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General

Lent Time
 
1) Opening prayer
Lord God,
you want us to live our faith
not so much as a set of rules and practices
but as a relationship from person to person
with you and with people.God, keep our hearts turned to you,
that we may live what we believe
and that we may express our love for you
in terms of service to those around us,
as Jesus did, your Son,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.
 
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 18, 21-35
Then Peter went up to him and said, 'Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?' Jesus answered, 'Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.
'And so the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master's feet, with the words, "Be patient with me and I will pay the whole sum." And the servant's master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.
Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow-servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him, saying, "Pay what you owe me." His fellow-servant fell at his feet and appealed to him, saying, "Be patient with me and I will pay you." But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow-servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for the man and said to him, "You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow-servant just as I had pity on you?" And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.'
 
3) Reflection
• Today’s Gospel speaks to us about the need for pardon. It is not easy to forgive, because certain grief and pain continue to burn the heart. There are persons who say: “I forgive, but I do not forget!” Rancour, tensions, diverse opinions, insults, offences, provocations, all this renders pardon and reconciliation difficult. Let us try to meditate on the words of Jesus which speak about reconciliation (Mt 18, 21-22) and which speak to us about the parable of pardon without limits (Mt 18, 23-35).
• Matthew 18, 21-22: To forgive seventy times seven! Jesus had spoken of the importance of pardon and of the need of knowing how to accept the brothers and sisters to help them to reconcile themselves with the community (Mt 18, 15-20) Before these words of Jesus, Peter asks: “How often should I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Number seven indicates perfection. In this case, it was synonymous of always. Jesus goes far beyond the proposal of Peter. He eliminates any possibility of limitation to pardon: “Not seven I tell you, but seventy seven times!” That is, seventy times always! Because there is no proportion between the pardon which we receive from God and the pardon which we should offer to the brother, as the parable of pardon without limit teaches us.
• The expression seventy seven times was a clear reference to the words of Lamech who said: “·I killed a man for wounding me, a boy for striking me. Sevenfold vengeance for Cain but seventy-sevenfold for Lamech” (Gen 4, 23-24). Jesus wants to invert the spiral of violence which entered the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, because of the killing of Abel by Cain and for the vengeance of Lamech. When uncontrolled violence invades life, everything goes wrong and life disintegrates itself. The Deluge arrived and the Tower of Babel appeared for universal dominion (Gen 2, 1 to 11, 32).
• Matthew 18, 23-35: The parable of pardon without limits. The debt of ten thousand talents was approximately around 164 tons of gold. The debt of one hundred denarii was worth about 30 grams of gold. There is no comparison between the two! Even if the debtor together with his wife and children set to work their whole life, they would never be capable to get 164 tons of gold. Before God’s love which forgives gratuitously our debt of 164 tons of gold, is more than just on our part to forgive gratuitously the debt of 30 grams of gold, seventy times always! The only limit to the gratuity of pardon of God is our incapacity to forgive our brother! (Mt 18,34; 6,15).
• The community, an alternative space of solidarity and of fraternity: the society of the Roman Empire was hard and without a heart, without any space for the little ones. They sought refuge for the heart and did not find it. The Synagogue was also demanding and did not offer them any place. And in the Christian communities, the rigor of some in the observance of the Law made life together difficult because they used the same criteria of the Synagogue. Besides this, toward the end of the first century, in the Christian communities began to appear the same divisions which existed in society between rich and poor (Jm 2, 1-9). Instead of making of the community a space of acceptance, they ran the risk of becoming a place of condemnation and conflict. Matthew wants to enlighten the communities, in such a way that these be an alternative space of solidarity and of fraternity. They should be Good News for the poor.
 
4) Personal questions
• Why is it so difficult to forgive?
• In our community is there a space for reconciliation? How?
 
5) Concluding Prayer
Direct me in your ways, Yahweh,
and teach me your paths.
Encourage me to walk in your truth
and teach me since you are the God who saves me.
For my hope is in you all day long. (Ps 25,4-5)

Edizioni Carmelitane is the publishing house of the General Curia of Carmelite Order and the Institutum Carmelitanum which is the scientific research and educational arm of the General Curia. Edizioni Carmelitane provides a variety of books, magazines and audio/videos on the history and spirituality of Carmel with the hope to share the riches of the Carmelite tradition and spirituality to all readers in many languages.

 

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“Whatever the troubles and difficulties that weigh you down, bear them all patiently and keep in mind that these are the things which constitute your cross. Offer your help to the Lord and carry the cross with Him in gladness of heart. There is always something to be endured, and if you refuse one cross, be sure that you will meet with another, and maybe a heavier one. If we trust in God and rely on His help, we shall overcome the allurements of vice. We must never let our efforts flag nor our steps grow weary, but must keep our hearts under steady discipline.

Consider the afflictions and great trials which the holy Fathers endured in the desert. And yet the interior trials they suffered were far more intense than the physical penances they inflicted on their own bodies. One who is never tried acquires little virtue. Accept then whatever God wills to send, for any suffering He permits is entirely for our good. Christ assures us in the Gospel, “Who wishes to follow me must deny himself. He must be forgetful of self; he must regard himself as nothing; he must despise himself and desire to be despised by others.”

The attitude derives from Our Lord’s command that we are to take up his cross and follow Him. We are to accept sufferings of mind and body for love of Him, just as He bore His sufferings for love of us. It is true that the Jews lifted the cross from our Savior’s shoulders, but this was out of concern lest He die from blows and exhaustion before reaching the place where He was to be crucified.

And when they laid the weight on Simon’s shoulders he submitted most unwillingly, even though aware that he was not destined to die on the cross he carried. Christ, by contrast, willingly and gladly carried His cross and died upon it, breathing forth His soul at last into His Father’s hands. Let us follow Him and imitate all He did.

You have various afflictions which constitute your cross. Bear them willingly to the very end, when you will finally yield your soul to God. Give Him praise and thanks for calling you to His service. Scorn no-one, for it is God’s will that you love each one of your neighbors as you do those of your own community. Strive to curb all unruly instincts within you. To this end try one remedy today and another tomorrow, so that gradually you will subdue your unruly impulses, and when the Lord sees your good will and your perseverance, He will give you the support of His grace, enabling you to sustain to the end the burdens of religious life. Through His love nothing will be too difficult for you to bear.”

 

Blessed Françoise d’Amboise (May 29, 1427 – November 4, 1485), was born in the castle of Thouars. She was the daughter of the rich noble Louis d’Amboise, prince of Talmont and Viscount of Thouars. To escape from the violence of the times, she fled with her mother, Louise-Marie de Rieux, to the court of Brittany, which resided in Vannes and, later on, in Nantes. At the age of three she had been engaged to Pierre, the second son of Jean VI, Duke of Brittany, for political reasons. She married him at the age of fifteen, in 1442. In 1450, after the unexpected death of Pierre’s elder brother, her husband came to rule Brittany as Pierre II. Françoise d’Amboise became the Duchess of Brittany and had a discrete but active share in governing Brittany. She came to help the poor and the sick. She had also a strong feeling about justice. Her husband died of a disease in 1457. She then entered into a conflict with King Louis XI who wanted to marry her. A widow without children, she founded, together with Jean Soreth, the first monastery of the Carmelites in France, in 1463. She took the veil in 1468, when entering the convent of the Three Maries at Vannes. She died in Nantes, at the monastery of the Carmelite nuns. In 1863, she was beatified by Pope Pius IX.


 


Source: Meditations from Carmel Podcast from the Order of Carmel Discalced Secular in St. Louis, Missouri.

The mission of the Church:
To give witness to the pardon which Jesus offers to all
Luke 24, 46-53

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 the poverty of our feelings
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night
and may it open our heart to hear the echo of silence
until the dawn,
wrapping us with the light of the new morning,
may bring us,
with the spent embers of the fire of the shepherds of the Absolute
who have kept vigil for us close to the divine Master,
the flavour of the holy memory.

1. LECTIO

a) The text:

Luke 24,46-5346 and he said to them, 'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses to this. 49 'And now I am sending upon you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.' 50 Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and raising his hands he blessed them. 51 Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; 53 and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

b) A moment of silence:

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

2. MEDITATIO

a) Some questions:

- In the name of the Lord: In whose name do I live my daily life?
- To all nations. Am I capable of welcoming all or do I discriminate easily according to my point of view?
- Stay in the city. Do I have staying power in the most difficult situations or do I try, even before I understand their meaning, to eliminate them?
- My prayer. Do I praise the Lord for all he does in my life or do I ask things for myself?

b) A key to the reading:

These few lines speak of life, motion, journey, meeting… This is the aim of the so it is written and all the nations. Life is marked by witness. The apostles are those sent, they do not bring anything of their own but become life, motion, journey, meeting, a way that brings life wherever they go.

v. 46. «So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. What is written? Where? The only scripture we know is that of encounter. It seems that God cannot do without humankind, and so God goes seeking people wherever they are and will not give up until God embraces them. This is what is written: An eternal love, capable of enduring suffering, of drinking the chalice of pain to its dregs, so as to look once more upon the face of the beloved children. In the depths of non-life, Christ descends to take the hand of humankind to lead humankind back home. Three days! Three moments: passion, death, resurrection! This is what is written for Christ and for all those who belong to him. Passion: you surrender trustingly, and the other does with you whatever he wishes, he embraces you or ill-treats you, he welcomes you or rejects you… but you go on loving to the end. Death: a life that cannot be taken back… dies, is snuffed out… but not forever, because death has power over the flesh but the spirit that comes from God goes back to God. Resurrection: Everything makes sense in the light of Life. Love once given will not die but will always resurrect again.

v. 47. And in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Jesus’ word, spoken in time, does not come to an end. It needs those who proclaim it. The apostles go, sent in the holy name of God. They go to all nations. No longer to one chosen people, but to all who are now chosen. They go to put their arms around the shoulder of their brothers and sisters and to convert them, to turn them around towards them and to tell them: All is forgiven, you can live the divine life once more, Jesus died and rose again for you! Faith is not an invention. I come from Jerusalem, I saw him with my eyes, I experienced him in my life. I am telling you no more than my story, a story of salvation.

v. 48. You are witnesses to this. We know God from experience. To be witnesses means carrying the word that is Christ written in one’s skin, woven syllable by syllable. When one is touched by Christ, one becomes a bright lamp, even without one’s knowledge! And if one wanted to put out the flame, it would light up again, because the light comes not from the lamp but from the Spirit poured into the heart and beams eternal communion endlessly. 

 v. 49. And now I am sending upon you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with the power from on high». Jesus’ promises are always fulfilled. He goes away, but he does not leave his friends orphans. He knows that they need God’s constant presence. And God comes back to humankind. This time no longer in the flesh, but invisibly in the fire of an intangible love, in the ardour of a bond that will never be broken, the rainbow of the ratified covenant, the splendour of God’s smile, the Holy Spirit. Clothed in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, the apostles will not be afraid and can finally go!

v. 50. Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and raising his hands blessed them. The moment of separation is a solemn one. Bethany is the place of friendship. Jesus raises his hands and blesses his own. This is a salute and a gift. Goes does not draw away from his own, God simply leaves them to come back in different guise.

v. 51. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. Every separation brings sorrow with it. But in this case the blessing is a legacy of grace. The apostles live in such an intense communion with their Lord that they are not aware of a separation.

v. 52. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy. Great is the joy of the apostles, the joy of going through the streets of Jerusalem with a limitless treasure, the joy of belonging. Christ’s humanity goes to heaven, to open a gate that will never be shut again. The joy of the superabundance of life that Christ has now poured into their experience will never cease…

v. 53. And they were continually in the Temple praising God. To stay… is a very important verb for the Christian. To stay presupposes a special strength, the ability not to flee from situations but to live them out savouring them to their depths. To stay: an evangelical programme to be shared with all. Then praise flows out sincerely, because in staying God’s will is sipped like a healthy and intoxicating drink of bliss.

c) Reflection:

The witness of charity in the life of the church is without any doubt the clearest mirror for evangelisation. It is the instrument that loosens the soil so that when the seed of the Word falls it may bear abundant fruit. The good news cannot choose other ways to touch the hearts of people than that of mutual love, an experience that leads directly to the source: «This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you» (Jn 15:12). We find all this in the early Church: «This is the proof of love, that he laid down his life for us, and we too ought to lay down our live for our brothers» (1 Jn 3:16). The disciple who met and knew Jesus, the beloved disciple, knows that he cannot speak of him and not walk the ways he walked. «I am the way, the truth and the life» (Jn 14:6). What better words can express that the high road of every evangelisation is gratuitous love? Christ is the way of evangelisation. Christ is the truth to transmit in evangelising. Christ is evangelised life. And the love with which he loved us is evangelisation, a love given without conditions, that will not retreat but goes forward to the end, faithful to itself even at the price of death on a cross of malediction, to show the face of the Father as one of Love, a love that respects the freedom of human beings, even when this means rejection, contempt, aggression and death. «Christian charity has a great evangelising force. To the extent that it reveals itself as a sign and a window of God’s love, it opens the minds and hearts to the proclamation of the Word of truth. As Paul VI said, today’s people who look for authenticity and concreteness, value witnesses more than teachers, and generally will only allow themselves to be guided to discover the depth and the demands of God’s love if they have been touched by the tangible sign of charity». (CEI, Evangelisation and the witness of charity, in Enchiridion CEI, vol. 1-5, EDB, Bologna 1996 n. 24). Every pastoral endeavour that wants to show the deep relationship between faith and charity in the light of the Gospel, and that characteristic note of Christian love that is proximity and caring, has the duty of motivating and sustaining openness to others in service. (cfr Lk 10:34).

3. ORATIO

Psalm 22, 22-31

I shall proclaim your name to my brothers,
praise you in full assembly:
'You who fear Yahweh, praise him!
All the race of Jacob, honour 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 him,
all who go down to the dust will do reverence before him.
And those who are dead,
their descendants will serve him,
will proclaim his name to generations
still to come;
and these will tell of his saving justice to a people yet unborn:
he has fulfilled it.

4. CONTEMPLATIO

Lord, I know that evangelisation requires deep spirituality, authenticity and holiness of life on the part of witnesses, people of mature faith, able to mix well so as to make their personal experience of faith a meeting place and a place of growth in interpersonal contacts thus building deep relationships open to the Church, the world and history. As yet, I feel inadequate. In a context where images, words, proposals, projects and records follow each other swiftly and disorient, almost intoxicate thought and confuse feelings, bearing witness is a privileged word for a reflective pause, for a moment of rethinking. But am I one who is carried away by these images, words and projects?  Of one thing I am certain, and this comforts me. Even the most beautiful witness would in the long run be powerless were it not enlightened, justified, made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News, proclaimed by a living witness, sooner or later needs to be proclaimed by the word of life. I will justify my hope by proclaiming your name, your teaching, your life, your promises, your mystery as Jesus of Nazareth and Son of God. This seems to me to be the simplest way to arouse interest in knowing and meeting you, Master and Lord, who have chosen to live as son of man so as to show us the face of the Father.  Every pastoral endeavour today that finds itself chained by faith, will be able to ask you, God, that the gates of preaching be reopened to proclaim the mystery of Christ, the kind of preaching that as divine word works wonders in those who believe.

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a prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in You, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from You, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of Your mystery ! Pacify my soul! Make it Your heaven, Your beloved home and place of Your repose; let me never leave You there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to Your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for You a spouse of Your heart! I would anoint You with glory, I would love You – even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask You to adorn me with Yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of Your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute Yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of Your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to You, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from You; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on You and abide under Your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave Your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He renews His mystery; and You O Father, bestow Yourself and bend down to Your little creature, seeing in her only Your beloved Son in whom You are well pleased.

O my `Three’, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to You as a prey to be consumed; enclose Yourself in me that I may be absorbed in You so as to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your Splendour !

32nd Sunday  of Ordinary Time C

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The promise of a Consoler. The Holy Spirit,
teacher and living memory of the Word of Jesus
John 14, 15-16.23-26

1. Opening prayer

Most merciful Father, on this most holy day I cry to you from my room behind closed doors. I raise my prayer to you in fear and immobility in the face of death. Grant that Jesus may come to me and dwell at the centre of my heart that he may drive away all fear and all darkness. Grant me your peace, which is true peace, peace of heart. Grant that the Holy Spirit may come to me, the Spirit who is the fire of love, that warms and enlightens, that melts and purifies; who is living water, flowing even to eternal life, that quenches and cleans, that baptises and renews; who is the strong and at the same time soft wind, the breath of your voice and breath; who is dove announcing pardon, a new and lasting beginning for the whole world.
Send your Spirit upon me when I read and listen to your Word so that I may penetrate the mysteries it holds; grant that I may be overwhelmed and submerged, baptised and made into a new person, so that I may give my life to you and to my brothers and sisters. Amen, Alleluia

2. Reading

a) Placing the passage in its context:

These few verses, which are not even well connected, are a few drops of water taken from an ocean. In fact, they are part of that long and grandiose discourse in John’s Gospel, which begins with chapter 13:31 and goes up to and including the whole of chapter 17. The whole of this very deep discourse deals with only one theme, that is, the “going of Jesus”, which we find in 13:33: “Yet a little while I am with you… Where I go you cannot come” and in 16:28: “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father” and again in 17:13: “Now I am coming to you, [Father]”. Jesus’ going to the Father signifies also our going, our essential and faith journey in this world; it is here that we learn to follow Jesus, to listen to him, to live like him. It is here that we receive the complete revelation of Jesus in the mystery of the Trinity as well as the revelation concerning a Christian life, its power, its tasks, its joys and sorrows, its hopes and struggles. In reflecting on these words we find the truth of the Lord Jesus and of ourselves before Him and in Him.
These verses speak especially of three very strong consoling reasons for us: the promise of the coming of the Consoler; the coming of the Father and the Son within those who believe; the presence of a master, the Holy Spirit, through whom the teachings of Jesus will never cease.

b) To help us with the reading of the passage:

vv. 15-16: Jesus reveals that the observance of the commandments is not a matter of obligation, but a sweet fruit that is born of the love of the disciple for Him. This loving obedience is due to the all-powerful prayer of Jesus for us. The Lord promises another Consoler, sent by the Father, who will always remain with us in order to drive away our solitude once and for all.
vv. 23-24: Jesus repeats that love and observance of the commandments are two vital truths essentially related to each other, that have the power to introduce the disciple into the mystical life, that is, into the experience of immediate and personal communion with Jesus and with the Father.
v. 25: Jesus says something very important: there is a substantial difference between what he said while he was with the disciples and what he will say later, when, thanks to the Spirit, He will be in them, within them. At first, understanding is limited because the relationship with him is an external one: the Word comes from outside and reaches ears, but not pronounced within. Later, understanding will be full.
v. 26: Jesus announces the Holy Spirit as master who will teach no longer from outside but from within us. He will give new life to the Words of Jesus, those forgotten will be remembered and will be understood by the disciples within their capabilities.

c) The text:

John 14, 15-16.23-26 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever.
23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

3. A time of prayerful silence

I go to the Master’s school, the Holy Spirit. I sit at his feet and I abandon myself in his presence. I open my heart, without any fear, so that he may instruct, console, reprove and make me grow.

4. A few questions

a)If you love me”. Is my relationship with Jesus a relationship of love? Do I make room for him in my heart? Do I look within myself honestly and ask: “Where is love in my life, is there any?” If I realise that there is no love within me, or just a little, do I try to ask myself: “What is preventing me, what is it that keeps me closed, imprisoned, rendering me sad and lonely?”
b)You will observe my commandments”. I notice the verb “to observe” with the many meanings it implies: to look after well, to protect, to pay attention, to keep alive, to reserve and preserve, not to throw away, to keep carefully, with love. Am I aware and enlightened by these attitudes, by my relationship as disciple, as Christian, with the Word and the commandments that Jesus gave us for our happiness?
c)He will give you another Consoler”. How often have I not searched for someone to console me, to look after me, to show me affection and care for me! But, am I truly convinced that true consolation comes from the Lord? Or do I still trust much more in the consolations I find, the ones that I beg for here and there, that I gather like crumbs without ever being able to be satisfied?
d)Make our home with him”. The Lord stands at the door and knocks and waits. He does not force or oblige. He says: “If you wish…”. He suggests that I might become his home, the place of his repose, of his intimacy. Jesus is ready and happy to come to me, to unite himself to me in a very special kind of friendship. But, am I ready? Am I expecting his visit, his coming, his entering into my most intimate, most personal self? Is there room for him in the inn?
e)He will…bring to your remembrance all that I have said”. The word “remembrance” recalls another very important, even essential matter. Am I challenged and scrutinised by Scripture? What is it that I recall? What do I try to remember, to bring to life in my interior world? The Word of the Lord is a most precious treasure; it is the seed of life that is sown in my heart; but do I look after this seed? Do I defend it from a thousand enemies and dangers that assail it: the birds, the rocks, the thorns, the evil one? Do I, every morning, carry with me a Word of the Lord to remember during the day and to make my inner light, my strength, my food?

5. A key to the reading

I now approach each one of the characters in the reading and I listen prayerfully, meditatively, reflectively, in contemplation…

The face of the Father:

Jesus says: “I will ask the Father” (v. 26) and thus draws aside a little the mysterious veil surrounding prayer: prayer is the life that leads to the Father. To go to the Father, we are given the way of prayer. As Jesus lives his relationship with the Father by means of prayer, so also must we. I need to read the Gospels and become a careful searcher of signs concerning this secret of the love of Jesus and his Father, so that, by entering into that relationship, I too may grow in the knowledge of God, my Father

“He will give you another Consoler”. The Father is the one who gives us the Consoler. This gift is preceded by the Father’s act of love, who knows that we need consolation: He saw my misery in Egypt and heard my cry. He indeed knows my sufferings and sees the oppressions that torment me (cfr. Es 3: 7-9); nothing goes unnoticed by his infinite love for me. That is why He gives us the Consoler. The Father is the Giver. Everything comes to us from Him and no one else.

“My Father will love him” (v. 24). The Father is the Lover who loves with an eternal love, absolute, inviolable, uncancellable. Thus do Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the Prophets say (cfr. Jer 31:3; Is 43:4; 54: 8; Hos 2:21; 11:1).

“We will come to him”. The Father is united with the Son, Jesus, and is one with Him, and with Him comes to each one of us. He moves, goes out, bends and walks towards us. Urged by a mad and inexplicable love, He comes to us.

“And we will make our home with him”. The Father builds his house within us; he makes of us, of me, of my existence, of my whole being, his home. He comes and will not leave but faithfully stays.

The face of the Son:

“If you love me…” (v. 15); “If anyone loves me…” (v. 23). Jesus enters into a unique and personal relationship with me, face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul; he wants to have an intense relationship, unique, unrepeatable, and he unites me to Him by love if I so wish. He always puts an “if” and says when he asks me by name: “If you wish…”. The only way He constantly seeks to come to me is through love. In fact, it is noticeable that the use of the pronouns “you” and “anyone” are connected to “me” by the verb “to love” and no other verb.

“I will ask the Father” (v. 16). Jesus is the one who prays, who lives by prayer and for prayer. The whole of his life is summed up by prayer and in prayer. He is the supreme and eternal priest who intercedes for us and offers prayers and supplications together with tears (cfr. Heb 5: 7), for our salvation; “he is able at all times to save those who come to God through him, since he lives always to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (v. 23); “He who does not love me, does not keep my words” (v. 24). Jesus offers me his Word, he gives it to me in trust that I may look after it and guard it, that I may place it in my heart and there keep it warm, watch over it, contemplate it, listen to it and thus make it bear fruit. His word is a seed; it is the most precious pearl of all, for which it is worthwhile selling every other wealth; it is the treasure hidden in the field worth digging for without counting the cost; it is the fire that makes the heart burn within my breast; it is the lamp that illumines our steps even in the darkest night. Love for the Word of Jesus can be identified by my love for Jesus himself, for his whole being, because, after all, He is the Word. That is why, in this passage, Jesus is crying out to my heart that he is the one I must keep.

The face of the Holy Spirit:

“The Father will give you another Consoler” (v. 16). The Father gives us the Holy Spirit; this is “the good gift and every perfect gift from above” (Jm 1:17). He is “the other Consoler” other than Jesus, who goes and comes back so as not to leave us alone, abandoned. While I am in this world, I do not lack consolation, but am comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is not just consolation, but is much more: he is a living person and living beside me always. This presence, this company is capable of giving me joy, true joy. In fact Paul says: “The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace…” (Gal 5:22; cfr. also Rm 14:17).

“to be with you forever”. The Spirit is in our midst, he is with me, just as Jesus was with his disciples. His coming is a physical, personal presence; I do not see him, but I know that he is there and that he will never leave me. The spirit is always here and lives with me and in me, with no limitations of time or space; thus he is the Consoler.

“He will teach you all things” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, he who opens the way for conscience, experience; no one except him can lead me, inform me, give me new form. His is not a school where one acquires human knowledge that creates pride and does not liberate; his teachings, his whisperings, his precise directions come from God and lead back to God. The Spirit teaches true wisdom and true knowledge (Ps 118:66), he teaches the Father’s will (Ps 118:26.64), his ways (Ps 24:4), his commandments (Ps 118:124.135), which are life. He is a Teacher capable of leading me to the whole truth (Jn 16:13), who gives me deep freedom, even to the time of the separation of the soul and the spirit, for He alone, who is God, can bring me to life and resurrection. As God, he is humble, he lowers himself, descends from his throne and enters into me (cfr. Acts 1:8; 10:44), he gives himself to me entirely and absolutely; he is not jealous of his gift, of his light, but gives without limits.

6. A moment of prayer: Psalm 30

A hymn of praise to God,
who has sent us the new life of the Spirit from on high

Ref. You have given me the fullness of life, Lord, alleluia!

I will extol thee, O Lord,
for thou hast drawn me up,
and hast not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to thee for help,
and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. Rit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Rit.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never be moved."
By thy favour, O Lord,
thou hadst established me as a strong mountain;
thou didst hide thy face, I was dismayed.
To thee, O Lord,
I cried; and to the Lord I made supplication. Rit.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be thou my helper!"
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
that my soul may praise thee and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever. Rit.

7. Closing prayer

Holy Spirit, allow me to speak to you again. It is difficult for me to go away from my meeting with the Word because you are present there. Therefore, live and act in me. I present to you, to your intimacy, your Love, my face of disciple; I mirror myself in you, O Holy Spirit. I offer you, finger of God’s right hand, my features, my eyes, my lips, my ears… work in me your healing, your liberation and salvation that I may be reborn, today, a new person from the womb of your fire, the breath of your wind. Holy Spirit, I was not born to be alone. I beg you, therefore, send me brothers and sisters that I may proclaim to them the life that comes from you. Amen. Alleluia!

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10,17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, 'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.'
And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.' Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said, 'You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, 'My children,' he said to them, 'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God.'
They were more astonished than ever, saying to one another, 'In that case, who can be saved?' Jesus gazed at them and said, 'By human resources it is impossible, but not for God: because for God everything is possible.'

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today narrates two events: (a) it tells the story of a rich man who asks how to obtain eternal life (Mk 10, 17-22), and (b) Jesus warns on the danger of riches (Mk 10, 23-27). The rich man does not accept the proposal of Jesus, because he was very rich. A rich person is protected by the security which is given to him by his riches. He has difficulty to open his hand and detach himself from this security. He seizes strongly the advantage of his goods, lives concerned defending his own interests. A poor person is not accustomed to have this concern. But there may also be some poor people who have the mentality of the rich. And then, the desire for riches creates in them dependence and also makes them become slaves of consumerism. They have no time to dedicate themselves to the service of neighbour. Keeping these problems in mind, problems of persons, of countries, let us read and meditate on the text of the rich man.
• Mark 10, 17-19: The observance of the commandments and eternal life. A person came up to Jesus and asked: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Gospel of Matthew tells us that it was the case of a young man (Mt 19, 20.22). Jesus responds abruptly: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone!” Jesus takes away the attention from himself to direct it toward God, because what is important is to do God’s Will, to reveal the Father’s project. Then Jesus affirms: “You know the commandments: You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false witness. You shall not defraud. Honour your father and mother”. It is important to observe always the response of Jesus. The young man had asked something concerning eternal life. He wanted to live together with God. But Jesus does not mention the first three commandments which define our relationship with God! He mentioned only those which indicate respect for the life lived together with others. According to Jesus, we can only be well with God if we know how to be well with our neighbour. It serves nothing to deceive ourselves. The door to reach God is our neighbour.
• Mark 10, 20: What good is it to observe the commandments? The young man answered that he observed the commandments since his earliest days. What is strange is what follows. He wanted to know which was the way to eternal life. Now, the way of life was and continues to be: to do God’s will expressed in the commandments. It means that he observed the commandments without knowing for what purpose. Otherwise, he would not have asked any questions. This is what happens today to many Catholics: they do not know what it means to be a Catholic. “I was born in a Catholic country; this is why I am Catholic!” It is a habit!
• Mark 10, 21-22: To share the goods with the poor and to follow Jesus. Hearing the response of the young man, “Jesus looked at him and was full of love for him and said: You need to do one more thing: go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven, then come, follow me!” The observance of the commandments is only the first step of a stairway that goes higher. Jesus asks more! The observance of the commandments prepares the person for the total gift of self in behalf of neighbour. Jesus asks for very much but he asks it with much love. The rich young man does not accept the proposal of Jesus and goes away, because he was a man of great wealth”.
• Mark 10, 23-27: The camel and the eye of the needle. After the young man left, Jesus commented on his decision: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. Jesus repeats the same phrase and adds: “It is easier that a camel passes through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The expression “enter the kingdom” not only indicates and in first place entrance into heaven after death, but also and above all, the entrance into the community around Jesus. The community is and should be a model of the Kingdom. The reference to the impossibility for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle comes from a popular proverb of the time used by the people to say that a thing was humanly speaking, impossible and unfeasible. The disciples were astounded hearing the affirmation of Jesus and they ask themselves: “Then who can be saved?” This is a sign that they had not understood the response of Jesus to the young rich man: “Go, sell all you all you own and give the money to the poor and then come follow me”. The young man had observed the commandments since his earliest days, but without understanding the reason for this observance. Something similar was happening to the disciples. They had already abandoned all their goods as Jesus had asked the young rich man, but without understanding the reason, the why of this abandonment. If they had understood they would not have been astounded before the demands of Jesus. When riches or the desire for riches occupies the heart and the gaze, the person cannot perceive the sense of the Gospel. Only God can help! Jesus looks at the disciples and says: “Impossible for man but not for God. For God everything is possible.”

4) Personal questions

• A person who lives constantly concerned about her wealth or who lives always wanting to buy all the things about which the television makes propaganda, can she free herself from everything to follow Jesus and live in peace in a Christian community? Is it possible? What do you think? How do you do it and what do you do?
• Do you know somebody who has succeeded to abandon everything for the sake of the Kingdom? What does it mean for us today: “Go, sell all you own, and give the money to the poor”? How can we understand and practice today the counsels that Jesus gives to the young rich man?

5) Concluding Prayer

I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart,
in the meeting-place of honest people, in the assembly.
Great are the deeds of Yahweh,
to be pondered by all who delight in them. (Ps 111,1-2)

Carmelite Ratio

1. Called to communion with God

God "loved us first"1, and he called us to participate in the communion of the Trinity. We recognise his call in the experience of his love. Moved by the Spirit, we listen to the Word of Christ, who is the Way that leads to Life. In his footsteps, entrusting ourselves to God's merciful love, we set out on the journey to the summit of Mount Carmel, the place where we encounter God and are transformed in him.

As we journey towards Mount Carmel, God leads us to the desert, as he led the prophet Elijah. There, the living flame of God's love transforms us, stripping away all that is not of him and all that obscures his gift, allowing the new self in the image of Christ, to emerge and shine forth in us.

Thus our minds and our hearts are gradually transformed, so that, in the light of Christ and in dialogue with the signs of the times, we may become more capable of cooperating with God in the work of transforming the world so that his Kingdom may come.

2. A call to community and mission

We are not alone on this arduous ascent of Mount Carmel: Mary, our sister and pilgrim in the faith, walks with us and encourages us, as mother and teacher.

We journey with others who have received the same gift and the same call. Together we strive to build a community modelled on that of Jerusalem; a community centred entirely on the Word, the breaking of bread, prayer, the holding of all things in common, and service.

We journey within the Church, and with the Church we journey throughout the world. Like Elijah, we journey side by side with the men and women of our time, trying to help them discover God's presence in themselves; for the image of God is present in every human being, and must be allowed to emerge in complete freedom, even when it is darkened by inner contradictions or by injustices perpetrated by others.

We are invited to this journey by the Rule, which for us echoes and mirrors the Gospel, and which is the expression of the founding experience of the first Carmelites. From this founding experience we receive our passionate love for the world, for its challenges, its provocations and its contradictions.

The first Carmelites came from a Europe in transition, a Europe evolving through the tensions between war and peace, unity and fragmentation, expansion and crisis.  In the Holy Land, they met people of other cultures and religions; on returning to Europe, they chose to be witnesses to attentiveness to God, living a fraternal life among the people.

3.The world in which we live

For the first Carmelites, the world in which they were born and raised represented a challenge; in the same way, the world in which we live and work must be a challenge for us. It is a world rich in possibility and in opportunity, in a state of constant growth and evolution - but it is also a world full of contradictions.

Communication, facilitated by ever more sophisticated means, is both a promise and a challenge. The rapid development of science and technology makes life easier for many but oppresses others; rather than being respectful of the environment, it often exploits it mindlessly. Human rights have been solemnly affirmed many times, only to be violated again. It has been acknowledged that women's rights and functions are equal to those of men; yet many women are still victims of abuses. Some children are overindulged and spoiled, while others are abused and exploited to satisfy the greed of a few individuals lacking in any moral sense. Awareness of one's own rights increases sensitivity to the fundamental equality between individuals and between peoples; yet nationalistic and individualistic tensions continue to create reasons for new conflicts. Interaction among cultures, when it is not a source of conflict, becomes an incentive to dialogue, to mutual respect, to the search for new approaches to shared space. Economic and cultural globalisation can offer all of us opportunities for harmonious development; but it also raises serious questions concerning the destiny of the poorer nations. The growing thirst for spirituality contradicts the presumptions of secularism, but does not always succeed in expressing itself in an authentic life of faith: it can become an escape from the heavy burden of daily life into esoteric cults, pseudomystical movements, and sects. Faced with lack of meaning, lack of moral values and various theoretical and practical forms of atheism, contemporary men and women of faith are challenged to seek shared and coherent responses, beyond religious barriers. Alongside a sincere desire for interreligious dialogue, and concrete experiences of such dialogue, there are painful and even homicidal episodes of fundamentalism.

We are children of this world; we share in "the joy and hope, the grief and anguish" of our times.3 We belong to this world, we participate in its contradictions and we rejoice in its accomplishments.4 In this world we walk humbly, side by side with our brothers and sisters, attentively seeking to recognise, as Elijah did, the hidden signs of God's presence and of his work.

4. Unity in diversity

Carmelites receive and share a common charism to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, in a contemplative attitude which fashions and supports our life of prayer, fraternity and service.
It is by virtue of this charism that Carmelites in every place and time belong to the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

In its essential elements, the charism is one. Its universal application requires us to go beyond a limited, regional vision of the Order, in a constant effort to express and incarnate the charism concretely in various cultures, times and places.

There must be at all times an intimate link between the unity derived from identification with the essential aspects of the Carmelite charism and the pluralism derived from the different cultures, which enriches the charism's many expressions.

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10,28-31

Peter took this up. 'Look,' he said to Jesus, 'we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land -- and persecutions too -- now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.'

3) Reflection

• In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus spoke about the conversation among the disciples about material goods: to get away from things, to sell everything, to give it to the poor and to follow Jesus. Or rather, like Jesus, they should live in total gratuity, placing their own life in the hands of God, serving the brothers and sisters (Mk 10, 17-27). In today’s Gospel Jesus explains better how this life of gratuity and service of those who abandon everything for him, for Jesus and for the Gospel, should be (Mk 10, 28-31).
• Mark 10, 28-31: A hundred times as much, and persecutions too, now. Peter observes: “We have left everything and followed you”. It is like saying: “We have done what the Lord asked of the young rich man. We have abandoned everything and we have followed you. Explain to us how should our life be?” Peter wants Jesus to explain more the new way of living in the service and in gratuity. The response of Jesus is beautiful, profound and symbolical: “In truth there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land and, persecutions too, now in the present time and in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last and the last first”. The type of life which springs from the gift of everything is the example of the Kingdom which Jesus wants to establish (a) to extend the family and to create community; it increases a hundred times the number of brothers and sisters. (b) It produces the sharing of goods, because all will have a hundred times more houses and land. Divine Providence incarnates itself and passes through the fraternal organization, where everything belongs to everyone and there are no longer persons who are in need. They put into practice the Law of God which asks “that there be no poor among you” (Dt 15, 4-11). This was what the first Christians did (Ac 2, 42-45). It is the perfect living out of service and gratuity. (c) They should not expect any privilege in return, no security, no type of promotion. Rather, in this life they will have all this, but with persecutions. Because, in this world, organized on egoism and the interests of groups and persons, those who want to live a gratuitous love and the gift of self, they will be crucified as Jesus was. (d) They will be persecuted in this world, but in the future world they will have eternal life of which the rich young man spoke about.
Jesus is the choice of the poor. A two-fold slavery characterized the situation of the people of the time of Jesus: the slavery of the politics of Herod supported by the Roman Empire and maintained by a whole well organized system of exploitation and repression, and the slavery of the official religion, maintained by the religious authority of the time. This is why the clan, the family, the community, were being disintegrated and a great number of the people were excluded, marginalized, homeless, having no place neither in religion nor in society. This is why several movements arose which were seeking for a new way of living in community: the Esenes, the Pharisees and, later on, the Zelots. In the community of Jesus there was something new which made it different from other groups. It was the attitude toward the poor and the excluded. The communities of the Pharisees lived separated. The word “Pharisee” means “separated”. They lived separated from impure people. Many Pharisees considered people ignorant and cursed (Jn 7, 49), in sin (Jo 9, 34). Jesus and his community, on the contrary, lived together with excluded persons, considered impure: publicans, sinners, prostitutes, lepers (Mk 2, 16; 1, 41; Lk 7, 37). Jesus recognizes the richness and the values which the poor possess (Mt 11, 25-26; Lk 21, 1-4). He proclaims them blessed, because the Kingdom is theirs, it belongs to the poor (Lk 6, 20; Mt 5, 3). He defines his mission: “to proclaim the Good News to the poor” (Lk 4, 18). He himself lives as a poor person. He possesses nothing for himself, not even a rock where to lay his head (Lk 9, 58). And to those who want to follow him to share his life, he tells them to choose: God or money! (Mt 6, 24). He orders that they choose in favour of the poor! (Mk 10, 21). The poverty which characterized the life of Jesus and of the disciples, also characterized the mission. On the contrary of other missionaries (Mt 23,15), the disciples of Jesus could take nothing with them, neither gold, nor money, nor two tunics, nor purse, nor sandals (Mt 10, 9-10). They had to trust in the hospitality offered to them (Lk 9, 4; 10, 5-6). And if they would be accepted by the people, they should work like everybody else and live from what they would receive as wages for their work (Lk 10, 7-8). Besides they should take care of the sick and of those in need (Lk 10, 9; Mt 10, 8). Now they could tell the people: “The Kingdom of God is very near to you!” (Lk 10, 9).

4) Personal questions

• In your life, how do you practice Peter’s proposal: “We have left everything and have followed you”?
• Gratuitous sharing, service, acceptance to the excluded are signs of the Kingdom. How do I live this today?

5) Concluding Prayer

The whole wide world has seen
the saving power of our God.
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98,3-4)

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10,32-45

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him, 'Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the gentiles, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.' James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. 'Master,' they said to him, 'We want you to do us a favour.' He said to them, 'What is it you want me to do for you?' They said to him, 'Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.' But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I shall drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I shall be baptised?' They replied, 'We can.' Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I shall be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.'
When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that among the gentiles those they call their rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'

3) Reflection

• Today’s Gospel narrates the third announcement of the Passion and, once again, like in the previous times, it shows us the incoherence of the disciples (cfr. Mk 8, 31-33 and Mk 9, 30-37). Jesus insists on the service and on the gift of one’s own life, and they continue to discuss about the first places in the Kingdom, one at the right and the other on the left of the throne. Therefore, everything indicates, that the disciples continue to be blind. This is a sign that the dominating ideology of the time had profoundly penetrated their mentality. In spite of the fact of having lived several years with Jesus, they had not changed their way of seeing things. They saw Jesus now, as they had seen him at the beginning. They wanted to be rewarded for following Jesus.
• Mark 10, 32-34: The third announcement of the Passion. They were on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus walked in front of them. He was in a hurry. He knew that they would kill him. The Prophet Isaiah had announced it (Is 50, 4-6; 53, 1-10). His death was not the result of a blind destiny or of a pre-established plan, but the consequence of the commitment assumed of the mission which he received from the Father together with those excluded of his time. This is why Jesus warns his disciples concerning the torture and the death which he will suffer in Jerusalem. The disciple has to follow the Master, even if it is a question of suffering with him. The disciples were terrified, and those who were behind were afraid. They did not understand what was happening. Suffering was not in agreement with the idea that they had of the Messiah.
• Mark 10, 35-37: The petition for the first place. The disciples not only do not understand, but they continue with their own personal ambitions. James and John ask for a place in the glory of the Kingdom, one at the right and the other on the left of Jesus. They want to be even before Peter! They do not understand the proposal of Jesus. They are only concerned about their own personal interests. This shows clearly the tensions and the little understanding existing in the communities, at the time of Mark, and these exist even today in our communities. In the Gospel of Matthew it is the mother of James and John who addressed this request for her sons (Mt 20, 20). Probably, before the difficult situation of poverty and growing lack of work at that time, the mother intercedes for her sons and tries to guarantee an employment for them in the coming of the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke about so much.
• Mark 10, 38-40: The response of Jesus. Jesus reacts firmly: “You do not know what you are asking!” And he asks if they are able to drink the cup that he, Jesus, will drink and if they are ready to receive the baptism which he will receive. It is the cup of suffering, the baptism of blood! Jesus wants to know if they, instead of a place of honour, accept to give their life up to the point of death. Both answer: “We can!” It seems to be a spontaneous answer, not having thought about it, because a few days later, they abandoned Jesus and left him alone at the hour of suffering (Mk 14, 50). They do not have a critical conscience; they do not perceive their personal reality. As regards the place of honour in the Kingdom at the side of Jesus, this is granted by the Father. What he, Jesus, can offer, is the chalice and the baptism, suffering and the cross.
• Mark 10, 41-44: “Among you this is not to happen”. At the end of his instruction about the Cross, Jesus once again speaks about the exercise of power (Mk 9, 33-35). At that time, those who held power in the Roman Empire did not bother about the people. They acted only according to their own interests (Mk 6, 17-29). The Roman Empire controlled the world and maintained it submitted by the force of arms and, thus, through the tributes, the taxes, duties, succeeded in concentrating the wealth of the people in the hands of a few in Rome. The society was characterized by the repressive and abusive exercise of power. Jesus had another proposal. He said: “Among you this is not to happen! With you it is not like that; but anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all”. He teaches against privileges and against rivalry. He overturns the system and insists on service, as a remedy against personal ambition. The community has to present an alternative for human living together.
• Mark 10, 45: The summary of the life of Jesus: Jesus defines his mission and his life: “For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is the Messiah Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42, 1-9; 49, 1-6; 50, 4-9; 52, 13-53, 12). He learnt from his mother who said to the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord!” (Lk 1, 38). A totally new proposal for the society of that time. In this phrase in which he defines his life, three more ancient titles appear, used by the first Christians to express and to communicate to others what the following meant for them: Son of Man, Servant of Yahweh, He who redeems the excluded (the one who liberates, who saves). To humanize life, to serve the brothers and sisters, to welcome the excluded.

4) Personal questions

• James and John ask for the first places in the Kingdom. Today, many persons pray to ask for some money, promotion, healing, and success. What do I seek in my relationship with God and what do I ask God for in my prayer?
• To humanize life, to serve the brothers and sisters. To welcome and accept the excluded. This is the program of Jesus, it is our program. How do I put it into practice?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh has made known his saving power,
revealed his saving justice for the nations to see,
mindful of his faithful love
and his constancy to the House of Israel. (Ps 98,2-3)

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10,46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, 'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.' And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.' So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.' And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today describes the cure of the blind man Bartimaeus (Mk 10, 46-52) which closes the long teaching of Jesus about the Cross. At the beginning of this teaching, there was the cure of an anonymous blind man (Mk 8, 22-26). Both cures of blind persons are the symbol of what happened between Jesus and the disciples.
• Mark 10, 46-47: The shouting of the blind man Bartimaeus. Finally, after travelling a long distance, Jesus and the disciples reached Jericho, the last stop before going up toward Jerusalem. Bartimaeus, the blind man was sitting at the side of the road. He could not take part in the procession which accompanies Jesus. But he calls out, asking for the help of Jesus: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Throughout the centuries, through the practice of the monks of the desert, this invocation of the poor Bartimaeus became what is usually called: “The prayer of Jesus”. The monks repeated it orally, all the time, and from the mouth it went to the heart. The person, after a short time, no longer prays, in the sense that the person becomes prayer.
• Mark 10, 48-51: Jesus listens to the cry of the blind man. The cry of the poor man bothers people. Those who are in the procession try to stop the poor man from shouting, but “he shouted even louder!” And what does Jesus do? He listens to the call of the poor man, he stops and said: Call him here! Those who wanted to keep him from shouting, to stop the disturbing shout of the poor man, now, at the request of Jesus, are obliged to bring the poor man to Jesus. “Courage, get up because Jesus is calling you”. Bartimaeus leaves everything and directs himself to Jesus. He does not have too much. Only a mantle; what he had to cover his body (cfr. Ex 22, 25-26). This was his security, the only thing he possessed. Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” It is not enough to shout. It is necessary to know why we shout! “Rabbuni, My Lord, let me see again!” Bartimaeus had called Jesus not with thoughts completely just, because the title “Son of David” was not particularly appropriate. Jesus himself had criticized this (Mk 12, 35-37). But Bartimaeus had greater faith in Jesus than what he could express with his ideas about Jesus. He does not express any demands as Peter did. He knows how to give his life without imposing any conditions, and the miracle takes place.
• Mark 10, 52: “Your faith has saved you”. Jesus tells him: “Go, your faith has saved you.” In that same instant Bartimaeus began to see again and he followed Jesus along the road. His cure is the result of his faith in Jesus. Once cured, he abandons everything, follows Jesus along the road and goes up with him toward Calvary to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus becomes a model disciple for all of us who want to “follow Jesus along the road” in the direction of Jerusalem. In this decision of walking with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of the victory on the Cross. Because the cross is not fatal, nor an exigency from God. It is the consequence of the commitment assumed with God, to serve the brothers and sisters and to reject privileges.
Faith is a force which transforms persons. The cure of the blind man Bartimaeus clarifies a very important aspect of how faith in Jesus should be. Peter had said to Jesus: “You are the Christ!” (Mk 8, 29). His doctrine was right, exact, because Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. But when Jesus says that the Messiah has to suffer, Peter reacts and does not accept. Peter had a right doctrine, but his faith in Jesus was not so just. Bartimaeus, on the contrary, had called Jesus with the title of “Son of David!” (Mk 10, 47. Jesus was not too pleased with this title (Mk 12, 35-37). And this is why, even invoking Jesus with a doctrine which is not correct, Bartimaeus had faith and was cured! It was different from that of Peter (Mk 8, 32-33), he believed more in Jesus than in the ideas that he had of Jesus. He was converted and followed Jesus along the road toward Calvary (Mk 10, 52). The total understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained through a theoretical teaching, but with practical commitment, walking with him along the road of service and of gratuity, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Anyone who insists in maintaining the idea of Peter, that is, a glorious Messiah without the Cross, will understand nothing of Jesus and will never be able to attain the attitude of a true disciple. Anyone who believes in Jesus and “gives” himself (Mk 8, 35), accepts “to be the last one” (Mk 9, 35), to “drink the cup and to carry the cross” Mc 10, 38), this person, like Bartimaeus, even having a not too correct idea, will succeed to perceive and “to follow Jesus along the road” (Mk 10, 52). In this certainty of walking with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of the victory on the cross.

4) Personal questions

• An indiscreet question: “In my way of living faith, am I like Peter or like Bartimaeus?
• Today, in the Church, is the majority of the people like Peter or like Bartimaeus?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is good,
his faithful love is everlasting,
his constancy from age to age. (Ps 100,5)

1) Opening prayer



Holy God,

we often turn our hearts

into houses of pride and greed

rather than into homes of love and goodness

where you can feel at home.

Destroy the temple of sin in us,

drive out all evil from our hearts

and make us living stones of a community

in which can live and reign

your Son Jesus Christ,

our living Lord for ever and ever.



2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 11:25-30



At that time Jesus exclaimed, 'I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.

Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

'Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.'



3) Reflection



• Today we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the Gospel we will listen to the invitation of Jesus: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart”. The Gospel shows the tenderness with which Jesus welcomes, accepts the little ones. He wanted the poor to find rest and peace in him.

• The context of chapters 11 and 12 of Matthew. In this context is stressed and made evident the fact that the poor are the only ones to understand and to accept the wisdom of the Kingdom. Many people did not understand this preference of Jesus for the poor and the excluded.

a) John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, had doubts (Mt 11, 1-15)

b) The people, who looked at Jesus with a purpose of their own interests, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19).

c) The great cities around the lake, which listened to Jesus’ preaching and saw the miracles, did not want to open themselves to his message (Mt 11, 20-24).

d) The wise and the Doctors, who judged everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25).

e) Not even his relatives understood him (Mt 12, 46-50).

f) Only the little ones understood him and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).

g) The others want sacrifice, but Jesus wants mercy (Mt 12, 1-8).

h) The reaction against Jesus impels the Pharisees to want to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).

i) They said that Jesus was Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-32).

j) But Jesus did not draw back. He continues to assume the mission of Servant, as described in the prophecies (Mt 12, 15-21). This is why he was persecuted and condemned to death.

• Matthew 11, 25-26: Only the little ones understand and accept the Good News of the Kingdom. Jesus addresses a prayer to the Father: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do!” The wise, the doctors of that time, had created a series of laws which they imposed upon the people in the name of God. They thought that God demanded this observance from the people. But the Law of love, brought by Jesus, said the contrary. What is important is not what we do for God, but rather what God, in his great love, does for us! People understood the words of Jesus and were filled with joy. The wise thought that Jesus was not right. They could not understand this teaching which modified the relationship of the people of God.

• Matthew 11, 27: The origin of the New Law: The Son knows the Father. Jesus, the Son, knows the Father. He knows what the Father wanted when, centuries before, he gave the Law to Moses. What the Father wants to tell us, he handed it to Jesus, and Jesus revealed it to the little ones, because they opened themselves to his message. Today, also, Jesus continues to teach many things to the poor and to the little ones. The wise and the intelligent do well if they become pupils of the little ones!

• Matthew 11, 28-30: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”. Jesus invites all those who are tired to find rest in him. These are the people who are tired under the weight of the impositions and the observances which the law of purity demanded. And he says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”. Many times this phrase has been manipulated to ask people to submit themselves, to be passive. What Jesus wants to say is the contrary. He asks people to leave aside the professors of religion of that time, to rest and to begin to learn from him, from Jesus, who is “gentle and humble of heart”. Jesus does not do like the Scribes who pride themselves of their own science, but he is like the people who live humiliated and exploited. Jesus, the new teacher, knows from experience what happens in the heart of the people and how much the people suffer.

• The invitation of divine wisdom to all those who seek it. Jesus invites all those who are oppressed under the weight of the observance of the law to find rest in him, because he is gentle and humble of heart, capable of relieving and consoling the people who suffer, who feel tired and depressed (Mt 11, 25-30). In this invitation resound the beautiful words of Isaiah who consoled the people who lived in exile (Is 55, 1-3). This invitation is bound to divine wisdom, which invites persons to the encounter with her (Ws 24, 19), saying: “her ways are filled with delight; her paths all lead to contentment” (Pr 3, 17). And he adds: “Wisdom brings up her own children and cares for those who seek her. Whoever loves her, loves life, those who seek her early will be filled with joy” (Si 4, 11-12). This invitation reveals a very important characteristic of the feminine face of God: tenderness and acceptance which consoles, which gives life to persons and leads them to feel well. Jesus is defence, the protection and the maternal womb which the Father offers to people who are tired (cfr. Is 66, 10-13).



4) Personal questions



• What produces tension in you and what gives you peace? For you, to live in community, is it a source of tension or of peace?

• How can these words of Jesus help our community to be a place of rest for our life?



5) Concluding Prayer



Yahweh is tenderness and pity,

slow to anger and rich in faithful love;

his indignation does not last for ever,

nor his resentment remain for all time. (Ps 103,8-9)


Lectio Divina:
2019-04-29

PRAYER
The consciousness of our guilt saddens us, O Lord, and makes us feel unworthy to serve you, we recognize that we need your salvation and forgiveness of your Father. Once again, send your messenger, because it prepares the way of your Son in front of us: we want to follow it faithfully, leaving us immersed in the baptism of Thy mercy. Give us your joy and save us with the coming of the Redeemer, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

READING

When the messengers of John the Baptist had left,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John.
“What did you go out to the desert to see B a reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine garments?
Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously
are found in royal palaces.
Then what did you go out to see?
A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom Scripture says:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
he will prepare your way before you.

I tell you,
among those born of women, no one is greater than John;
yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(All the people who listened, including the tax collectors,
who were baptized with the baptism of John,
acknowledged the righteousness of God;
but the Pharisees and scholars of the law,
who were not baptized by him,
rejected the plan of God for themselves.)


MEDITATION
We are about to enter the holy days of the Novena of Christmas and the Church invites us today, through the Liturgy of the Word, and make our choice clear, definite and strong: to accept the proposal of John the Baptist, and then we get him in the Way had come to prepare, put it on the side of a sinner and therefore in need of conversion, or the side of those who consider themselves already in possession of salvation and does not need anything.
This passage of Luke helps us to enter into a dialogue and a strong personal confrontation with Jesus, because He, with his questions and his statements, has put before us in the eyes of the heart the spiritual Path, the road that we may have already come and what still lies ahead.

* The first thing to emphasize is the threefold repetition of the question of Jesus to the crowds: "What did you go see?". It 'important, because here the text, if translated literally, says: "What you came to see?" Using this word, the Lord puts in a positive light, highlights a spiritual commitment, a process already begun.
* But at the same time, wants to help us better aware of what happened inside of us, wants to dispel our darkness, he wants to push us toward decisions more authentic and vital. And, as he always did with his disciples, still for us, he breaks the bread of the Word, reveals the meaning of Scripture, to borrow a verse from the prophecy of Malachi, Jesus gives us the real key to the figure John the Baptist. He is the messenger, the messenger of God, which opens and prepares the way for the coming of the Messiah. John is the divide between the Old and New Testaments is the bridge that leads to the true Promised Land, Jesus is the gateway to the Kingdom of God
* But, as Jesus says in the last few verses, it remains a movement of conversion. After being released, after having seen, we must listen and be baptized (v. 29). That is, you have to accept in ourselves to make a path of openness, sincere willingness to the voice of God in all this, without fear, without holding anything, we should immerse ourselves with confidence, just as in baptism. Get off the waters of mercy, and lets you fully accept, in the arms of the Father.
* The song ends with a reference to God's plan, namely for his willingness to love us, his plan of salvation. God desires, wants, desires lead us to Him for salvation and happiness full, but by our response should be a freedom, that of love. And once again, Luke presents us with a clear choice, expressed by two verbs: "recognized right" and "made room". The choice is ours.


SOME QUESTIONS

* I consider myself among those who came out and saw? I really made this spiritual movement, which led me, at least a little, 'for God, the mystery of his will in my life and the brethren, at situations, even the most tiresome or annoying?
And my eyes were really opened to see, or even to contemplate, being able to go a bit 'over the surface of things, beyond the appearances of people and things?
And I think if it had not yet taken these steps, now, as he was opening up before me such a strong year period of preparation for the Christmas, I want to make this commitment, I want to go out and see God in my life?
* John I is presented in this piece, like a prophet, a messenger, one who prepares the way for. I think this reality, I will open myself to the force to announce the Word of God, I really start listening to the message that God wants to offer to my life, my person? If there is a road mapped out for me, I decided to take it?
* And finally, the most important step. I choose, I too, need to recognize the embrace of the Father? I threw good in the waters of his love to receive a new baptism? I still afraid to let me wet, of being enveloped by him, by his presence, his breath in my life? I want today to begin a new life? And I put a sign to say that my choice is true? Perhaps the confession, Mass attendance in a more diligent?
Yes, I really want to go down in the waters of mercy and totally immerse myself in them, without resistance, without wanting to escape. Amen.


FINAL PRAYER
Only you, my Lord is good.

Protect me, O God, in you I take refuge.
I told the Lord: "My Lord you, only you is my right."
Idols of the country, was all powerful gods my favor.
Multiply their sorrows who run behind a foreign god.
I do not pour out their libations of blood,
nor with my lips utter their names.

The Lord is my portion and my cup in your hands is my life.
For me the lot fell on delightful places: my heritage is beautiful.
Bless the Lord who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me, at my right hand, I stand firm.
For this rejoices my heart and my soul rejoices.

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God, loving Father,
Mary went with haste to visit
her cousin Elizabeth in her hour of need.
May we too rejoice in the Lord
when we can hurry to see people
to bring them the Lord
as we to share in their needs and their joys.
With Mary, may we become
a blessing to them.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - Luke 1,39-56

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth.
Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, 'Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.'
And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name,
and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him.
He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love
-according to the promise he made to our ancestors -- of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
Mary stayed with her some three months and then went home.

3) Reflection

• Today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin, and the Gospel narrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. When Luke speaks of Mary, he thinks of the communities of his time which lived dispersed in the cities of the Roman Empire and offers to them, Mary as a model of how they should relate to the Word of God. Once, hearing Jesus speak about God, a woman in the crowd exclaimed: “Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you”, praising the mother of Jesus. Immediately Jesus answered: “More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11, 27-28). Mary is the model of the faithful community which knows how to live and practice the Word of God. In describing the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, he teaches how the communities should act in order to transform the visit of God into service of the brother and sisters.
• The episode of the visit of Mary to Elizabeth also shows another typical aspect of Luke. All the words and the attitudes, especially the Canticle of Mary, form a great celebration of praise. It seems to be a description of a solemn Liturgy. Thus, Luke evokes the liturgical and celebrative environment, in which Jesus was formed and in which the communities should live their own faith.
• Luke 1, 39-40: Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Luke stresses the haste with which Mary responds to the demands of the Word of God. The Angel spoke to her about the pregnancy of Elizabeth and Mary, immediately, rises in order to verify what the Angel had announced, she goes out of the house to help a person in need. From Nazareth to the mountain of Judah there are about 100 kilometres! There were no buses or trains!
• Luke 1, 41-44: The greeting of Elizabeth. Elizabeth represents the Old Testament which ends. Mary, the New One which is beginning. The Old Testament welcomes, accepts the New One with gratitude and trust, recognizing in it the gratuitous gift of God which comes to realize and to complete whatever expectation people had. In the encounter of the two women, is manifested the gift of the Spirit which makes the child jump with joy in Elizabeth’s womb. The Good News of God reveals his presence in one of the most common things of human life: two housewives who exchange the visit to help one another. A visit, joy, pregnancy, children, reciprocal help, house, family: Luke wants to make the communities (and all of us) understand and discover the presence of the Kingdom. The words of Elizabeth, up until now, form part of the best known and most recited Psalm in the world, which is the Hail Mary.
• Luke 1, 45: The praise which Elizabeth makes of Mary. “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made by the Lord would be fulfilled”. This is Luke’s advice to the communities: to believe in the Word of God, because it has the force to realize what it says. It is a creative Word. It generates a new life in the womb of a virgin, in the womb of the poor and abandoned people who accept it with faith.
• Luke 1, 46-56: The canticle of Mary. Most probably, this canticle was already known and sung in the Communities. It teaches how it should be prayed and sung. Luke 1, 46-56: Mary begins proclaiming the change which has come about in her life under the loving look of God, full of mercy. This is why she sings joyfully: “My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour”. Luke 1, 51-53: she sings the fidelity of God toward his people and proclaims the change which the arm of Yahweh is bringing about in behalf of the poor and the hungry. The expression “arm of God” recalls the liberation of the Exodus. It is this saving force of God which gives life to the change: he has routed the arrogant of heart (1, 51), he has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly (1, 52), he has sent the rich away empty, and has filled the starving with good things (1, 53). Luke 1, 54-55: at the end, she recalls that all that is the expression of God’s mercy toward his people and an expression of his fidelity to the promises made to Abraham. The Good News is not a response to the observance of the Law, but the expression of the goodness and the fidelity of God to the promises made. That is what Paul taught in the letters to the Galatians and to the Romans.
The second Book of Samuel tells the story of the Ark of the Covenant. David wants to put in his own house, but he is frightened and says: “How can the Ark of Yahweh come to be with me?” (2 S 6, 9). Then David ordered that the Ark be placed in the house of Obed-Edom. And the Ark of Yahweh remained three months in the house of Obed-Edom, and the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and his whole family” (2 S 6, 11). Mary, waiting for Jesus, is like the Ark of the Covenant which, in the Old Testament, visited the houses of the persons granting benefits. She goes to Elizabeth’s house and remained there three months. And while she is in Elizabeth’s house, the whole family is blessed by God. The community should be like the New Ark of the Covenant. Visiting the house of the persons, it should take benefits and the grace of God to the people.

4) Personal questions

• What prevents us from discovering and living the joy of God’s presence in our life?
• Where and how does the joy of the presence of God take place today in my life and in that of the community?

5) Concluding Prayer

Bless Yahweh, my soul, from the depths of my being,
his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all his acts of kindness. (Ps 103,1-2)

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Father,
Your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12:1-12

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture passage: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?" They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.

3) Reflection

• Jesus is in Jerusalem. It is the last week of His life. He has returned to the portico of the Temple (Mk 11:27) where He now begins the direct confrontation with the authorities. Chapters 11 and 12 describe the diverse aspects of this confrontation: (a) with the men buying and selling in the Temple (Mk 12:11-26), (b) with the priests, elders and the scribes (Mk 11:27 and 12:12), (c) with the Pharisees and the Herodians (Mk 12:13-17), (d) with the Sadducees (Mk 12:18-27), and (e) once again with the scribes (Mk 12:28-40). Finally at the end the confrontation with all of them, Jesus comments on the widow’s mite (Mk 12:41-44). Today’s Gospel describes part of the conflict with the priests, elders and the scribes (Mk 12:1-12). All of these confrontations make the disciples, and us, understand more clearly what is Jesus’ plan and what is the intention of those who have power.
• Mark 12:1-9: The parable of the vineyard: the direct response of Jesus to men of power. The parable of the vineyard is a summary of the history of Israel. A beautiful summary taken from the prophet Isaiah (Is 5:1-7). Through this story, Jesus gives an indirect response to the priests, scribes and elders who had asked Him, “What authority have You for acting like this? Who gave You authority to act like this?" (Mk 11:28). In this parable Jesus (a) reveals the origin of His authority: He is the Son, the heir (Mk 12:6); (b) He denounces the abuse of the authority of the tenants, that is, of the priests and of the elders who were not concerned about the people of God (Mk 12:3-8); (c) He defends the authority of the prophets, sent by God, but massacred by the tenants of the vineyard! (Mk 12:2-5); (d) He unmasks the authority which manipulates religion and kills the son because they do not want to lose the source of income which they have succeeded in accumulating for themselves throughout the centuries (Mk 12:7).
• Mark 12:10-12: The decision of men of power confirms the denunciation made by God. The priests, the scribes and the elders understood very well the meaning of the parable, but they were not converted. Rather, they maintained their own plan to arrest Jesus (Mk 12:12). They rejected “the cornerstone” (Mk 12:10), but they do not have the courage to do it openly, because they fear the people. Thus, the disciples know what awaits them if they follow Jesus!
• The men of power at the time of Jesus: In chapters 11 and 12 of the Gospel of Mark we see those in power: priests, elders and scribes (Mk 11:27); Pharisees and Herodians (Mk 12:13); and Sadducees (Mk 12:18).
-Priests: They were the ones in charge of the worship in the Temple, where one tenth of the income was collected. The High priest occupied a central place in the life of the people, especially after the exile. He was chosen among the families who had more power and who were richer.
-Elders or Chiefs of the people: They were the local chiefs, in the villages and in the cities. Their origin was the heads of the ancient tribes.
-scribes or Doctors of the Law: they were those in charge of teaching. They dedicated their life to the study of the Law of God and taught the people how to observe the Law of God in all things. Not all the scribes followed the same line. Some of them were with the Pharisees, others with the Sadducees.
- Pharisees: Pharisee means “separated.” They fought in order that by means of the perfect observance of the Law of purity, people would succeed in becoming pure, separated, and holy as the Law and Tradition demanded! By means of the exemplary witness of their life within the norms of the time, they governed in almost all the villages of Galilee.
-Herodians: this was a group bound to Herod Antipas of Galilee who governed from 4 BC until 39 AD. The Herodians formed part of an elite class who did not expect the Kingdom of God in the future, but who considered it already present in Herod’s kingdom.
- Sadducees: They were an elite class, willing to incorporate Hellenism into their lives. They did not believe in oral law, only a literal interpretation of the written law, and thus, they did not accept the changes defended by the Pharisees, for example, faith in a resurrection and the existence of angels.
- Sanhedrin: This was the Supreme Tribunal of the Jews with 71 members among high priests, elders, Pharisees and scribes. It had the role of great power before the people and represented the nation before the Roman authority.

4) Personal questions

• What is your reaction to Church authority? What is the difference between “just authority” and “unjust authority”?
• How do you exercise authority within your community, your family, and among peers?

• A position of authority is often at odds with humility. How do you, or would you, balance authority and humility in action?

5) Concluding Prayer

Integrity and generosity are marks of Yahweh
for He brings sinners back to the path.
Judiciously He guides the humble,
instructing the poor in His way. (Ps 25:8-9)



Ordinary Time 



1) Opening prayer



Lord our God,

when Your Son was transfigured

You gave eyes of faith to the apostles

to see beyond appearances

and to recognize Jesus as Your beloved Son.

This vision gave them courage for the hour of trial.

When our faith and trust

seem to desert us in dark moments,

let Your Son take us up to the mountain

and give us a glimpse of His light,

that with fresh courage and generosity

we may see where He wants us to go.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.   Amen. 



2) Gospel Reading - Mark 9:2-13



Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” 



3) Reflection



• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked together: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question regarding the return of the prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the prophet Elijah. Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has already returned and is present in our life. Some times, like a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.

• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8:27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the minds of the disciples, especially Peter’s (Mk 8:31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of the government and the religion of the time (Mk 8:15). The cross was an obstacle to belief in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the cross.

• In the year 70 when Mark was writing, the cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said, “The cross is a scandal!” (1 Cor 1:23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping people perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1Cor 1:22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies, and the cross was a way toward glory.

• Mark 9:2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that He goes up to pray (Lk 9:28). Up there, Jesus appears in glory before Peter, James and John. Together with Him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested His will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the mountain and received the law (cf. Ex 43:29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the law, Elijah, prophecy. Luke mentions the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the law as well as prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the cross!

• Mark 9:5-6: Peter is pleased, but he does not understand. Peter  wants to keep this pleasant moment on the mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9:32). They were like us: they had difficulty  understanding the cross!

• Mark 9:7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by glory, a voice came from the cloud and said, “This is My Beloved Son! Listen to Him!” The expression “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isa 42:1). The expression: “Listen to Him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Deut 18:15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the servant (Isa 53:3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understanding all of the Old Testament.

• Mark 9:9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross, which links suffering to the resurrection. The cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.

• Mark 9:11-13: The return of the prophet Elijah. The prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Mal 3:23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Sir 48:10). But how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come before?” (Mk 9:11). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him” (9:13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist, who was killed by Herod (Mt 17:13). 



4) Personal questions



• Has your faith in Jesus given you moments of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?

• How can we transfigure today our personal and family life as well as our community life? 



5) Concluding Prayer



All goes well for one who lends generously,

who is honest in all his dealing;

for all time to come he will not stumble,

for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112:5-6)




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by Christopher O’Donnell, O.Carm.

Wonder

There is a special revelation of God’s majesty in the helplessness of a child. It is a revelation of love, the same love that would leave Jesus no less helpless on the Cross. It is in part the depth of God’s love, shown in his costly involvement with humanity that is a new and radiant vision of his glory. The verb used in the preface ‘caught up’, is not precise, nor should it be. Christmas is not a matter of cold reassuring but most profoundly a matter of wonder, amazement and awe.

Mystery

It is of course the crib that will help us to appreciate the mystery. But there are several ways of approaching a crib. In Rome there is the custom of visiting the cribs in the various churches; there we find exuberance of imagination, a variety of ways of presenting the scene, often with dozens of figures and buildings which allow us to recapture the miracle that is taking place in the very ordinariness of daily life in Palestine, even if it is a Bethlehem often with strong Italian colouring. But any crib, even the simplest, can speak to us. ‘Speak’ is somehow the right word. A crib is silent, nothing moves. But even as we allow ourselves to be drawn into its silence, it speaks to our hearts. It takes time for a crib to address us. We need to stay before it, not saying prayers, but allowing the sense of wonder and astonishment to take us over. To be ‘caught up in the love of the God we cannot see’ is to allow the crib to speak to our hearts rather than to our heads, its very stillness having a resonant eloquence.

Message

Clearly the crib speaks to us of that peace which the world cannot give, and which is at the heart of the Christmas message. The very stillness of the crib breaths a peace that can still the anxieties and cares of our hearts, and draw us upwards towards a vision of ourselves enveloped by the love of the God who came to us as a baby. Human wisdom, personal ambitions, the selfish grasping of people and things, are humbled and healed in the silence of the crib. In the presence of this new revelation of God’s glory we can only remain in silence to allow his peace some greater entry into our lives, that peace which in the end is the only thing that will ever satisfy our restless hearts.

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