation is found: "I am the Lord", and I believe these words and hold on to them with my whole being, my whole heart and say: "Yes, indeed the Lord is my Lord, He and no other!" I note that the Scriptures probe ever deeper. As the journey continues, gradually, the Scriptures penetrate me and lead me to an ever more intense relationship with the Lord. In fact, the book of Numbers says: "I am the Lord and I live among the people of Israel" (Num 35: 34). "I am" is in the present, He who does not draw apart, does not turn his back to leave; it is He who cares for us from close by, from the inside, as only He can do; I read Isaiah and I receive life: 41: 10; 43: 3; 45: 6 etc.

 

The holy Gospel is an explosion of being, of presence, of salvation; I run through it letting John lead me: 6: 48; 8: 12; 10: 9. 11; 11: 15; 14: 6; 18: 37. Jesus is the bread, the light, the gate, the shepherd, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life, the king; and all for me, for us, and so I want to welcome him, know him and love him, and I want to learn, through these words, to say to him: "Lord you are!" It is this "You" that gives meaning to my I that makes of my life a relationship, a communion. I know for certain that only here can I find full joy and live forever.

 

The vineyard, the true vine and its good fruit

God's vineyard is Israel, a beloved vineyard, a chosen vineyard, a vineyard planted on a fertile hill, in a place where the earth has been cleared afresh, hoed, freed of stones, a protected vineyard, worked, loved, large and one that God himself has planted (cfr. Is 5: 1ff; Ger 2: 21). So loved is this vineyard that the beloved has never ceased to sing the canticle of love for her; strong notes yet sweet at the same time, notes that bear true life, that go across the ancient covenant and come to the new covenant in even clearer notes. At first it was the Father who sang, now it is Jesus, but in both it is the Spirit who is heard, as the Song of Songs says: "The voice of the dove is still heard… and the vineyards spread fragrance" (Sgs 2: 12ff). It is the Lord Jesus who draws us, who takes us from the old to the new, from love to love, towards an ever stronger communion, even to identification: "I am the vine, but you too are in me". Hence it is clear: the vineyard is Israel, is Jesus, is us. Always the same, always new, always chosen and beloved, loved, cared for, protected, visited: visited by rain and visited by the Word, sent by the prophets day by day, visited by the sending of the Son, Love, who expects love, that is, the fruit. "He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour" (Is 5: 2); in love, disappointment is always round the corner.

 

I stop here at this reality, I look inside me, I try to discover the places where I am closed, dry, dead; why has the rain not come? I repeat this word that echoes often through the pages of the Bible: "The Lord waits…" (see Is 30: 18; Lk 13: 6-9). He wants the fruits of conversion (cfr. Mt 3: 8), as he tells us through John, the fruits of the word that hides the listening, the welcoming and the self-control, as the synoptics say (cfr. Mt 13: 23; Mk 4: 20 e Lk 8: 15), the fruits of the Spirit, as Paul explains (cfr. Gal 5: 22). He wants us "to bear fruit in every good work" (Col 1: 10), but above all, it seems to me, the Lord waits and desires "the fruit of the womb" (cfr. Lk 1: 42), that is Jesus, in whom we are truly blessed. In fact, Jesus is the seed that, dying, bears much fruit within us, in our life (Jn 12: 24) and defeats every solitude, every closure, opening us wide to our brothers and sisters. This is the real fruit of conversion, planted in the earth of our bosom; this is to become his disciples and, finally, this is the true glory of the Father.

 

Pruning, a joyful purification

In this passage of the Gospel, the Lord shows me another way of following Him, together with Him. It is the way of purification, of renewal, of resurrection and new life. It is hidden in the term "pruning", but I can better discover it, throw light on it thanks to the Word itself, which is the only master, the only sure guide. The Greek text uses the term "purify" to point to this action of the vinedresser in his vineyard. Certainly, it is true that he prunes, cuts with a knife sharpened by his Word (Heb 4: 12) and, sometimes, wounds us, but it is even truer that it is his love that penetrates ever deeper in us and thus purifies, washes, refines. Yes, the Lord sits as washer to purify, to make splendid and luminous the gold in his hand (cfr. Mal 3: 3). Jesus brings a new purification, the one promised for so long by the Scriptures and waited for the Messianic times. It is no longer the purification that took place by means of cult, by means of the observance of the law or sacrifices, only a temporary purification, incomplete and figurative. Jesus brings about an intimate, total purification, one of the heart and conscience, the one sung by Ezekiel: "I shall purify you of all your idols, I shall give you a new heart…When I shall have purified you from all you iniquities, I shall bring you back to your cities and your ruins will be rebuilt…" (Ez 36: 25ff. 33). I also read Eph 5: 26 e Tt 2: 14, beautiful and rich texts, which help me better enter into the light of grace of this work of salvation, of this spiritual pruning that the Father works in me.

 

There is a verse in the Song of Songs that can help my understanding more, it says, "This is the time for singing" (Sgs 2: 12), however, it uses a verb that means also "pruning, cutting" as well as "singing". Thus pruning is the time for singing, for joy. It is my heart that sings before and in the Word, it is my soul that rejoices for my faith, because I know that through this long but magnificent pilgrimage in the Scriptures, I too will take part in Jesus' life, I too will be united with Him, the pure, the holy, the immaculate Word and that thus united to Him I shall be washed, purified with the infinite purity of His life. Not for me alone, not in order to be alone, but to bear much fruit, to grow leaves and branches that do not wither, to be a branch together with many other braches in the vine of Jesus Christ.

6. A MOMENT OF SILENT PRAYER: PSALM 1

A meditation on the joy of one who lives by the Word and, thanks to the Word, bears fruit.

Res. Your Word is my joy, Lord!

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 

Lectio Divina: 

 

 Sunday, April 22, 2018

 

Jesus the Good Shepherd


“So that all may have life and have

 

it to the full!”


John 10, 11-18

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 

Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

 

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

The Gospel of the fourth Sunday after Easter presents to us the parable of the Good Shepherd. This is why, sometimes, it is called the Sunday of the Good Shepherd. In some parishes the feast of the Parish priest is celebrated on this day, the shepherd of the flock. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presented himself as the Good Shepherd, who has come “so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10,10). At that time, the shepherd was the image of the leader. Jesus says that many presented themselves as shepherds but in fact they were “thieves and brigands”. The same thing happens today. There are persons who present themselves as leaders, but in reality, instead of rendering service, they only seek their own interests. Some of them have such a meek way of speaking, and make such an intelligent type of propaganda that they succeed in deceiving people. Have you ever had the experience of being deceived? Which are the criteria to evaluate a leadership whether at community level or at the level of the country? How is and how should a good shepherd be? Keeping these questions in mind, let us try to meditate on the text of today’s Gospel. During the reading let us try to be attentive to the images which Jesus uses to present himself to the people as a true and good Shepherd.

 

b) A division of the text to help me in reading it:

Jn 10, 11: Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep
Jn 10, 12-13: Jesus defines the attitude of the mercenary

Jn 10, 14-15: Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep
Jn 10, 16: Jesus defines the goal to be attained: only one flock and one shepherd 
Jn 10, 17-18: Jesus and the Father.

c) Text:

 

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

 

12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; 13 he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. 16 And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd. 17 The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.

 

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

 

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What has struck you most in the text of the Good Shepherd? Why?
b) Which are the images which Jesus applies to himself, how does he apply them and what do they signify?
c) How many times does Jesus use the term life in this text and what does he affirm about life?
d) What does the text say about the sheep that we are? Which are the qualities and the tasks of the sheep? 
e) Shepherd (Pastor) - Pastoral. Do our pastoral works continue the mission of Jesus-Shepherd?

5. For those who desire to deepen more into the text

 

a) Context:

i) The discourse of Jesus on the Good Shepherd (Jn 10, 1-18) is like a brick inserted into a wall which already exits. With this brick the wall is stronger and more beautiful. Immediately before, in Jn 9, 40-41, the Gospel spoke about the healing of the man born blind (Jn 9, 1-38) and of the discussion of Jesus with the Pharisees on blindness (Jn 9, 39-41). Immediately after in Jn 10, 19-21, John gives the conclusion of Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees on blindness. The Pharisees presented themselves before the people as leaders and believed that they could discern and teach the things of God. In reality, they were blind (Jn 9, 40-41) and they despised the opinion of the people represented by the man born blind who had been cured by Jesus (Jn 9, 34). The discourse on the Good Shepherd has been inserted here for the purpose of offering some criteria to know how to discern who is the leader, the shepherd who deserves to be trusted. The parable fulfils a word which Jesus had just said to the Pharisees: “It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.” (Jn 9, 39).

 

ii) The discourse of Jesus on the “Good Shepherd” presents three comparisons, linked among themselves by the image of the sheep, which offer criteria to discern who is the true shepherd:


First comparison (Jn 10, 1-5): “Enter through the gate”. Jesus distinguishes between the shepherd of the sheep and the one who climbs some other way to rob them. That which reveals who is the shepherd is the fact that he enters through the gate. The thief climbs some other way.


Second comparison: (Jn 10, 6-10): “I am the gate”. To enter through the gate means to act like Jesus, whose greatest concern is the life in abundance of the sheep. What the shepherd reveals is the defence of the life of the sheep.


Third comparison: (Jn 10, 11-18)): “I am the Good Shepherd”. Jesus is not simply a shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. That which reveals who is the Good Shepherd is (1) the reciprocal knowledge between the sheep and the shepherd and (2) to give his life for the sheep.

 

iii) In what way can the parable of the Good Shepherd take away the blindness and open the eyes of persons? At that time, the image of the shepherd was the symbol of the leader. But not because of the simple fact that someone who took care of the sheep can be defined as shepherd. The mercenaries also count and the Pharisees were also leaders. But were they also shepherds? As we shall see, according to the parable, in order to discern who is shepherd and who is a mercenary, it is necessary to pay attention to two things: (a) To the attitude of the sheep before the shepherd guiding them, to see if they recognize his voice. (b) To the attitude of the shepherd before the sheep to see if his interest is the life of the sheep and if he is capable to give his life for them (Jn 10, 11-18).

 

iv) The text of the Gospel of the Fourth Sunday after Easter (Jn 10, 11-18) is the last part of the discourse on the Good Shepherd (Jn 10, 1-18). This is why we wish to comment on the whole text. We observe closely the diverse images which Jesus uses to present himself to us as the true and Good Shepherd.

 

b) Commentary on the text:

i) Jn 10, 1-5: First image: the shepherd “enters through the gate”
Jesus begins the discourse with the comparison of the gate: “He who does not enter through the gate, but climbs somewhere else, is a thief, a bandit! Instead, the one who enters through the gate, is the shepherd of the sheep!” To understand this comparison, it is well to remember what follows. At that time, the shepherds took care of the flocks during the day. When night arrived, they took the sheep into a large communitarian place, which was well protected against thieves and wolves. All the shepherds from the same region took their flocks there. There was a guardian who took care of them during the night. On the following day, early in the morning, the shepherd would go, knocked on the gate and the guardian would open. The sheep recognized the voice of their shepherd, got up and got out following him to the pastures. The sheep of the other shepherds heard the voice, but did not move because for them it was an unknown voice. The sheep recognizes the voice of its shepherd. From time to time, there was the danger of bandits. To rob the sheep, the thieves presented themselves to the guardian by the other door, but entered by another side or destroyed the wall, made of stones one on top of the other.

 

ii) Jn 10, 6-10: Second image: He explains what it means “to enter through the gate”: Jesus is the gate.


The Pharisees who were listening to Jesus, (cf. Jn 9, 40-41), did not understand the comparison. Then, Jesus explained: “I am the gate of the sheepfold. All those who have come before me, are thieves and bandits”. About whom is Jesus speaking using these hard words? Probably, he is referring to the religious leaders who drew people behind them, but who did not respond to the hopes of the people. They deceived the people, leaving them worse than before. They were not interested in the good of the people, but rather in their own interests and in their own portfolio. Jesus explains that the fundamental criterion to discern who is the shepherd and who is the bandit is the concern for the life of the sheep. He asks the people not to follow the one who presents himself as a shepherd, but does not desire the life of the people. It is here that Jesus pronounced that phrase which we sing even now: “I have come so that they may have life, and life to the full!” This is the first criterion.

 

iii) Jn 10, 11-16: Third image: he explains what it means “I have come so that they have life, and life to the full” (The text for this fourth Sunday after Easter begins here).

* Jn 10, 11: Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep.
Jesus changes the comparison. First, he was the gate of the sheep. Now he says that he is the shepherd of the sheep. And not just any shepherd, but rather: “I am the Good Shepherd!” The image of the good shepherd comes from the Old Testament. Everybody knew what a shepherd was and how he lived and worked. In saying that he is a Good Shepherd, Jesus presents himself as the one who comes to fulfil the promises of the prophets and the hopes of the people. He insists on two points: (a) the defence of the life of the sheep; the good shepherd gives his life (Jn 10, 11.15.17.18): (b) in the reciprocal understanding between the shepherd and the sheep; the shepherd knows his sheep and they know the shepherd (Jn 10, 4.14.16).

 

* Jn 10, 12-13: Jesus defines the attitude of the mercenary who is not a shepherd.
The mercenary who is not a shepherd”. Looking from outside, the differences between the mercenary and the shepherd are not perceived. Both of them are busy with the sheep. Today there are many persons who take care of other persons in hospitals, in the communities, in the old peoples’ homes, in schools, in public services, in the parishes. Some do this out of love, others, hardly for a salary, in order to survive. These persons are not interested in the other persons. Their attitude is that of a functionary, of a worker earning a salary, of a mercenary. In a moment of danger, they are not interested, because “the sheep are not theirs”, the children are not theirs, the pupils are not theirs, their neighbours are not theirs, the faithful are not theirs, the sick are not theirs, the members of the community are not theirs. 

Now, instead of judging the behaviour of others, let us place ourselves before our own conscience and let us ask ourselves: “In my relationship with others, am I a mercenary or a shepherd?” Look, Jesus does not condemn you because the worker has a right to his salary (Lk 10, 7), but he asks you to take another step forward and to become a shepherd.

  

* Jn 10, 14-15: Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep.
Two things characterize the Good Shepherd: a) he knows the sheep and is known by them. in the language of Jesus, "to know" is not a question of knowing the name or the face of the person, but to be in relationship with a person as a friend, and with affection. b) to give the life for the sheep. That means to be ready to sacrifice oneself out of love. The sheep feel and perceive when a person defends and protects them. This is valid for all of us: for the Parish priests and for those who have some responsibility towards other persons. In order to know if a Parish Priest is a good shepherd it is not sufficient to be named Parish Priest and to obey the norms of Canon Law. It is necessary to be recognized as a good shepherd by the sheep. Sometimes this is forgotten in the present day politics of the Church. Jesus says that not only does the shepherd know the sheep, but also the sheep know the shepherd. They have criteria for this. Because if they do not recognize him, even if he is named according to Canon Law, he is not a shepherd according to the Heart of Jesus. Not only the sheep have to obey the one who guides them. Also the one who guides has to be very attentive to the reaction of the sheep to know if he is acting like a shepherd or like a mercenary.

* Jn 10, 16: Jesus defines the goal to be attained; only one flock, only one shepherd.
Jesus opens the horizon and says that he has other sheep that are not of this fold. They have not as yet heard the voice of Jesus, but when they will hear it, they will become aware that he is the shepherd and they will follow him. Who will do this, and when will this happen? We are the ones, imitating in everything the behaviour of Jesus, the Good Shepherd!

 

* Jn 10, 17-18: Jesus and the Father.
In these two last verses Jesus opens himself and makes us understand something which is in the deepest part of his heart: his relationship with the Father. Here the truth of everything he says in another moment is perceived: “I shall no longer call you servants, but I have called you friends because all that I have heard from the Father I have made it known to you” (Jn 15, 15). Jesus is for us an open book.

 

c) Extending the information:

The image of the Shepherd in the Old Testament which is realized in Jesus

i) In Palestine, the survival of the people depended on the cattle breeding: goats and sheep. The image of the shepherd who guides his sheep to the pasture was known by everyone, just like today we know the image of the bus driver. It was normal to use the image of the shepherd to indicate the function of the one who governed and guided the people. The prophets criticized the kings because they were shepherds who were not concerned about their flocks and did not guide them to the pastures (Jr 2,8; 10,21; 23, 1-2). This criticism of the bad shepherds increased and reached its summit when the people were deported into exile because of the fault of the king (Ezk 34, 1-10; Zc 11, 4-17).

 

ii) In the face of the frustration which they had to suffer because of the way the bad shepherds acted, the desire arose to have God as the shepherd. a desire which is very well expressed in the Psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want (Ps 23, 1-6; Gn 48, 15). The prophets hope that in the future, God himself will come to guide his fold, like a shepherd (Is 40, 11; Ezk 34, 11-16). And they hope that this time the people will know how to recognize the voice of their shepherd: “Today listen to his voice!” (Ps 95, 7). They hope that God will come as a Judge who will pronounce judgment among the sheep of the fold (Ezk 34,17). The desire and the hope arise that one day, God will arouse good shepherds and that the Messiah will be a Good Shepherd for the People of God (Jr 3, 15; 23, 4).

iii) Jesus fulfils this hope and presents himself as the Good Shepherd, different from the bandits who, before him, had robed the people. He also presents himself as the Judge of the people who, at the end, will issue the sentence as the shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats (Mt 25, 31-46). In Jesus the prophecy of Zechariah is fulfilled, which says that the good shepherd will be persecuted by the evil shepherds, annoyed by his denunciation: “Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!” (Zc 13, 7).

iv) At the end of the Gospel of John, the image is extended and Jesus at the end is everything at the same time: gate (Jn 10, 7, shepherd (Jn 10, 11) lamb and sheep (Jn 1, 36)!

 

A key for the Gospel of John

Everyone perceives the difference that exists between the Gospel of John and the other three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Someone defines it as follows: The other three make a photo, John makes and X-Ray. That is, John helps his readers to discover the most profound dimension which exits in what Jesus says and does. He reveals the hidden things that only the X-Rays of faith succeed to discover and reveal. John teaches to read the other Gospels with the gaze of faith and to discover the most profound significance. Jesus himself had already said that he would have sent the gift of his Spirit in order that we could understand all the fullness of his own word (Jn 14, 24-25; 16, 12-13). The ancient Fathers of the Church said: the Gospel of John is “spiritual” and “symbolical”.

 

Some examples: (a) Jesus cures the man born blind (Jn 9, 6-7). For John this miracle has a more profound significance. It reveals that Jesus is the light of the World who makes us understand and contemplate better the things of God in life (Jn 9, 39). (b) Jesus rises Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11, 43-44) not only to help Lazarus and to console his two sisters, Martha and Mary, but also to reveal that he is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11, 25-26). (c) Jesus changes 600 liters of water into wine at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2, 1-13). And he does this not only to safeguard the joy of the feast, but also and above all, to reveal that the new Law of the Gospel is like wine compared to the water of the former Law. And he does it with such great abundance (600 liters), precisely to signify that it will not be lacking for anyone, up until today! (d) Jesus multiplies the bread and feeds the hungry (Jn 6, 11) not only to satisfy the hunger of those poor people who were with him in the desert, but also to reveal that he himself is the bread of life which nourishes all throughout life (Jn 6, 34-58). (e) Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman about water (Jn 4, 7.10), but he wanted that she would succeed to discover the water of the gift of God which she already had within her (Jn 4, 14-14). In one word, it is the Spirit of Jesus that gives life (Jn 6, 63). The flesh or only the letter are not enough and can even kill the sense and the life (2 Co 3, 6).

 

6. Prayer: Psalm 23 (22)

Yahweh is my shepherd!

Yahweh is my shepherd, 
I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie. 
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit. 
He guides me in paths of saving justice 
as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine 
as dark as death 
I should fear no danger, 
for you are at my side. 
Your staff and your crook 
are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table 
for me under the eyes of my enemies; 
you anoint my head with oil; 
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me 
every day of my life. 
I make my home in the house 
of Yahweh for all time to come.

 

7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

 

Lectio Divina: 

 Sunday, March 25, 2018

 

The Passion and Death of Jesus according

 

to Mark

 

The final defeat as a new call

 

Mark 14:1 - 15:47

1. OPENING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

2. A READING OF THE PASSION AND DEATH OF JESUS ACCORDING TO MARK

a) A key to the reading:

Generally, when we read the story of the passion and death, we look at Jesus and the suffering He had to endure. But it is worthwhile, at least once, to also look at the disciples and see how they reacted to the cross and how the cross impacted on their lives, for the cross is a measure for comparison! 
Mark writes for the communities of the 70’s. Many of these communities, whether in Italy or Syria, were going through their own passion. They were faced with the cross in many ways. They had been persecuted at the time of Nero in the 60’s and many had died, devoured by wild beasts. Others had betrayed, denied or abandoned their faith in Jesus, like Peter, Judas and other disciples. Others asked themselves: “Can I bear persecution?” Others were tired after persevering through many trials without any results. Among those who had abandoned their faith, some asked themselves whether it was possible to rejoin the community. They wanted to start their journey again, but did not know if it was possible to rejoin. A cut branch has no roots! They all needed new and strong reasons to restart their journey. They were in need of a renewed experience of the love of God, one that surpassed their human errors. Where could they find this? 


For them, as for us, the answer is in chapters 14 to 16 of Mark’s Gospel, which describe the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, the time of the greatest defeat of the disciples and, in a hidden way, their greatest hope. Let us look into the mirror of these chapters to see how the disciples reacted to the Cross and how Jesus reacts to the infidelity and weaknesses of the disciples. Let us try to discover how Mark encourages the faith of the community and how he describes the one who is truly a disciple of Jesus.

b) Looking into the mirror of the Passion to know how to be a faithful disciple

 

* Mark 14:1-9: Introduction to the story of the passion and death of Jesus

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days' time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, "Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people. "When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. "Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wages and the money given to the poor." They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

 

Mark 14:1-2: The conspiracy against Jesus
At the end of His missionary activity, Jesus goes to Jerusalem and is expected by those who hold power: the Priests, Elders, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and Romans. They control the situation.... they will not allow Jesus, a carpenter from the interior of Galilee, to provoke disorder. They had already decided to put Jesus to death (Mk 11:18; 12:12). Jesus was a condemned man. Now, what He himself had foretold to His disciples will happen: “The Son of Man is destined to be put to death” (cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33). This is the background to the story of the passion that follows. 


The story of the passion will show that the true disciple who accepts to follow Jesus, the Messiah Servant, and who accepts to dedicate his or her life to the service of his or her brothers and sisters, must take up the cross and follow Jesus. If the story of the passion emphasizes defeat and failure, this is not so as to discourage the readers. On the contrary, it is rather to stress that the welcoming and loving of Jesus is stronger than the defeat and failure of the disciples!

 

Mark 14:3-9: A faithful disciple. 
A woman, whose name is not mentioned, anoints Jesus with an expensive perfume (Mk 14:3). The disciples criticize this gesture. They think it is a waste (Mk 14:4-5). But Jesus defends her: “Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for Me is a good work… she has anointed My body beforehand for its burial” (Mk 14:6.8). In those days, those who died crucified were neither buried nor could they be embalmed. Knowing this, the woman anticipates and anoints the body of Jesus before His sentence and crucifixion. This gesture shows that she accepts Jesus as the Messiah Servant who will die on the cross. Jesus understands the gesture of the woman and approves of it. Earlier, Peter had rejected the idea of a Crucified Messiah (Mk 8:32). This anonymous woman is the faithful disciple, model for His disciples who had understood nothing. This model is for all, “throughout all the world” (Mk 14:9).

 

* Mark 14:10-31: The disciples’ attitude towards the Cross

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them. When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" 'Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there. "The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me. "They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, "Surely it is not I?" He said to them, "One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born. "While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. "Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee. "Peter said to him,"Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be. "Then Jesus said to him, "Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times. "But he vehemently replied," Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you." And they all spoke similarly.

 

Mark 14:10-11. Judas decides to betray Jesus
In complete contrast with the woman, Judas, one of the twelve, decides to betray Jesus and conspires with the enemies who promise him money. Judas goes on living with Jesus, with the sole objective of finding an occasion to hand Jesus over. When Mark was writing his Gospel, there were disciples who were waiting for the right moment to leave the community that was the cause of their persecution. Or, perhaps, they were waiting for the moment to draw some advantage by handing over their companions.

 

Mark 14:12-16. Preparation for the Paschal Supper
Jesus knows that He will be betrayed. But, in spite of the betrayal by a friend, He lives the Paschal Supper in a fraternal atmosphere with His disciples. He must have spent a lot of money for the hall, “the large upper room furnished with couches” (Mk 14:15), because this was the eve of Passover. The city was full of people because of the feast. It was difficult to find and reserve a place.

 

Mark 14:17-21. The announcement of Judas’ betrayal
Together for the last time, Jesus announces that one of His disciples will betray Him, “one of you eating with me!” (Mk 14:18). This manner of speaking by Mark emphasizes the contrast. For Jews, eating together, the sharing of the table, was the greatest expression of intimacy and trust. Thus, in three lines, Mark conveys the following message to his readers: the betrayal will take place at the hands of a close friend, but the love of Jesus is greater than the betrayal!

 

Mark 14:22-25. The Eucharist, the celebration of the Paschal Supper
During the celebration, Jesus shares something. He shares bread and wine, an expression of the giving of himself and invites His friends to take His body and His blood. The Evangelist places this gesture of giving (Mk 14:22-25) between the announcement of the betrayal (Mk 14:17-21) and the flight and the denial (Mk 14:26-31). Thus, he emphasizes the contrast between the gesture of Jesus and that of the disciples, he brings out for the community of his time and for all of us the immense gratuitousness of the love of Jesus that overcomes the betrayal, the denial and the flight of His friends.

 

Mark 14:26-28. The announcement of the flight of all
After supper, as He was on His way with the disciples to the Mount of Olives, Jesus announces that they would all abandon Him. They will flee and disperse! But even then He says: “After My resurrection I shall go before you into Galilee!” (Mk 14:28) They fall away from Jesus, but Jesus does not fall away from them. He goes on waiting for them in the same place, in Galilee, where three years before He had first called them. The certainty of the presence of Jesus in the life of a disciple is stronger than abandonment or flight! It is always possible to come back.

 

Mark 14:29-31. The announcement of Peter’s denial. 
Simon, called Cephas (rock), is anything but rock. He already had been “a stumbling block” (Mt 16:23) and Satan for Jesus (Mk 8:33), and now he pretends to be the most faithful disciple of all. “Even if all fall away, I will not!” (Mk 14:29). But Jesus says: Peter, you will be the first to deny Me, even before the cockcrow!

 

* Mark 14:32-52: The attitude of the disciples in the Garden of Olives

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples,"Sit here while I pray."He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch. "He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will. "When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. "Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand. "Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely. "He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi." And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said to them in reply, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled. "And they all left him and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

 

Mark 14:32-42. The attitude of the disciples during Jesus’ agony. 
In the Garden, Jesus begins His agony and asks Peter, James and John to pray for Him. He is sad and begins to be afraid, He seeks the support of His friends. But they fall asleep. They are not able to watch an hour with Him. And this three times! Again, we see an immense contrast between the attitude of Jesus and that of the three disciples! It is here in the Garden and at the time of the agony of Jesus that the courage of the disciples disintegrates. It is also a sign that the disciples didn’t fully understand what was to happen.

 

Mark 14:43-52. The attitude of the disciples when Jesus was arrested 
When night fell, the soldiers led by Judas come. The kiss, a sign of friendship and love, becomes the sign of betrayal. Judas lacks the courage to face his betrayal. He hides it! During His arrest, Jesus stays calm, master of the situation. He tries to read the meaning of what is happening: “This is to fulfill the scriptures!” (Mk 14:49) But all the disciples left Him and fled (Mk 14:50). No one stayed. Jesus was alone!

 

* Mark 14:53-15,20: The trial: different conflicting views of the Messiah.

They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest's courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands. "Even so their testimony did not agree. The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, "Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?" But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, "Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One? "Then Jesus answered, "I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. "At that the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think? "They all condemned him as deserving to die. Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, "Prophesy! "And the guards greeted him with blows. While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest's maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, "You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus. "But he denied it saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about. "So he went out into the outer court. Then the cock crowed. The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, "This man is one of them. "Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, "Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean. "He began to curse and to swear, "I do not know this man about whom you are talking. "And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times. "He broke down and wept. As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews? "He said to him in reply, "You say so. "The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, "Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of. "Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? "For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, "Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?"They shouted again, "Crucify him. "Pilate said to them, "Why? What evil has he done? "They only shouted the louder, "Crucify him. "So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorian, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, All Hail, King of the Jews! and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.

 

Mark 14:53-65. Jesus is condemned by the Supreme Court 
Jesus is led before the court of the High Priests, of the Elders and the Scribes, called the Sanhedrin. False accusations were made against Him. He keeps quiet. Without any defence, He is handed over to His enemies. He thus fulfills what Isaiah said about the Servant Messiah, who was taken prisoner, judged and condemned like a lamb He never opened His mouth (cf. Is 53:6-8). When interrogated, Jesus accepts the fact that He is the Messiah: “I am!”, but He accepts this under the title of Son of Man (Mk 14:62). Finally He is slapped by people who laugh at Him calling Him Messiah Prophet (Mk 14:65).

 

Mark 14:66-72. Peter’s denial. 
Peter is recognized by a servant girl as one of those who was in the Garden. Peter denies this. He denies this swearing and cursing. Not even this time is he capable of accepting Jesus as Messiah Servant who gives His life for others. But when the cock crows for the second time, he remembers the words of Jesus and begins to cry. This is what happens to those who are close to people but whose head is lost in the ideology of the Herodians and the Pharisees. This was probably the situation of many in the communities of the time when Mark was writing his Gospel.

 

Mark 15:1-20. Jesus is sentenced by the Roman powers 
The trial goes on. Jesus is handed over to the Roman powers and accused of being Messiah King (Mk 15:2; cf. Mk 15:26). Others suggest the alternative of Barabbas, “in prison with the rebels” (Mk 15:7). They see Jesus as an anti-Roman Warring Messiah. After He is sentenced, they spit on Jesus, but He will not open His mouth. Here again we see the Messiah Servant announced by Isaiah (cf Is 50:6-8).

 

* Mark 15:21-39: Before the Cross of Jesus on Calvary

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyreian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha— which is translated Place of the Skull They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it. Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews. "With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross. "Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe. "Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him. At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "Look, he is calling Elijah." One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down." Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

 

Mark 15:21-22. Simon carries the cross 
As Jesus was being led to the place of crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene, the father of a family, was forced to carry the Cross. Simon is the ideal disciple who walks along the way that Jesus walks. He literally carries the cross behind Jesus up to Calvary.

 

Mark 15:23-32. The crucifixion
Jesus is crucified as one marginalized, between two thieves. Again, the Gospel of Mark recalls the image of the Messiah Servant, of whom Isaiah says: “He was given a grave with the wicked” (Is 53:9). The crime ascribed to Him is “King of the Jews!” (Mk 15:25) The religious authorities ridicule and insult Jesus and say: “come down from the cross now, for us to see and believe!” (Mk 15:32). They are like Peter. They would accept Christ as Messiah if He came down from the cross. As the hymn says: “They wanted a great king who would be strong, dominating, and for this they did not believe in Him and killed the Savior”.

 

Mark 15:33-39. Jesus’ death
Abandoned by everyone, Jesus lets out a great cry and dies. The centurion, a pagan, who was keeping guard, makes a solemn profession of faith: “In truth this man was Son of God!” A pagan discovers and accepts what the disciples were not able to discover and accept, that is to see the presence of the Son of God in this tortured, excluded and crucified human being. Like the anonymous woman at the beginning of these two chapters (Mk 14:3-9), so at the end there appears another model disciple, the centurion, a pagan!

* Mark 15:40-47: At the sepulchre of Jesus

There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Josses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

 

Mark 15:40-47. The burial of Jesus 
A group of women watch from a distance: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome. They do not run away. They remain faithful to the end. They witness the death of Jesus. It is from this little group that the new announcement on Easter Sunday will come. They go with Joseph of Arimathea who has asked permission to bury Jesus. After that, two of them, Magdalene and Mary, stay near the closed sepulchre. They also witness the burial of Jesus.

 

c) The final failure as a new call to be disciple

This is the story of the passion and death of Jesus seen from the point of view of the disciples. The frequency with which this story speaks of the incomprehension and failure of the disciples, most probably corresponds to a historical fact. But the main interest of the Evangelist is not to tell that which took place in the past, rather he wants to provoke a conversion in the Christians of his time and to arouse in them and us a new hope, capable of overcoming discouragement and death. There are three things that stand out and need to be considered deeply:

 

i) The failure of those chosen: The twelve who were specially called and chosen by Jesus (Mk 3:13-19) and sent in mission by Him (Mk 16:7-13), fail. Judas betrays, Peter denies, all run away, no one stays. Total dispersion! Seemingly, there is not much difference between them and the authorities who decree the death of Jesus. Like Peter, they too want to eliminate the cross and want a glorious Messiah, king, blessed son of God. But there is one deep and real difference! The disciples, in spite of all their faults and weaknesses, hold no malice. They do not have any evil intention. They are an almost faithful replica of all of us who walk the way of Jesus, falling all the time but always getting up again!

ii) Fidelity of those not chosen: As a counterpoint to the failure of some, the strength of faith of others is presented, those who were not part of the chosen twelve: 1. An anonymous woman from Bethany. She accepted Jesus as Messiah Servant and, thus, she anoints Him in anticipation of His burial. Jesus praises her. She is a model for all. 2. Simon of Cyrene, father of a family. He is forced by the soldiers to do that which Jesus had asked of the twelve who ran away. He carries the cross behind Jesus to Calvary. 3. The centurion, a pagan. At the moment of death, he makes his profession of faith and recognizes the Son of God in the tortured and crucified man, one cursed according to Jewish law. 4. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome, “and many other women were there who had come up to Jerusalem with Him” (Mk 15:41). They did not abandon Jesus, but determinedly stayed at the foot of the cross and close to the tomb of Jesus. 5. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, who risked everything by asking for the body of Jesus to bury Him. The twelve failed. The continuation of the message of the Kingdom did not pass through them, but through others, particularly the women, who will be given a clear order to go call back those failed men (Mk 16:7).

 

iii) The attitude of Jesus: The manner in which the Gospel of Mark presents the attitude of Jesus during the telling of the passion is meant to give hope even to the most discouraged and failed of the disciples! Because no matter how great the betrayal of the Twelve was, the love of Jesus was always greater! When Jesus announces that the disciples will run away, He already tells them that He will wait for them in Galilee. Even though He knew of the betrayal (Mk 14:18), the denial (Mk 14:30), the flight (Mk 14:27), He goes on with the gesture of the Eucharist. And on the morning of Easter, the angel, through the women, sends a message to Peter who had denied Him, and to all the others who had fled, that they must go to Galilee. The place where everything had begun is the place where everything will begin again. The failure of the twelve does not bring about a break in the covenant signed and sealed in the blood of Jesus.

 

d) The model of the disciple: Follow, Service, Go up

Mark emphasizes the presence of the women who follow and serve Jesus from the time He was in Galilee and who go up to Jerusalem with Him (Mk 15:40-41). Mark uses three verbs to define the relationship of the women with Jesus: Follow! Serve! Go up! They "followed and looked after" Jesus and together with many other women “went up with Him to Jerusalem" (Mk 15:41). These are the three words that define an ideal disciple. They are the models for the other disciples who had fled!

 

Follow describes the call of Jesus and the decision to follow Him (Mk 1:18). This decision implies leaving everything and running the risk of being killed (Mk 8:34; 10:28). 
Serve says that they are true disciples, for service is the characteristic of the disciple and of Jesus himself (Mk 10:42-45). 


Go up says that they are qualified witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, because as disciples they will go with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem (Acts 13:31).

 

 
Having witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, they will also witness to what they have seen and experienced. It is the experience of our baptism. "So, by our baptism into His death we were buried with Him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life" (Rm 6:4). Through baptism, we all share in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

3. AN AID TO REFLECTION

i) What would you have done were you present? Would you have acted like the men or the women? 
ii) What touched you most in the attitude of Jesus concerning His disciples in the narration of His passion and death? Why? 
iii) What is the special message of the narration of the passion and death in Mark’s Gospel? Have you worked out the differences between the narration of the passion and death in the Gospel of Mark and that in the other Gospels? What are these differences?

 

4. PRAYER OF A PSALM: PSALM 22 (21)

The Psalm that Jesus prayed on the Cross

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 
The words of My groaning do nothing to save Me.
My God, I call by day but You do not answer, at night, 
but I find no respite.

Yet You, the Holy One, 
who make Your home in the praises of Israel,
in You our ancestors put their trust, 
they trusted and You set them free.
To You they called for help and were delivered; 
in You they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, less than human, 
scorn of mankind, contempt of the people;
all who see Me jeer at Me, 
they sneer and wag their heads,
'He trusted himself to Yahweh, 
let Yahweh set him free! 
Let Him deliver him, 
as He took such delight in him.'

It was You who drew Me from the womb 
and soothed Me on My mother's breast.
On You was I cast from My birth, 
from the womb I have belonged to You.
Do not hold aloof, 
for trouble is upon Me, 
and no one to help Me!

Many bulls are encircling Me, 
wild bulls of Bashan closing in on Me.
Lions ravening and roaring open their jaws at Me.
My strength is trickling away, 
My bones are all disjointed, 
My heart has turned to wax, 
melting inside Me.
My mouth is dry as earthenware, 
My tongue sticks to My jaw. 
You lay Me down in the dust of death.

A pack of dogs surrounds Me, 
a gang of villains closing in on Me 
as if to hack off My hands and My feet.
I can count every one of My bones, 
while they look on and gloat;
they divide My garments among them 
and cast lots for My clothing.

Yahweh, do not hold aloof! 
My strength, come quickly to My help
rescue My soul from the sword, 
the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!
Save Me from the lion's mouth, 
My poor life from the wild bulls' horns!
I shall proclaim Your name to My brothers, 
praise You in full assembly:

'You who fear Yahweh, praise Him! 
All the race of Jacob, honor Him! 
Revere Him, all the race of Israel!'
For He has not despised 
nor disregarded the poverty of the poor, 
has not turned away His face, 
but has listened to the cry for help.

Of You is My praise in the thronged assembly, 
I will perform My vows before all who fear Him.
The poor will eat and be filled, 
those who seek Yahweh will praise Him, 
'May Your heart live for ever.'
The whole wide world will remember 
and return to Yahweh, 
all the families of nations bow down before Him.
For to Yahweh, 
ruler of the nations, 
belongs kingly power!

All who prosper on earth will bow before Hi

Lectio Divina:

 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

 

Jesus, Light of the World 


John 3:14-21

 

 

1. Opening prayer

Shaddai, God of the mountain,
You who make of our fragile life
the rock of Your dwelling place, 
lead our mind to strike the rock of the desert, 
so that water may gush to quench our thirst. 
May our feelings, impoverished as they are, 
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night, 
and may it open our hearts to hear the echo of silence 
until the dawn, 
wrapping us with the light of the new morning, 
bringing us, 
who have kept vigil us close to the divine Master,
the flavour of the holy memory.

 

1. LECTIO

a) The text:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

 

b) A moment of silence:

Let us allow the voice of the Word to resonate within us.

 

2. MEDITATIO

a) Some questions:

- God has loved the world so much…: how many judgments and prejudices on what we think is an insensitive and far away God. Would this not be, perhaps, because we attribute to Him that which instead are our responsibilities?
- Light came into the world, but men have preferred darkness: whoever deludes himself by being only man and lives away from God cannot choose the light, because the illusion would vanish. How much darkness surrounds my days?
- Whoever does the truth comes out into the light. He is not afraid to show what he is. Man is not asked to be infallible, but simply to be man. Are we capable of living our weakness as a place of encounter and of openness to God as well as to others, who like myself, need to work faithfully in their space and in their time?

 

b) Key to the reading:

3:14-15. “As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him”. For the sons of Israel, who were bitten by the poisonous snakes in the desert, Moses offered the possibility of salvation by looking at the bronze serpent. If man succeeds in raising his head and looking on high, God prepares an alternative for him. He does not oblige but is there, available. The mystery of human liberty, of freedom, is the most lovable thing which God could invent! The choice of a look, of an encounter, of a new opportunity… the Son of Man in the desert of the world will be raised up on the cross as a sign of salvation for all those who will feel the need to continue living and will not allow themselves to be bitten by poisonous mistaken choices. Christ is there: cursed is he who has no faith, blessed is he who believes. We, like the Israelites in the desert, have been “bitten” by the serpent in Eden, and we need to look at the bronze serpent raised up on the staff of wood in order not to die: “Whoever believes in him has eternal life”.

 

3:16. For, in fact, God has loved the world so much, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life. God loves us with a preferential love, a tangible love, a love which speaks… Could the Father come directly? Yes, but is the love of a Father, who gives His only Son, not greater? Every mother, if she is able to choose, prefers to die herself rather than see her son die. God has loved us so much, to the point of seeing His Son die!

 

3:17. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through Him the world would be saved. A God capable of a perfect judgment sends the Son not to judge but to be a place of salvation. Truly, it is necessary to discard every thought and to place oneself before such a great love. Only the One who loves can “judge,” that is, “save”. He knows the fragility of the human heart and knows that His image, which has been darkened, has the possibility to be clear again. It is not necessary to make it anew. The logic of life does not know death: God, who is life, cannot destroy what He himself has wanted to create. That, in some way, would be to destroy himself.

 

3:18. No one who believes in Him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God’s only Son. Faith is the discriminating element in every existence. Not to believe in the name of the Only Begotten Son: this is already a condemnation, because he who does not accept love excludes himself from love!

 

3:19-20. And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world, people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being seen. The only judgment, by which humanity is invested, is the call to live in the light. When the sun rises, nothing can escape from its rays… and the same thing for men. When Christ is born, nobody can escape from this light which inundates everything. But men have constructed their houses to be able to flee from the light of the Love which sheds itself everywhere, houses of egotism, houses of opportunity. They have intertwined tunnels and hiding places to continue freely to carry out their deeds. And can a work deprived of light bear fruit? The light of existence has only one source: God. He who withdraws from the light dies.

 

3:21. But whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God. Everything which is under the rays of eternal love is filled with light as it happens in nature. It seems that everything smiles when the sun shines. The things which during the day are familiar and beautiful, at night, take a form which inspires fear by the fact that they are not visible. The sun does not change its form, but it exalts it in its beauty. Whoever lives the truth of himself and accepts his fragility as an ornament of his being a man is not afraid of light because he has nothing to hide. He knows that as a creature he acts in the logic of limitation, but this does not diminish the greatness of his work because his life is one with eternal truth.

 

c) Reflection:

The garden becomes a desert for the man who draws himself away from God. And in the desert of his limitations as man he once again finds the poisonous bites of the serpent. But God does not abandon His children, and when they withdraw from Him, he follows them, ready to intervene when necessary. A serpent, the symbol of healing, is raised every time that the poison weakens the life in man, Christ the Lord. If man prefers to look down to the ground and to remain in the desert of “I do it myself,” God, just the same, offers Himself: as a serpent, as the only way in which man can recognize Him. Christ has made Himself sin, damned, in order to save His image, in order not to let human life die out. Condemnation does not belong to God; it is man’s choice. I am completely free. God’s freedom has a price of condemnation. Only people who are not intelligent enough do not profit from a gift which is given to them. It is simply foolish not to accept what is best so as not to feel as debtors. In the sphere of love the word “debt” does not exist, because gratuitousness is the only term that can be consulted. With the word, gratuitousness light explodes: everything becomes possible, everything becomes an occasion. Works done in darkness or works done in God. It is better to go frequently to halls filled by the sunshine of a never finished apprenticeship! At least there life grows and joy fills all things with beauty.

 

3. ORATIO

Psalm 35

Sin is the oracle of the wicked 
in the depths of his heart; 
there is no fear of God before his eyes.
He sees himself with too flattering an eye 
to detect and detest his guilt;
all he says is malicious and deceitful;
he has turned his back on wisdom. 
To get his way
he hatches malicious plots even in his bed; 
once set on his evil course 
no wickedness is too much for him.

Yahweh, Your faithful love is in the heavens, 
Your constancy reaches to the clouds,
Your saving justice is like towering mountains, 
Your judgments like the mighty deep. 
Yahweh, You support both man and beast;
how precious, God, is Your faithful love. 
So the children of Adam 
take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

They feast on the bounty of Your house, 
You let them drink from Your delicious streams;
in You is the source of life, 
by Your light we see the light.
Maintain Your faithful love 
to those who acknowledge You 
and Your saving justice to the honest of heart.

Do not let the foot of the arrogant overtake me 
or wicked hands drive me away.
There they have fallen, the evil-doers, 
flung down, never to rise again.

 

4. CONTEMPLATIO

When holy fear abandons me, Oh Lord, I feel sin which speaks in my heart: these are moments of illusion, moments in which I go to look for my failures. I experience the sense of guilt without end, and all this is useless because I have not understood that it is only in doing good, that the iniquitous and misleading words of evil are extinguished. To be obstinate to evil is an attraction, almost as if this would give me more importance and honour, more value. When I become aware that what you give me and allow me to live is immense, then I perceive the great abyss of Your fidelity, and I see how Your salvation does not know any limits. Everything inundates and takes me with it, me who are in Your image and all that You have created for me and to which I have given a name. Truly, Your grace is precious. In Your house the abundance of protection is in force, and pleasure and delight flow like water. If I look through Your eyes, Lord, then everything is light. And nothing is now difficult, because my heart, purified from temptation of being God in Your place, tells me that I will be God with You. Rivalry, competition, hostility… vanish in the face of Your offer to participate in Your divine life. God with you. You, the source of the image and I a reflection of that image! Your love as sap runs through the heart, through the depth of my humanity until I find my origin: in your Name.

Lectio Divina:

 

 Sunday, February 18, 2018

 

Temptation overcome with the strength of the

 

Spirit Jesus begins the proclamation of the

 

Good News of the Kingdom 


Mark 1:12-15 

1. OPENING PRAYER

 

Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. 


Create in us silence so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.

2. READING

a) A key to the reading: 

The text of this Sunday’s liturgy presents us with the beginning of Jesus’ public life: the forty days in the desert, the temptations of Satan, the arrest of John the Baptist, the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of God and a brief summary of four points concerning the things that Jesus proclaimed to the people in His land. During the reading, let us pay attention to the following two points: What is Jesus proclaiming to the people and what is He asking of us?

 

b) A division of the text as an aid to the reading: 

Mark 1:12-13: The Good News is tried and put to the test in the desert. 
Mark 1:14: Jesus begins the proclamation of the Good News of God. 
Mark 1:15: A summary of the Good News of God. 

c) The text: 

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fullfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE

so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

4. SOME QUESTIONS

to help us in our personal reflection. 

a) What part of the text did you like best and what made an impression on you? Why? 
b) Forty days in the desert and, after that, the temptations. What is the significance of this bit of information for the community at the time of Mark s writing? What is its significance for us today? 
c) It was the fact that John the Baptist was arrested that led Jesus to go back to Galilee and begin the proclamation of the Good News of God. What is the significance of this bit of information for the community at the time of Mark’s writing? What is its significance for us today? 
d) The Good News that Jesus proclaimed has four points. What are they? What does each point signify? 
e) What is the message given by all these points for us today?

5. A KEY TO THE READING

for those who wish to go deeper into the theme.

a) The context of the text in Mark s Gospel:

* The Good News of God, prepared throughout history (Mk 1: 1-8), was solemnly proclaimed by the Father at the time of Jesus baptism (Mk 1: 9-11). Now, in our text, this proclamation is put to the test in the desert (Mk 1: 12-13) and the result of the long preparation becomes apparent. Jesus proclaims the Good News in public to the people (Mk 1:14-15).

 

* In the 70s, when Mark is writing, as the Christians read this description of the beginning of the Good News, they also looked into the mirror of their own lives. The desert, temptations, prison, these were things with which they were familiar. Nevertheless, like Jesus, they tried to proclaim the Good News of God.

b) Comments:

 

* Mark 1:12-13: The Good News is tried and tested in the desert. 
After the baptism, the Spirit takes possession of Jesus and leads Him into the desert, where for forty days He prepares Himself for His mission (Mk 1: 12s). Mark says that Jesus remained in the desert for forty days and was tempted there by Satan. In Matthew 4: 1-11, the temptations are made explicit, the temptation of the bread, the temptation of prestige and the temptation of power. These were the three temptations experienced by the people in the desert after they went out of Egypt (Dt 8:3; 6: 13.16). Temptation is whatever draws someone away from the way towards God. The letter to the Hebrews says, "Jesus was tempted in all things like us, except in sin" (Heb 4:15). Taking His direction from the Word of God, Jesus faced the temptations (Mt 4: 4.7.10). Placed in the midst of the poor and united to the Father in prayer, Jesus remains faithful to both, resists and continues on the way of the Messiah-Servant, the way of service of God and of the people (Mt 20:28).

 

* Mark 1:14: Jesus begins to proclaim the Good News. 
While Jesus was preparing Himself in the desert, John the Baptist was arrested by Herod. The text says, After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God. John the Baptist’s arrest did not surprise Jesus, rather the opposite. The experience of the baptism had opened His eyes. In John’s arrest He saw a sign of the coming of the Kingdom. John the Baptist’s arrest was connected with the politics of the country. Today, too, politics influences our proclamation of the Good News to the people. Mark says that Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of God. Jesus tells us that God is Good News for all human beings. Saint Augustine says, "You have made us for You, and our hearts will not rest until they rest in You". Jesus proclamation responds to the deepest searching of the human heart.

 

* Mark 1:15: A summary of the Good News of God. 
The proclamation of the Good News of God contains four points: i) The waiting is over. ii) The Kingdom of God has come. iii) A change of life. iv) Belief in the Good News. 


i) The waiting is over! For the other Jews, the time of waiting for the Kingdom was not yet over. For the Pharisees, for instance, the Kingdom would come only when the observance of the law was perfect. For the Essenes, when the country was purified. For the Herodians, when they would take over dominion over the world. Jesus’ way of thinking is different. He reads events differently. He says that the time of waiting is over. 


ii) The Kingdom of God is at hand! For the Pharisees and the Essenes, the coming of the Kingdom was dependent on their efforts. The Kingdom would come only when they had played their part, that is the observance of the whole of the Law, the purification of the whole country. Jesus says the opposite: "The Kingdom is at hand". The Kingdom was already there, among them, independently of any effort. When Jesus says, "The Kingdom is at hand", He is not saying that it is on the way at a particular moment, but that it is already there. What all were hoping for was already present in the midst of the people, and they did not know it, nor did they see it (cfr Lk 17: 21). Jesus saw it because He could see reality with different eyes. It is this hidden presence of the Kingdom in the midst of the people that Jesus reveals and proclaims to the poor of His land. It is this seed of the Kingdom that will receive the rain of His Word and the warmth of His love. 


iii) A change of life! Some translate this as, “to do penance”, others translate it as, "to convert" or "to repent". The exact meaning is to change the way of thinking and living. In order to be able to perceive this presence of the Kingdom, a person must begin to think, live and act differently. The person must change their way of life and find a new form of living. We must set aside the legalism taught by the Pharisees and allow the new experience of God to invade our life and allow new sight to read and understand what goes on.

 
iv) Belief in the Good News! It was not easy to accept the message. It is not easy to begin to think in a completely different way from that learned since childhood. This is only possible by an act of faith. When someone comes with an unexpected piece of news which is difficult to accept, one accepts it only if the person who brings the news is worthy of trust. We would then also say to others, "You can believe this because I know the person and he/she does not deceive. This person can be believed because he/she speaks the truth". Jesus is worthy of our trust!

 

c) Further information:

The beginning of Jesus preaching of the Good News of God in Galilee

The arrest of John made Jesus go back and begin His proclamation of the Good News. It was an explosive beginning! Jesus goes throughout Galilee, its villages, towns and cities (Mk 1: 39). He visits communities. He even changes His residence and goes to live in Capernaum (Mk 1:21; 2:1), a city at the crossroads, which made it easy for Him to spread the message. He almost never stays in the same place. He is always on the move. The disciples accompany Him everywhere, on the beach, on the road, on the mountain, in the desert, in the boat, in the synagogues, in the houses. They are full of enthusiasm.

 

Jesus helps people by serving them in several ways: He drives out evil spirits (Mk 1:39), He heals the sick and afflicted (Mk 1: 34), purifies those marginalized on account of the laws concerning purity (Mk 1: 40-45), welcomes the marginalized and treats them with familiarity (Mk 2: 15). He proclaims, calls, convokes, attracts, consoles, helps. He reveals His passion, passion for the Father and for the poor and abandoned people of His land. Wherever there are people who will listen to Him, He speaks and conveys the Good News of God. Everywhere!

Jesus reveals everything that animates Him from within. Not only does He proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, but He Himself is a figure and a living witness of the Kingdom. In Him we see what happens when someone allows God to rule and take possession of his/her life. By His life and manner of acting, Jesus reveals what God had in mind when He called the people at the time of Abraham and of Moses. Jesus put to rest a nostalgia and transformed it into hope. Suddenly it became clear for the people: "This is what God was asking for when He called us to be His people!" The people savoured listening to Jesus.

 

Such was the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom, which spread rapidly through the villages of Galilee. It started small like a seed, but grew to become a large tree where people could find shelter (Mk 4: 31-32). Then the people themselves began to spread the news.

The people of Galilee were impressed by the way Jesus taught. "A new doctrine is taught with authority, not like that of the " (Mk 1: 22.27). Teaching was what Jesus did mostly (Mk 2: 13; 4:1-2; 6:34). It was His custom (Mk 10:1). Over fifteen times, the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus taught. But Mark almost never says what He taught. Perhaps he was not interested in the content? It depends on what we mean by content. Teaching is not just a matter of passing on new truths to people. The content that Jesus preached manifests itself not only through His words, but also through His actions and in the manner of His relating to people. The content is never divorced from the person who communicates it. Good content without personal goodness is like spilled milk.

 

Mark defines the content of Jesus’ teaching as "the Good News of God" (Mk 1: 14). The Good News that Jesus proclaimed comes from God and reveals something about God. All that Jesus says and does, manifests the traits of the face of God. They manifest the experience that Jesus has of God as Father. Revealing God as Father is the source, while the content is the object of the Good News of Jesus.

6. PSALM 25 (24)

The God of Jesus calls us to conversion

To thee, O Lord, 
I lift up my soul. 
O my God, in thee I trust, let me not be put to shame; 
let not my enemies exult over me. 
Yea, let none that wait for thee be put to shame; 
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know thy ways, O Lord; 
teach me thy paths. 
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, 
for thou art the God of my salvation; 
for thee I wait all the day long. 
Be mindful of thy mercy, O Lord, 
and of thy steadfast love, 
for they have been from of old. 
Remember not the sins of my youth, 
or my transgressions; 
according to thy steadfast love remember me, 
for thy goodness' sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; 
therefore He instructs sinners in the way. 
He leads the humble in what is right, 
and teaches the humble His way.

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, 
for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. 
For thy name's sake, O Lord, 
pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Who is the man that fears the Lord? 
Him will He instruct in the way that He should choose. 
He himself shall abide in prosperity, 
and His children shall possess the land.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, 
and He makes known to them His covenant. 
My eyes are ever toward the Lord, 
for He will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn thou to me, and be gracious to me; 
for I am lonely and afflicted. 
Relieve the troubles of my heart, 
and bring me out of my distresses.

Consider my affliction and my trouble, 
and forgive all my sins. 
Consider how many are my foes, 
and with what violent hatred they hate me.

Oh guard my life, and deliver me; 
let me not be put to shame, 
for I take refuge in thee. 
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, 
for I wait for thee. 
Redeem Israel, O God, 
out of all his troubles.

7. FINAL PRAYER

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May Your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

Latest comments

26.03 | 17:36

Have a Blessed Holy Week!
Holy Week is the most important week in the Church year! It is a time when we celebrate in a special way the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember his actions, reflect on his messages, and recommit to living as his d

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01.09 | 02:56

I enjoy these prayers, and resort to them whenever I want to pray but don't know how!

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15.08 | 13:01

Thank you for your valuable comments much appreciated.

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14.08 | 13:57

My daily devotion and yearly novena.

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