Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing

Lectio Divina: Ash Wednesday

Lectio Divina

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday
The meaning of prayer, almsgiving and fasting
The way to spend the time of Lent well
Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

 

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 on the way to 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 Ash Wednesday is taken from the Sermon on the Mount and offers us help in understanding the practice of the three works of mercy: prayer, almsgiving and fasting and the way to spend the time of Lent well. The manner of practicing these three works has changed over the centuries, according to the culture and customs of people and their state of health. Old people today still remember when there was a strict and compulsory fast of forty days throughout Lent. In spite of changes in the practice of the works of mercy, there still is the human and Christian obligation (i) to share our goods with the poor (almsgiving), (ii) to live in contact with the Creator (prayer) and (iii) to be able to control our urges and desires (fasting). The words of Jesus on which we meditate can give us the necessary creativity to find new forms of living these three practices so important in the life of Christians.

b) A division of the text to assist in the reading:

Matthew 6:1: A general key to the understanding of the teaching that follows
Matthew 6:2: How not to go about almsgiving
Matthew 6:3-4: How to go about almsgiving
Matthew 6:5: How not to pray
Matthew 6:6: How to pray
Matthew 6:16: How not to fast
Matthew 6:17-18: How to fast

c) Text:

Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. "When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

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 touched you or pleased you most in this text?
b) What is the meaning of Jesus’ initial warning?
c) What does Jesus criticize and teach about almsgiving? Make a resume for yourself.
d) What does Jesus criticize and teach about prayer? Make a resume for yourself.
e) What does Jesus criticize and teach about fasting? Make a resume for yourself.

5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO GO DEEPER INTO THE THEME

a) The context:

Jesus speaks of three things: almsgiving (Mt 6:1-6), prayer (Mt 6:5-15) and fasting (Mt 6:16-18). These were the three works of mercy of the Jews. Jesus criticizes the fact that they practice these works to be seen by others (Mt 6:1). He will not allow that the practice of justice and mercy be used as a means to social promotion within the community (Mt 6:2, 5, 16). In the words of Jesus there comes to light a new kind of relationship with God that is revealed to us. He says, “Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you" (Mt 6:4),” Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Mt 6:8), “If you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours” (Mt 6:14). Jesus presents us with a new way of approaching the heart of God. A meditation on His words concerning the works of mercy may help us discover this new way.

b) A commentary on the text:

Matthew 6:1: A general key to an understanding of the teaching that follows

Jesus says, “ Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.”  The justice referred to by Jesus is the place where God wants us to be. The way there is found in the Law of God. Jesus warns that it is not enough to observe the law so as to be praised by people. Earlier He had said, “For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 5:26). In reading these words we must not only think of the Pharisees of Jesus time, but above all of the Pharisee that is dormant in each one of us. Had Joseph, Mary’s spouse, followed the justice of the law of the Pharisees, he would have had to renounce Mary. But he was just (Mt 1:19), and already possessed the new justice proclaimed by Jesus. That is why he broke the ancient law and saved Mary’s and Jesus’ lives. The new justice proclaimed by Jesus rests on another foundation, springs from another source. We must build our peace from the inside, not in what we do for God, but in what God does for us. This is the general key to an understanding of the teaching of Jesus on the works of mercy. In what follows, Matthew applies this general principle to the practice of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Didactically, he first expresses what must not be and then immediately teaches what should be.

Matthew 6:2: How not to go about almsgiving

The wrong way of giving alms, then and now, is that of doing it in public so as to be acknowledged and acclaimed by others. We often see on pews of churches the words: Gift of such-and-such a family. On television, politicians love to appear as great benefactors of humanity on occasions of inaugurations of public works at the service of the community. Jesus says, “Those who act thus have already had their reward.”

Matthew 6:3-4: How to go about almsgiving

The correct way of giving alms is this: Your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing! In other words, we must give alms in such a way that not even I must feel that I am doing something good that deserves a reward from God and praise from others. Almsgiving is an obligation. It is a way of sharing something that I have with those who have nothing. In a family, what belongs to one belongs to all. Jesus praises the example of the widow who gave of what was needed for herself (Mk 12:44).

Matthew 6:5: How not to pray

Speaking of the wrong way of praying, Jesus mentions some strange practices and customs of His day. When the trumpet sounded for morning, midday and evening prayer, there were those who sought to be in the middle of the road to pray solemnly with arms outstretched so as to be seen by all and thus be considered as pious people. Others took up extravagant poses in the synagogue so as to draw the attention of the community.

Matthew 6:6: How to pray

So as to leave no doubt, Jesus over-emphasizes the manner of praying. He says that we must pray in secret, only before God the Father. No one will see you. Maybe before others you may even seem to be a person who does not pray. This does not matter! Even of Jesus it was said, “He is not God!” That is because Jesus often prayed at night and did not care what others thought. What matters is to have one’s conscience at peace and to know that God is the Father who welcomes me, not because of what I do for God or because of the satisfaction that I seek in the eyes of others, who appreciate me as one who is pious and prays.

Matthew 6:16: How not to fast

Jesus criticizes wrong practices concerning fasting. There were those who bore a sad face, did not wash, wore torn clothes, did not comb their hair, so that all could see that they were fasting in a perfect manner.

Matthew 6:17-18: How to fast

Jesus suggests the opposite: When you fast, put scent on your head, wash your face, so that no one may know that you are fasting, only Your Father who is in heaven.

As we said earlier, it is a new manner of accessing the heart of God that is opening before our eyes. For our own interior peace, Jesus does not ask what we do for God, but what God does for us. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are not currency to buy God’s favor, but are our response of gratitude for the love received and experienced.

c) Further information:

i) The broader context of Matthew s Gospel

Matthew’s Gospel was written for a community of converted Jews who were experiencing a deep crisis of identity in relation to their past. After their conversion to Jesus, they continued to live according to their old traditions and frequented the synagogue, together with their relatives and friends, just as before. But they suffered because of the strong pressure from their Jewish friends who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. This tension grew after the year 70 AD. When in 66 AD the revolt of the Jews against Rome broke out, two groups refused to take part, the Pharisees and the Jewish Christians. Both groups held that going against Rome had nothing to do with the coming of the Messiah, as some thought. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70, all the other Jewish groups disappeared. Only the Pharisees and the Jewish Christians remained. Both groups claimed to be the heirs of the promise of the prophets and, thus, the tension grew between brothers, because of the inheritance. The Pharisees reorganized the rest of the people and took an ever-stronger position against the Christians, who ended by being excommunicated from the synagogues. This excommunication rekindled the whole problem of identity. Now the Christians were officially and formally separated from the people of the promise. They could no longer frequent their synagogue, their rabbis. And they asked themselves, “Who are the real people of God: they or us? On whose side is God? Is Jesus really the Messiah?”

Thus, Matthew writes his Gospel (1) for this group of Christians, as a Gospel of consolation for those who had been excommunicated and persecuted by the Jews, helping them to overcome the trauma of breaking away; (2) as a Gospel of revelation, showing that Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses, who fulfills the promises; (3) as a Gospel of the new practice, showing how they must achieve true justice, greater than the justice of the Pharisees.

ii) A key to the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is the first of five sermons in Matthew’s Gospel. It describes the conditions that will allow a person to enter the Kingdom of God: the way in, the new reading of the law, the new way of looking at and practicing the works of mercy; the new way of living in community. In a word, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus communicates the new way of looking at the things of Life and the Kingdom. The following is a division that serves as a key to reading:

Mt 5:1-16: The way in

Mt 5:1-10: The eight Beatitudes help us to see where the kingdom is already present (among the poor and persecuted) and where it will be soon (among the other six groups).

Mt 5:12-16: Jesus addresses His words of consolation to His disciples and warns that anyone who lives the beatitudes will be persecuted (Mt 5:11-12), but his or her life will have meaning because he/she will be the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13) and the light of the world (Mt 5:14-16).

Mt 5:17-to-6:18: The new relationship with God: A new Justice

Mt 5:17-48: The new justice must be greater than that of the Pharisees

Jesus radicalizes the law, that is, He brings it back to its roots, to its main and ultimate purpose which is to serve life, justice, love and truth. The commandments of the law point to a new way of life, avoided by the Pharisees (Mt 5:17-20).

Jesus immediately presents various examples as to how the commandments of the Law of God given to Moses are to be understood: “of old it was said, but I say to you” (Mt 5:21-48)

Mt 6:1-18: The new justice must not seek reward or merit (This is the Gospel of this Ash Wednesday).

Mt 6:19-34: The new relationship to the goods of this world: a new vision of creation

Jesus comes to grips with the primary needs of life: food, clothing, house and health. This is the part of life that causes most anxiety in people. Jesus teaches how to relate to material goods and to the riches of the world: do not accumulate goods (Mt 6:19-21); do not look at the world with sad eyes (Mt 6:22-23); do not serve God and money at the same time (Mt 6:24); do not worry about food and drink (Mt 6:23-34).

Mt 7:1-29: The new relationship with people: a new life in community

Do not seek the straw in your brother’s eye (Mt 7:1-5); do not cast pearls before swine (Mt 7:6); Do not be afraid of asking for things from God (Mt 7:7-11); observe the golden rule (Mt 7:12); seek the narrow and difficult path (Mt 7:13-14); be wary of false prophets (Mt 7:15-20); do not just talk but do (Mt 7:21-23); the community built on these principles will stand in spite of raging storms (Mt 7:24-27). The outcome of these words is a new awareness in the face of the scribes and doctors (Mt 7:28-29).

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 what 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, February 3, 2019

Jesus connects the Bible to life
The people of Nazareth do not like Jesus and drive Him away
Luke 4:21-30

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 silence in us 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 on the way to 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 the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.

2. READING

a) A key to the reading:

On the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Liturgy presents us with the conflict that arose between Jesus and the people of Nazareth. This happens on a Saturday during the celebration of the Word in the synagogue, after Jesus reads a text from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, presenting His plan of action, and immediately adds a very brief comment. At first, they are all amazed and happy. But when they realize the significance of Jesus’ plan concerning their lives, they rebel and want to kill Him.

 

These kinds of conflicts exist today. We accept others as long as they act in conformity with our ideas, but when they decide to welcome into the community people whom we exclude, then we are in conflict. This is what happened in Nazareth.

 
This Sunday’s Gospel begins with verse 21, a brief comment made by Jesus. We take the liberty to include in the comment the preceding verses 16-20. This allows us to read the text from Isaiah quoted by Jesus and to better understand the conflict. As we read, it is good for us to note two things: “How does Jesus actualize the text of Isaiah? What reactions does this actualization of the text of Isaiah produce in the people?”

 

b) A division of the text to help with the reading:

Luke 4:16: Jesus arrives in Nazareth and takes part in the community meeting.
Luke 4:17-19: Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah.
Luke 4:20-21: Jesus connects the Bible to life before an attentive public.
Luke 4:22: The contradictory reactions of the public.
Luke 4:23-24: Jesus criticizes the people’s reaction.
Luke 4:25-27: Jesus sheds light on the bible, quoting Elijah and Elisha.
Luke 4:28-30: The furious reaction of the people, who want to kill Jesus.

 

b) Text:

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

 

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

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 pleased or struck you most in the text? Why? 
b) On what day, where, how, and through whom does Jesus present His plan?
c) What is the content of Jesus’ plan? Who are the excluded He wants to welcome? 
d) How does Jesus actualize Isaiah’s text? 
e) How do the people react? Why? 
f) Could Jesus’ plan of action also be ours? Who are the excluded that we should welcome into our community today?

5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO GO DEEPER INTO THE TEXT

 

a) The historical context so as to locate the text:

In ancient Israel, the large family or clan, or community, was the basis of social life. It provided protection to families and people, it guaranteed possession of the land, it was the principal vehicle of tradition, and a guardian of the people’s identity. It was a concrete way of incarnating the love of God in the love of neighbor. To defend the clan, or the community, was equivalent to defending the Covenant with God.

 
In Jesus’ days, a double slavery marked people’s lives and contributed to the disintegration of the community: (i) the slavery of the politics of Herod Antipas’ government (4 BC to 39 AD) and (ii) the slavery of the official religion. Because of the exploitation and repression of Herod Antipas’ politics, supported by the Roman Empire, many people had no fixed home and were excluded and unemployed (Lk 14:21; Mt 20:3,5-6).

 

The community was weakened. Families and individuals had no help, no defence. The official religion, maintained by the religious authorities of the time, instead of strengthening the community so that it could welcome the excluded, added to this slavery. God’s Law was used to legitimize the exclusion or marginalization of many people: women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, the possessed, publicans, the sick, the mutilated, paraplegics. It was the opposite of the fraternity God wanted for all! Thus, the political and economic situation and the religious ideology all conspired to weaken the local community and prevented the manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

 
Jesus reacts to this situation of His people and presents a plan of action that will change it. Jesus’ experience of God as the Father of love, gives Him the ability to evaluate reality and to see what was wrong with the lives of His people.

 

b) A commentary on the text:

Luke 4:16: Jesus arrives in Nazareth and takes part in the community meeting. 
Moved by the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes to Galilee and begins to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Lk 4:14). He goes to villages teaching in synagogues and finally arrives in Nazareth. He goes back to the community of His childhood for thirty years where He had taken part in the weekly meetings. On the Saturday after His arrival, Jesus goes to the synagogue to take part in the celebration as usual and gets up to read.

 

Luke 4:17-19: Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah. 
In those days, there were two readings during the Saturday celebrations. The first dealt with the Law of God, was taken from the Pentateuch and was fixed. The second was taken from the historical or prophetical books, and was chosen by the reader. The reader could choose. Jesus chose the text from Isaiah that presents a summary of the mission of the Servant of God, and that reflected the situation of the people of Galilee at the time. In the name of God, Jesus takes up His position in defence of the life of His people, takes on His mission as Servant of God, and, using Isaiah’s words, proclaims before all, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord" (Isa 61:1-2). He takes up an ancient tradition of the prophets and proclaims “a year of favour from the Lord”. This expression was equivalent to proclaiming a jubilee year, so Jesus invites the people of His town to begin anew, to rewrite history at its very roots (Deut 15:1-11; Lev 25:8-17).

Luke 4:20-21: Jesus connects the Bible to life before an attentive public. 
When He had finished reading, Jesus gave the book back to the servant and sat down. Jesus is not yet the coordinator of the community. He is a lay person and as such takes part in the celebration like all the others. He had been away from the community for many weeks, had then joined John the Baptist’s movement and was baptized by John in the Jordan (Lk 3:21-22). Moreover, He had spent more than forty days in the desert, reflecting on His mission (Lk 4:1-2). The Saturday after His return to the community, Jesus is invited to read. All are attentive and curious: “What will He say?” Jesus’ comment is very brief indeed. He actualizes the text, connects it with the people’s lives, saying, This text is being fulfilled today even as you are listening.”

 

Luke 4:22: The contradictory reactions of the people.
The people’s reaction is ambivalent. At first their attitude is one of attention, wonder and acclamation. Then, immediately, there is a negative reaction. They say, “This is Joseph’s son, surely!” Why are they scandalized? Because Jesus speaks of welcoming the poor, the blind, prisoners and the oppressed. They do not accept His proposal. And so, just when Jesus presents His project to welcome the excluded, He Himself is excluded! 


But there is another motive too. It is important to note the details of the quotations that Jesus uses from the Old Testament. In the commentary on Luke 3:4-6 on the second Sunday of Advent, Luke gives a longer quotation from Isaiah to show that the opening to gentiles had already been foreseen by the prophets. Here we have something like this. Jesus quotes the text from Isaiah up to the point where it says "to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord", and leaves out the rest of the sentence that says "and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn" (Is 61:2b). The people of Nazareth challenge the fact that Jesus left out the part on vindication. They wanted the day of the coming of the Kingdom to be a day of vindication against the oppressors of the people. Thus those who mourned would have regained their rights. But if that were  so, then the advent, the coming of the Kingdom, would not have changed an unjust system. Jesus rejects this way of thinking. He rejects vengeance. His experience of God, Father, helped Him better understand the exact meaning of the prophecies. His reaction, unlike that of the people of Nazareth, shows us that the old image of God as a severe and vengeful judge was stronger than the Good News of God, a loving Father who welcomes those excluded.

 

Luke 4:23-24: Jesus criticizes the people’s reaction.

 
Jesus interprets the people’s reaction and considers it a form of envy: “Physician, heal yourself. Whatever things we have heard of as done in Capernaum, do here, also in your own country!” Jesus was well know throughout Galilee (Lk 4:14) and the people of Nazareth were not pleased that Jesus, a son of their land, worked good things in other peoples’ lands and not in His own. But there is a deeper reason for the reaction. Even if Jesus had worked in Nazareth the things He had worked in Capernaum, they would still not have believed in Him. They knew Jesus. “Who is He to teach us? Is He not Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22). “Is He not the carpenter?” (cf Mk 6:3-4) Today  this happens so often: when a lay person preaches in church, many will not accept that. They leave and say, “He or she is like us: he or she knows nothing!” They cannot believe that God can speak through the most ordinary people. Mark adds that Jesus is hurt by His people’s unbelief (Mk 6).

 

Luke 4:23-27: Jesus sheds light on the Bible quoting Elijah and Elisha. 
In order to confirm that His mission is really that of welcoming the excluded, Jesus uses two well known passages of the bible, the story of Elijah and that of Elisha. Both reflect the closed mentality of the people of Nazareth and criticize them. In Elijah’s time there were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent to a foreign widow from Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16). In Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but Elisha was sent to a foreigner from Syria (2 Kings 5:14). Again we see Luke’s concern to show that openness towards pagans came from Jesus Himself. Jesus faced the same difficulties that the communities in Luke’s time faced.

 

Luke 4:28-30: The furious reaction of the people who want to kill Jesus. 
The mention of these two passages from the Bible produces greater anger in the people. The community of Nazareth even wants to kill Jesus. He remains calm. Other people’s anger will not distract Him from His purpose. Luke shows how difficult it is to overcome a mentality of privilege and of closure towards others. The same thing happens today. Many of us Catholics grow up with a mentality that leads us to believe that we are better than others and that the others must become like us in order to be saved. Jesus never thought this way.

 

c) Further information:

 

The meaning of a jubilee year:

In 2000, Pope John Paul II invited Catholics to celebrate the jubilee. Celebrating important dates is part of life. This allows us to rediscover and revive our initial enthusiasm. In the bible, “the Jubilee Year” was an important law. At first, it was decreed that every seventh year, sold or leased lands were to return to the clan of origin. Everyone was to be able to go back to his property. This prevented the formation of stagnant funds and guaranteed a living for families. During a Jubilee Year lands were to be sold back, slaves were to be redeemed and debts cancelled (cf. Deut 15:1-18). The celebration of a Jubilee Year every seven years was not easy (cf Jeremiah 34:8-16). After the exile began the custom of celebrating every fifty years, that is, every seven times seven years (Lev 25:8-17). The purpose of a Jubilee Year was, and still is, to re-affirm the rights of the poor, welcome the excluded, and reintegrate them into society. The jubilee was a legal instrument to go back to the deep sense of the Law of God. It was an occasion to take stock of the course travelled, to discover and correct errors and to begin everything anew. Jesus begins His preaching by proclaiming a new jubilee, a “Year of favor from the Lord”.

6. PRAYING WITH PSALM 72 (71)

“He will free the poor who cry!”

God, endow the king with Your own fair judgement, 
the Son of the king with Your own saving justice,
that He may rule your people with justice, 
and Your poor with fair judgment.

Mountains and hills, 
bring peace to the people! 
With justice He will judge the poor of the people; 
He will save the children of the needy and crush their oppressors.
In the sight of the sun and the moon He will endure, age after age.

He will come down like rain on mown grass, 
like showers moistening the land.
In His days uprightness shall flourish, 
and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea, 
from the river to the limits of the earth.

The Beast will cower before Him, 
His enemies lick the dust;
the kings of Tarshish and the islands will pay Him tribute. 
The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;
all kings will do Him homage, 
all nations become His servants.

For He rescues the needy who call to Him, 
and the poor who have no one to help.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the needy from death.
From oppression and violence He redeems their lives, 
their blood is precious in His sight.

Long may He live; may the gold of Sheba be given Him!
Prayer will be offered for Him constantly, 
and blessings invoked on Him all day.
May wheat abound in the land, 
waving on the heights of the hills, 
like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best, 
like the grasses of the earth.

May His name be blessed for ever, 
and endure in the sight of the sun. 
In Him shall be blessed every race in the world, 
and all nations call Him blessed.
Blessed be Yahweh, 
the God of Israel, 
who alone works wonders;
blessed for ever His glorious name. 
May the whole world be filled with His glory! 
Amen! Amen!

7. FINAL PRAYER

Lord Jesus, we thank You 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 what 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, January 27, 2019

 

Jesus presents the programme of His mission 


in the community of Nazareth 
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

 

 

1. OPENING PRAYER

Lord, let the light of Your glory shine within us

and lead us through the darkness of this world

to the radiant joy of our eternal home.

We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

 

2. LECTIO

a) The text:

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilis, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

 

b) Comment:

A brief introductory summary presents Jesus’ activity, His person, and the scene of this Gospel (Lk 4:14-21) takes place in the synagogue in Nazareth on a Saturday. Jesus’ return to the place from where His fame had spread everywhere in the region of Galilee and to which the Spirit led His steps has a special significance. In concise terms, Luke tries to give a salvific interpretation to it by shedding light on the salient aspects of the events. Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue signifies His Jewish origin and His wish to be part of the culture so as to emphasize the vital role of the law that God had entrusted to His people and to offer Himself as fulfilment and hope of Israel. 

To the question implied in the narrative - Is Jesus a prophet? - the answer becomes clearer according to the criteria of discernment used by Israel to verify whether a prophet was sent by Yahweh or not: is his teaching in accordance with the teachings of the law, do his works correspond with God’s commandments, do his prophecies concerning the future come true?  In Nazareth, Jesus presents Himself as a prophet – in fact He compares Himself to Elijah and Elisha – even though He does not define Himself as such in keeping with His custom that avoids any attempt at defining Himself.

 

c) A moment of silence:

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

3. MEDITATIO

 

a) Some questions:

To consider carefully  every circumstance: are we always in a hurry during our day? Do we really wish to reflect carefully on what happens to us?

- He sent me to proclaim the good news to the poor: do I always think of the poor as the others, while I belong to the haves and those who know, and consequently, I do not need anyone?
- Today this scripture has been fulfilled: what scripture do we know so well as to recognize it as incarnation in our day?

 

b) A key to the reading:

 

A historical contextualization

The passage of the synagogue of Nazareth is part of an approach that will later form the key to the reading to what follows in Luke’s Gospel. The reference to the prophet Isaiah is basic because therein is revealed the continuity of the human history of God. Jesus’ gestures, placed in parallel, “He stood and opened the scroll” (v.17), “He closed the scroll and sat down” (v.20), give the narrative a liturgical character that is customary yet new. 
The newness occurs in the homily that renders the prophecy present. Today, a key word in Luke, expresses the fulfilment in Christ of God’s purpose. The immediate reactions to this today are of surprise and unbelief, of wonder and scandal, even to rejection already found in the question that follows Jesus’ proclamation, a question hanging in the air without an answer: “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (v. 22). The contrast with the Word proclaimed by a man who is imbued with the Spirit of the Lord, consecrated by an anointing, sent on a special mission of messianic character: to bring the good news, to forgive, to proclaim…creates a conflict of identity.

 

A literary contextualization

 

This passage does not have precise parallels in the synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ visit to Nazareth in Matthew 13:53-58 and in Mark 6:1-6a is limited to a question concerning Jesus’ origin and His rejection. There is no description of the rite in the synagogue nor is there a record of the words Jesus pronounced and of the interpretation of the present fulfilment of the sacred Word. The only point in common is the rejection of Jesus by the Nazarenes.


Through Jesus’ discourse in Nazareth, Luke wants to introduce and shed light on the whole public ministry of Jesus. Isaiah 61:1-2 contains a synthesis of the great themes that characterize Luke’s Gospel and those most dear to him: the Holy Spirit, the messianic anointing, the eschatological liberation, the messianic joy, the divine intervention in favour of the poor and oppressed, the proclamation of the year of grace. The program is inaugurated in Mark with the proclamation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14-15) and in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5: 1-48), appears in Luke at the centre of the Jewish belief: that which is fulfilled is not the time but the scripture. The reader is invited to see the necessity of “walking” with Christ and to imitate Him on the way of conformity to the will of the Father. Jerusalem, the end of a long journey (Lk 9:51-18,14) that leads Jesus towards the decisive moment of His life, is also the final point of His earthly mission (Lk 24) and the beginning of the life of the newborn Church (Acts 1-2).

 

Literary genre

 

In this passage, we can see a slight literary unity. The editorial intervention of Luke that begins from traditional data follows its own purpose. The unitary design of both parts shows internal clarity and accurate external delimitation. For Luke, the two fields of questioning are inseparable: Who is Jesus? To whom is His work addressed? The relationship between word and action is very strong, the dramatic action of a proclamation that takes place in life. This passage wants to introduce the public ministry of Jesus, almost enabling Him to act on the confines of His belonging to Israel. The Spirit abundantly given to Jesus: at His birth (1:35), at His baptism (3:22), during the temptations (4:1) at the beginning of His mission (4:14) is the Spirit mentioned in Isaiah (v.18) who makes God’s action explicit. An action without ethnic limits and that does not seek notoriety, but that is in favour of those in need of salvation: the poor, prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, and to begin the time of grace of the Lord.  We pass from a culture of the synagogue that is not capable of welcoming the ancient Word fulfilled in the today, to a culture of following on the roads of the world. Jesus goes off. He follows His way, that from Jerusalem will lead Him to the ends of the earth through His followers

 

Detailed analysis of the text

 

A detailed analysis of the verses of this passage will reveal important peculiarities, which, within a historical framework, present in the Nazareth synagogue scene a synthesis of the content of the Gospel.

 

v.16: It seems that the synagogue was a place frequented by Jesus. It is here that from His early adulthood He has heard the Word of God and has interpreted it according to the living tradition of the people. It is significant that Jesus seeks out the centres of worship. Every adult Jew could read the word, generally the leaders of the synagogue entrusted this task to those who were experts in Scripture. The fact that Jesus gets up to read shows that it was customary for Him to do so as it was customary for Him to attend the synagogue. The words: “as was His custom” lend great force to the verse almost as though the one who reads and speaks is not just anyone, but a son of Israel expert in the reading and interpretation of the Torah and the prophets. Christian faith then is born from faithful representatives of the people of Israel whose time of waiting has come to fulfilment. All the main characters in Luke are authentic Israelites: Zachary, Elizabeth and John, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the apostles, and later in Acts, Paul. This is “a custom” that carries with it something new. The synagogue is the place where the proclamation begins and spreads to the cities of Judah and Galilee and the whole of Israel, even to the ends of the earth.

 

vv. 17-19: Jesus finds the passage in Isaiah 61:1-2 which probably refers to the consecration of a prophet (cf. 1 Kg 19:16). Luke leaves out from the citation from Isaiah the menacing end because it is of no interest to his purpose: he emphasizes that Jesus’ teaching has its roots in scripture (17-19; 25-27) and makes it present in His own person. Isaiah’s words on His lips acquire their full meaning and summarize His mission (cf 4:1), full of the Spirit, anointed by the Lord, sent to proclaim the good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners and those oppressed, sight to the blind and to preach the time of grace of the Lord.

 

v. 20: The detailed description of the gestures foreshadows what is to come. Jesus speaks while sitting, the typical position of one who teaches. The eyes of the people turned towards Him prepare us for the importance of what He is about to say. His is a short but disturbing homily. The movements show the character of this passage from Luke. Jesus came, He went in, He stood up, He sat down, He passed among them, He went away. The Nazarenes too rise but it is to throw Him out. The contrast is clear. Jesus stands up to read, the men stand up to send Him away. The waiting described in this verse, “The eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing on Him,” degenerates into a rejection. The problem is not the proclamation, already well known and source of hope for devout Israelites, but the one who proclaims it and makes it His own.

 

v. 21: Jesus does not make any comments on the words of Isaiah, but He makes them present. His is a word event - rhêma - (Acts 10:37), a word that is salvation now. The prophecy comes alive and is taking place. Jesus’ interpretation goes beyond every expectation. In the Word, the today is present, the today that is typical of the Evangelist and that is the today of salvation, the today of the fulfilment that comes from listening (cf Rom 10:17). What is essential for Luke is listening. The realization of the ancient promises repeated in the whole of Luke’s works (Lk 9:51; Acts 2:1; 19:21) is for those who listen: the anawim, the poor, the oppressed, those favoured by Jhwh (Is 11:4; 29:19) and now those favoured by Jesus (Mt 11:28).

 

c) Reflection:

The exegesis made by Jesus Himself on Isaiah 61 is an example of actualization that reveals the messianic present and has recourse to scripture passages to shed light on the present situation. Christ’s is a creative authority that invites people to adapt their lives to the message, accepting the Anointed of God and renouncing the presumption of reducing Him to their dimension. This pragmatic perspective is the key to actualization in every age: the today of salvation echoes wherever there is preaching, so is the welcoming and the commitment. 


In the synagogue of Nazareth, we find the fundamental answers of human beings who live in expectation of meeting with salvation. Jesus is sent by God and is sustained by the Spirit. The anointing says that He is the Christ. In Him scripture is fulfilled. He is the today of God who fulfils past history now come to maturation in Jesus and will turn into the daily today of tomorrow that is the time of the Church, it too sent as prophetic Word, sustained by the Spirit. 
The main message found in this passage of Luke is the scripture. The scripture contains the whole of God’s secret who lives in eternity and who becomes one of us.

4. ORATIO

Psalm 2: 6-9

"I myself have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain."
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord,
who said to me, "You are my son;
today I am your father.
Only ask it of Mme,
and I will make your inheritance the nations,
your possession the ends of the earth. 
With an iron rod you shall shepherd them,
like a clay pot you will shatter them."

5. CONTEMPLATIO

Today: this the key word in my daily life. In this today the Scripture is fulfilled. In this today Christ goes into the synagogue of my convictions to proclaim the good news to the poverty of my thought, to my feelings that are prisoners of that desire built on the ruins of grey days stretched from hour to hour, to my vision obscured by my all too short-sightedness. A year of grace, of conversion, of blessing. Lord, may my today be Yours so that not one of Your words may fall in vain in my life, but that Your words may be fulfilled as grains of wheat in the frozen furrow of the past, capable of budding at the first signs of spring.

 

Lectio Divina: 

 Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Magi’s journey of faith
The adoration of the child Jesus as King and Lord
Matthew 2:1-12

 

 

1. Opening prayer

Merciful Father, You have called me to meet You in this word of the Gospel, because You wish that I may have life, You wish to give me yourself. Send, I pray You, Your Holy Spirit upon me so that I may let myself be led along the holy way of this passage of Scripture. May I, today, get out of my prison to set out on a journey to seek You. May I recognize the star that You have lit as a sign of Your love on my journey to follow it tirelessly, intensely, committing my whole life. May I, finally, enter Your house and there see the Lord; may I bend low humbly before You to adore You and offer my life to You, all that I am and all that I have. Lord, by Your grace, may I return by a new route, without ever passing through the old paths of sin.

 

2. Reading

 

a) Placing the passage in its context:

 

This passage belongs to the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, which constitute a kind of prologue to the whole work. We are presented with the historical origin of the Messiah as son of David, as well as His divine origin as Jesus Christ, God-with-us. Matthew immediately leads us into a very deep and engaging meditation, placing before us a choice about the people he introduces in his story: we either recognize and welcome the Lord who is just born, or we remain indifferent, even to wanting to eliminate Him and kill Him. This passage offers us the beautiful story of the journey of the Magi, who come from afar because they want to seek and welcome, love and adore the Lord Jesus. But their long journey and tireless search, and the conversion of their hearts, are facts that speak of us, facts already written on the scroll of our own sacred story.

 

b) An aid to the reading of the passage:

 

The passage may be divided into two main parts, determined by the location where the scenes take place: the first part (2: 1-9a) takes place in Jerusalem, and the second part is focused around Bethlehem (2: 9b-12).
Mt 2: 1-2: The passage begins with the place and time of the birth of Jesus: in Bethlehem of Judea, at the time of king Herod. Within this quite specific description, the Magi suddenly appear, coming from afar, and arriving in Jerusalem under the guidance of a star. It is they who announce the birth of the Lord king. They ask where they might find Him because they wish to adore Him. 


Mt 2: 3-6: On hearing the words of the Magi, king Herod, and with him all of Jerusalem, is disturbed and afraid. Rather than welcoming the Lord and joining Him, they seek to eliminate Him. Herod calls the authorities of the Jewish people and the experts in scripture. It is they, with the help of ancient prophecies, who reveal Bethlehem as the place to find the Messiah.

 
Mt 2: 7-8: Herod calls the Magi in secret because he wants to use them for his own evil ends. His detailed interest is entirely directed towards the elimination of Christ. 


Mt 2: 9a: The Magi, urged by strength of faith and led by the star, leave again and go towards Bethlehem.


Mt 2: 9b-11: The star reappears, moves with the Magi and leads them to the exact spot where the Lord Jesus is. Full of joy, they enter the house and prostrate themselves. They offer precious gifts because they recognize that He is king and Lord.

 
Mt 2: 12: When they have contemplated and adored the Lord, the Magi receive a revelation from God. It is He who speaks to them. They are new men. They have in them a new heaven and a new earth. They are free of the deceits of Herod and therefore they go back to their lives by an entirely new way

 

c) The text:

 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel." Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

 

3. A moment of prayerful silence

 

I listen deeply to the silent voice of the Lord and let the breath of the Spirit come to me and infuse me. In this silence I seek the Lord and repeat in my heart: “Where are You, my God?”

 

4. A few questions

 

a) I take the first words that come from the mouths of the Magi and make them my own: “Where is the infant king of the Jews?” Do I really feel attracted to the place where the Lord is because I desire to be with Him? Am I ready to leave the dark and old places of my habits and my comfort, to undertake a journey of faith in search of Jesus? 


b) “We have come to adore Him”. Here the Word of the Lord tests me and puts me through a crucible: do I really live in a relationship of love with God? Am I able to open my life in His presence and allow Him to enter into my very heartbeats?

 
c) “From you will come a leader who will shepherd My people”. Am I capable of placing and giving my whole existence to the guidance of the Lord? To trust in Him, in His love, in His real presence, even though He remains invisible?

 
d) “Going into the house they saw the child”. It is precisely because they accept to go into the house, to enter into communion, to give themselves fully and truly, that their eyes can see, contemplate, and recognize. Am I not aware of the fact that the more I stay outside, the more I am distant from the life of my brothers and sisters and the more I become sad and empty?

 

5. A key to the reading

 

I look for some key words, some basic themes, that may guide and help me better penetrate the meaning of this passage of the Gospel, so that my life may be enlightened and changed by this Word of the Lord.

 

* The journey: This passage seems to be given the theme of a journey, an exodus, a going out. The Magi, these mysterious characters, get moving, go far away from their land and go seeking the king, the Lord. Matthew presents this fact by means of some verbs that proceed along with the development of the event: “came, we have come, sent them, go, set out, went before them, going into, not to go back, returned.” The physical journey of the Magi hides a much more important and meaningful journey: the journey of faith. This is the movement of the soul born from a desire to meet and know the Lord. At the same time it is God’s invitation which calls and attracts us with His own power. It is He who gets us to stand up and sets us in motion and who offers us signs and does not cease to walk with us. Scripture gives us many important examples, and these help us enter into this path of grace and blessings. God said to Abraham: “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1). Jacob was also a pilgrim of faith and conversion. It is written about him: “Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran” (Gen 28:10), and: “Moving on, Jacob went to the land of the sons of the East” (Gen 29:1). Many years later, the Lord spoke to him and said: “Go back to the land of your forefathers and to your kindred; and I will be with you” (Gen 31:3). Moses was also a man on a journey. God Himself showed him the way, the exodus, in his heart, and made his whole life a long march of salvation for him and for his brothers and sisters. “So come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, My people, out of Egypt!” (Ex 3:10). As the new people of God, we are the children of the promise and of the new covenant and are called to go out, setting out on a journey in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. The exodus never ceased. The liberation that comes from faith is always active. Let us look at Jesus, at His apostles, at Paul: not one of them stands still, not one of them hides. All these witnesses speak to us today by their deeds and they repeat: “Blessed is he who finds in You his strength and one who decides in his heart to go on the holy journey” (Ps 83:6).

 

The star: This is a very important and central element in this passage because the star has the role of guiding the Magi to their destination, enlightening their nights along the journey, indicating precisely the place of the presence of the Lord, and giving great joy to their hearts. Throughout the Bible, stars appear as signs of blessing and glory, almost as a personification of God, who does not abandon His people, and at the same time, is a personification of the people that does not forget its God and praises and blesses him (cfr. Ps 148:3; Bar 3:34). The word star appears for the first time in Scripture in Genesis 1:16. On the fourth day the story of creation tells us of the appearance in the heavens of the sun, the moon and stars, as signs and as light, to set order and give light. The Jewish term for “star” kokhab is very beautiful and full of meaning. In fact, the letters that make up the word reveal the immensity of the presence that these celestial elements bring with them. We find two letters kaf, which signify “hand” and which enclose the letter waw which means man. Thus, within the stars there are two hands, kaf and kaf, that lovingly hold within them waw, man. These are the hands of God that never cease to hold us, if only we entrust ourselves to them. Then appears the letter bet, which means house. Thus, the stars speak of our journey towards our house, our constant migration, from whence we have come, from the day of our creation and even from all eternity. Often God compares the descendants of Abraham to the stars in the heavens, almost as if each person is a star, born to give light in the night: “Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can” and then He adds: “Such will be your descendants” (Gen 15:5). Jesus is also a star, the star that takes its rise from Jacob (Num 24:17), which rises from on high and is the radiant morning star as the Apocalypse says (22:16). By taking on flesh the infinite love of God, which bends itself down towards us, His children, opens the palms of His hands to gather and welcome us. Only such love can give our infinite weakness the capacity and courage, the perseverance and joy of accepting to leave and to go on the long and arduous journey of faith which takes us to Bethlehem, to the place where God appears to us.

 

* The adoration: The act of adoration is as old as humankind itself, because since the beginning, the relationship with the divine has been accompanied by this demand of love, humility, and self-offering. Before the greatness of God, we little people feel and discover that we are nothing, a speck of dust, a drop from a bucket. In the Old Testament, the act of adoration appears as an act of deep love towards the Lord, an act that demands the involvement of the whole person. It involves the mind, the will to choose, love full of desire and a body that bows and prostrates itself even to the ground. It is said in several places that the act of adoration is accompanied by a prostration with the face touching the ground. The face of man, his gaze, his breath returns to the dust whence he has his origin and there he recognizes himself as creature of God, as a breath of God’s nostrils. “Come in, let us bow, prostrate ourselves, and kneel in front of Yahweh our maker” (Ps 94:6). This is the invitation of Scripture to us every day which shows us the way to walk so that we may again and again come to the truth and therefore live fully.


The New Testament goes even deeper in its spiritual reflection on this fact and seems to want to accompany us on a pedagogical journey of conversion and maturity in our interior life. In the Gospels we see the disciples, men and women, adoring the Lord Jesus after His resurrection (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:52) because they recognize Him as God. Jesus’ words in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman give us a deep insight into the truth of this act, which after all, involves the whole of life and is an attitude of the heart. Adoration is for God the Father and does not happen here or there but in Spirit and in truth, which is in the Spirit and the Son, Jesus. We must not deceive ourselves. It is not by moving from one place to another, nor by seeking this or that spiritual person, that we can adore our God. The movement, the journey, is an interior one and takes place in our deepest being and is a complete surrender of ourselves, our life, and our whole being, to the wings of the Holy Spirit and into the arms of Jesus which are wide open on the cross and ever ready to attract all things to himself. St. Peter says clearly: “Simply reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts” (1 Pt 3:15). The act of bowing to the ground, of prostrating ourselves before the Lord comes from the heart. If we let ourselves be touched and reach into our hearts, if we allow the Lord to enter our hearts, that sacred space, then He will change us completely, transforming the whole of our person to make of us new men and women.

 

6. A moment of prayer: Psalm 84

A hymn concerning the trust of man 
on his journey to the house of God

Res. I have seen Your star, Lord, 
and I have come to adore You!

How lovely are Your dwelling-places, YHWH Sabaoth.
My whole being yearns and pines for Yahweh's courts, 
My heart and my body cry out for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a nest to place its young: Your altars, YHWH Sabaoth, my King and my God.
How blessed are those who live in Your house; 
they shall praise You continually.
Blessed those who find their strength in You, 
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of the Balsam, 
they make there a water-hole, 
and -- a further blessing -- early rain fills it.
They make their way from height to height, 
God shows himself to them in Zion.
YHWH Sabaoth, hear my prayer, 
listen, God of Jacob.
God, our shield, look, 
and see the face of Your anointed.
Better one day in Your courts than a thousand at my own devices, 
to stand on the threshold of God's house 
than to live in the tents of the wicked.
For Yahweh God is a rampart and shield, 
he gives grace and glory; 
Yahweh refuses nothing good to those whose life is blameless.
YHWH Sabaoth, 
blessed is he who trusts in You.

 

7. Closing prayer

 

Lord, my Father, I have really seen Your star, I have opened my eyes to Your presence of love and salvation and I have received the light of life.

 

I have contemplated the night changed into light, pain into joy and solitude into communion; yes, all this happened before You, in Your Word.

 

You have led me through the desert; You have led me to Your house and opened the door for me to enter.

 

There I saw You, Your Son Jesus, saviour of my life; there I prayed and adored, I cried and found Your smile, I kept silence and learned to speak. In Your house, merciful Father, I have found life once more! 


And now I am going back, I have resumed my journey, but the way is not the one I took before and my life is not what it was before. Your Word has left me with a new heart, capable of opening itself to love, to listen, to welcome and become home to so many brothers and sisters whom You have placed in my way. I was not aware, Lord, but You have made me into a child again, You have given birth to me with Jesus. Thank You, Father, my Father!

 

Lectio Divina: 

 Sunday, December 30, 2018

Mary and Joseph find Jesus 
Among the doctors in the Temple in Jerusalem
Luke 2: 41-52

 

 

1. OPENING PRAYER

Father in heaven, You are my creator. You welcome me through Jesus Christ Your Son. You guide me by Your Holy Spirit. Enlighten my mind so that I may understand the meaning of the life You have granted me, the plan You have for me and for those You have placed at my side. Enkindle fire in my heart so that I may follow Your revelation joyfully and enthusiastically. Strengthen my weak will, unite it to the will of others so that together we may do Your will and thus build the world as one family more and more in Your image. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

 

2. LECTIO: A READING OF LK 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

 

3. A TIME OF SILENCE

that the Word of God may enter our hearts and enlighten our lives.

 

4. MEDITATIO: A FEW QUESTIONS

to direct our meditation and practice.

Why does Luke, the Evangelist, tell us this story in Jesus’ life? Where is the climax, the center of the passage? There are times when family (community) relationships become tense and difficult and misunderstandings take place. Do we seek autonomy and independence? Who or what becomes more important at a particular time in our life? Can we organize hierarchically our relationships, our self-affirmation, our values, our tasks, our morality? Today, we often find “extended” families (multi-ethnic communities) with re-married parents, partners, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, grandparents, parents of one partner and not of the other. On whom can we rely? Can we submit to one person or just rebel?

 

5. A KEY TO THE READING

We find ourselves among the so-called infancy stories according to Luke (chap. 1-2). This is the final passage, a theological and Christological prologue rather that a historical one, where we are presented with motifs that recur later in Luke’s catechesis: the Temple, the journey towards Jerusalem, divine filiation, the poor, the merciful Father, etc. Reading back, in Jesus’ childhood there already appear signs of His future life. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to take part in one of the three pilgrimages (the Passover, Pentecost and the feast of the Tabernacles) prescribed by the law (Deut 16:16). During the seven days of the feast, people took part in the cult and listened to the Rabbis, who discussed beneath the portico of the Temple. “The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem”, the city the Lord chosen for His throne (2 Kings 21:4-7; Jer 3:17; Zech 3:2), and where the Temple is found (Ps 68:30; 76:3; 135:21), the only place of worship for the Jews (Jn 4:20). Jerusalem is the place where “all that was written by the prophets concerning the Son of man will be fulfilled” (Lk 18:21), the place of “His departure” (Lk 9:31,51; 24:18) and of His appearances after the resurrection (Lk 24:33,36-49). His parents “sought Him” anxiously and troubled (2:44,45,48,49). How is it possible to lose a son, not to realize that Jesus is not in the caravan? Is it Christ who has to follow others or vice versa? “Three days later” the “passion” ends, and they find Jesus in the Temple, among the doctors, teaching to the amazement of all. The characteristics of His mission begin to unfold and this mission is summarized in the first words that Jesus speaks in Luke’s Gospel “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be busy with My Father’s affairs?” But who is His father? Why seek Him? This is the same father mentioned in Jesus’ last words, in Luke, on the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (23:46) and at the ascension into heaven “And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised” (24:49). Above all, we must seek to obey God, as Peter well understood after Pentecost (Acts 5:29), seek the Kingdom of God and His justice (Mt 6:33), seek the Father in prayer (Mt 7:7-8), seek Jesus (Jn 1:38) and follow Him. Jesus proclaims His dependence - “I must” – on His heavenly Father. He reveals the Father in His immense goodness (Lk 15), but He thus creates a distance, a break, with His family. Before all affective ties, all personal fulfillment, all affairs… comes God’s project. “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, let Your will be done, not Mine” (Lk 22:42). Simeon’s prophecy (Lk 2:34) begins to happen for Mary, “but they did not understand”. His parents’ lack of understanding is also that of His disciples concerning the foretelling of the passion (18:34). Rebel? Submit? Walk away? Jesus “went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority”, says Luke, and Mary “stored up all these things in her heart”. Mary’s attitude expresses the development of faith in a person who grows and progresses in knowledge of the mystery. Jesus reveals that obedience to God is the essential condition for fulfilling one’s life, for a way of sharing in the family and in community. Obedience to the Father is what makes us brothers and sisters, teaches us to obey each other, to listen to each other and recognize God’s plan in each other. Such an atmosphere creates the conditions necessary to grow “in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men” and to journey together.

 

6. ORATIO: PSALM 83 (84)

The pilgrim’s hymn

How lovely is Thy dwelling place, 
O Lord of hosts! 
My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; 
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 
Even the sparrow finds a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may lay her young, at Thy altars, 
O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house, 
ever singing Thy praise! 
Blessed are the men whose strength is in Thee, 
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs; 
the early rain also covers it with pools. 
They go from strength to strength; 
the God of gods will be seen in Zion. 
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, 
O God of Jacob!

 

7. CONTEMPLATIO: CLOSING PRAYER

I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have revealed to me Your goodness and Your love. You really are the only One who can give full meaning to my life. I love my father, but You are my Father; I love my mother, but You are my Mother. Even if I had not known the love of my parents, I know that You are love, You are with me and You are waiting for me in Your eternal dwelling place prepared for me from the beginning of creation. Grant that, together with me, the members of my family, sisters and brothers, all those who journey in community with me, may do Your will so as to foreshadow on earth and then enjoy in heaven the wonders of Your love. 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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