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Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina (465)

"Lectio divina is an authentic source of Christian spirituality recommended by our Rule. We therefore practice it every day, so that we may develop a deep and genuine love for it, and so that we may grow in the surpassing knowledge of Christ. In this way we shall put into practice the Apostle Paul’s commandment, which is mentioned in our Rule: “Let the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, live abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts; and whatever you must do, do it in the name of the Lord.”

 Carmelite Constitutions (No. 82)

Friday, 01 December 2017 11:08

Lectio Divina: Mark 1,7-11

Written by

Christmas Time

1. Opening prayer

Holy Spirit, You who breathed on the waters of creation and guided the steps of Moses in the desert, come today upon us and immerse us in You, so that our every step and thought may be directed towards Christ as we listen to His Word. 
Dwell within us, Spirit of the Father, and guide us to the truth of ourselves and to the knowledge of the Son of God who redeems us and makes us one with Him, so that the Father may be well pleased with us too. Amen.

A key to the reading: 
It is possible that Christ, in His human journey, grew in the knowledge of His identity and the task in human history entrusted to Him by the Father. 
The baptism in the Jordan marks this growing in awareness and launches Jesus beyond the borders of His land, Galilee, into a universal mission and into a dimension where He shares the human condition. It is God himself who "descends" to be by the side of human beings, even though aware of their weaknesses, to allow them to "climb" to the Father and give them access to communion with Him. The "pleasure" of the Father that Jesus hears in the Spirit will go with Him always on His earthly journey, making Him constantly aware of the joyful love of Him who sent Him into the world.

2. The Gospel (Mk 1:7-11)

The text: 
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

3. A time of silence

interior, as well as exterior, to open our hearts and allow space for the Word of God to enter into us.

4. The Word given to us:

* The baptism: purification rites by means of bathing or ablutions were quite common as a daily practice among the Jews at the time of Jesus (cf Mk 7:1-4), as well as among the Essenes of Qumran. 
The word baptism indicates a bath, a complete immersion in water, and comes from the verb baptizo, rarely used in the Greek Old Testament: to immerse or submerge , producing a permanent change. We find this in 2Kings 5:14: the healing of Naaman, which comes about by means of a series of baths in the Jordan at the command of Elisha. It is from this event that the positive use of the word comes in later times.

* The baptism of John: is characteristic of this practice (so much so that it becomes known by his name) (cf Mk 1:4). John works in an unnamed place along the Jordan and baptizes in the flowing water of the river, not in specified places and in waters prepared for the rite. The conversion and penance demanded by him (Mk 1:4) are more on the moral than on the ritual level (cf Lk 3:8) and the rite, which signified such an existential change (bath and confession of sins), took place only once in a lifetime. Moreover, John clearly says that his baptism is only the preparation for a more radical purifying event, directly connected with the final judgment of God: "baptism in the spirit" and "in fire" (cf Mk 1:7-8, Mt 1:2-3). 
The people of Judea and Jerusalem greatly welcomed John’s preaching, so much so that large crowds went to him to be baptized (Mk 1:5) as Joseph Flavius also narrates.

* Jesus and John at the Jordan: John knows quite well that he is not the Messiah and is inferior to him, yet he is called to prepare for His now imminent coming (Mk 1:7-8). All the Gospels speak of this awareness, emphasized by the use of the verb in the past for his baptism and in the future for the baptism of the Messiah. This reflects the care that the first Christian communities took to show that Christian baptism was superior to John’s baptism, as also Jesus, the Christ, was superior to John the Baptist (cf Mk 3:14; Jn 1:26-34).

* Baptism in the Spirit: it is the eschatological baptism promised by the prophets (cf Joel 3:1-5), connected with the fire of the judgment or under the form of sprinkling (cf Ez 36:25). Jesus receives this baptism soon after and His baptism will be the source and model of the baptism of the Christians. Thus the Christian community is founded on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

* Jesus came from Nazareth: Jesus stands out among the great crowd of Jewish penitents (cf Mk1:5) because He comes from an area where only echoes of the penitential preaching of the Baptist had reached in Galilee (Mk 1:9). For Mark this is an important place: Jesus begins His activities there and is well received. After Easter, it is there that the disciples meet Him (16:7) and understand Him fully and it is from there that they will leave for their mission (16:20). In the light of what Mark says immediately after the voice from heaven, Jesus is not only "stronger" than John, but has a nature far superior to that of John. And yet He went down among those who admitted being sinners, without being afraid of suffering any diminution of His dignity (cf Phil 2:6-7). He is "the light that shines in the darkness" (cf Jn 1:5). 
The second Gospel does not report the reasons for which Jesus goes to receive the baptism of penance, even though the event is one of the most historically reliable among those narrated in the Gospels. What primarily interests the Evangelist is the divine revelation that comes after the baptism of Jesus.

* He saw the heavens torn apart: this is not a kind of special revelation for Jesus alone. The heavens, literally, "rip themselves open", in answer to Isaiah’s invocation: "If you would tear the heavens open and come down" (Is 63:19b). Thus, after a time of separation, a completely new phase begins in the communication between God and humankind. This new relationship is confirmed and becomes definitive with the redemptive death of Jesus, when the veil of the Temple was "torn" (cf Mk 15:38) as though a hand from heaven had struck it. The Easter of the death and resurrection is the "baptism wished for" by Jesus (cf Lk 12:50).

* The Spirit descending on Him: Jesus "ascends" from the water of the river and immediately after, the heavens open and the Spirit "descends" and rests on Him. From now on the period of waiting for the Spirit is over and the direct way that unites God with humankind is opened. Mark shows that Jesus is the only possessor of the Spirit who consecrates Him Messiah, makes Him fully aware of being God-Son, and dwells in Him and sustains Him in the mission willed by the Father. 
According to Mark, the Spirit comes to Jesus like a dove. We meet the dove in the story of Noah and the dove is also connected to the waters and the work of God in the world (cf Gen 8:8-12). Elsewhere, the dove is used as a reminder of fidelity and  permanence, and for its faithfulness in returning to the place from which it departed (cf Ct 2:14; Jn 1:33-34). The Spirit rests permanently on Jesus and takes possession of Him. In this passage we could also see a reference to the "breathing of the spirit of God over the waters" of creation (Gen 1:2). With Jesus, a "new creation" really begins (cf Mt 19:38; 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).

* A voice came from heaven: with the coming of Jesus, communication between God and humankind is restored. It is not a matter of what the rabbis called "the daughter of the voice", an incomplete substitution of the prophetic word, but a matter of direct communication between Father and Son.

* Came…saw descending…was heard: we must admire the condescension of the Trinity that "stoops down" towards humankind, descends to the Jordan in Jesus to be baptized like so many sinners, descends upon Jesus in the Spirit for the sake of His self-awareness and His mission and descends in the voice of the Father to confirm His son-ship.

* You are My Son, My Beloved; My favor rests on You: Mark may have deliberately wanted to recall several passages of the Old Testament in order to emphasize, at least by allusion, the importance of the many nuances of these divine words. 
First of all, we recall Isaiah 42:1 " Here is My servant whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have endowed Him with My spirit that He may bring true justice to the nations". It is JHWH whom introduces His faithful servant. Here, however, the title of "servant" is not used but that of "son", weaving the prophetic text with a psalm of royal and messianic investiture: "He has told Me, ‘You are My son, today I have become your father’" (Ps 2:7). The Evangelist (as the other synoptic) allows the nature of the human-divine identity of Jesus to appear.

* You are My Son, My Beloved: In the light of the Paschal faith, Mark could not have meant this revelation to be that God was adopting the man Jesus. The voice from heaven is a confirmation of a special relationship already in existence between Jesus and the Father. The title Son of God is attributed to Jesus in the very first verse of Mark and again at the end of the passion when the centurion says, "In truth this man was a son of God" (Mk 1:1; 15:39). However, this title recurs in various forms and frequently (cf 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 14:61). For Mark, the title "Son of God" is especially relevant for an understanding of the person of Jesus and for a full profession of faith. It is so important that eventually it was the proper name given to Jesus by Christians by which they meant to proclaim the essential elements of their own faith in Him (cf Rom 1:4): the Messiah king, the eschatological savior, the man who had a special relationship with the divine, the one risen from the dead, the second person of the Trinity. 
The fact that the voice from heaven calls Him "chosen" and "beloved" (as will be repeated at the Transfiguration in 5:7 and 12:6) emphasizes the completely unique relationship of the Father with Jesus, so special that it overshadows the other relationships between human beings and God. Jacob, like Jesus, is the "only and chosen" son (cf Gen 22:2) and he is not spared the agony of a violent death (cf Heb 5:7).

* My favor rests on You: these words emphasize once more the messianic election of Jesus, fruit of the Father’s benevolence, that thus shows His absolute preference for the Son in whom He finds joy and satisfaction (cf Is 42:1). While Jesus, obedient to the Father, begins His mission of bringing humanity back to the Father (cf Mk 1:38).

5. A few questions

to give our reflection and actions direction:

a) Like us, Jesus lives on a stage in life. He goes from the "hidden life" to His "public life". We are passing from the Christmas season to "ordinary" time. These are the times for us to realize our mission which consists in our daily commitment (often hard and usually dry) to express in our life an awareness that God the Son is with us as our brother and savior, by using the gifts received in baptism. 

Am I aware of the mission entrusted to me by the Father?

Am I able to express this mission in my everyday life or do I limit myself to special occasions? 


b) Our baptism made us "children of God in the Son". God is also well pleased with us and we too are His "chosen" (cf 1Jn 2, 7, 3, 2:21, etc.). 

Am I aware of the love with which the Father looks at me and relates to me?

Am I able to respond to this love with the simplicity and docility of Jesus? 

c) Our passage contains a manifestation of the Trinity in action. The Spirit descends upon Jesus, the Father speaks to His Son and thus opens a new way of communicating with us human beings. 

How is my prayer?

To whom do I usually pray?

6. Psalm 20

Let us pray this Psalm, aware of being chosen by the Father and that the Father is by our side always with great tenderness of heart.

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! 
The name of the God of Jacob protect you! 
May He send you help from the sanctuary, 
and give you support from Zion! 
May He remember all your offerings, 
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! 
May He grant you your heart's desire, 
and fulfill all your plans! 
May we shout for joy over your victory, 
and in the name of our God set up our banners! 
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! 
Now I know that the Lord will help His anointed; 
he will answer him from His holy heaven 
with mighty victories by His right hand. 
Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; 
but we boast of the name of the Lord our God. 
They will collapse and fall; 
but we shall rise and stand upright. 
Give victory to the king, O Lord; 
answer us when we call.

7. Closing prayer

The liturgical context is excellent for an understanding and for praying this Gospel. We, therefore, take up the preface to convey our prayer to God: 
Father, in Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, You worked signs and wonders 
to manifest the mystery of the new washing (our baptism). 
Your voice was heard from heaven 
to awaken faith in the presence among us 
of the Word made man. 
Your Spirit was seen as a dove resting upon Him 
and consecrated Your Servant 
with priestly, prophetic and royal anointing, 
so that all would recognize Him as the Messiah, 
sent to bring to the poor 
the good news of salvation. 
Grant that we may thank and glorify You 
for this priceless gift, 
for having sent to us Your Son, our brother and teacher. 
Let Your kind gaze rest upon us 
and grant that we may bring You joy in all our actions, 
Forever and ever.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 21:45

Lectio Divina December 2017

Written by

Pope's Prayer Intentions for December 2017

The Elderly
That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.

Lectio Divina: December - Diciembre - Dicembre 2017

 

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017 15:45

Lectio Divina November 2017

Written by

Pope's Prayer Intentions for November 2017

Christians in Asia
That Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions.

Lectio Divina November - Noviembre - Novembre 2017

 

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017 09:35

Lectio Divina: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Lk1:26-38)

Written by

1) Opening prayer



God of the poor and the humble,

we thank You today for choosing Mary

as the Virgin Mother of Jesus, your Son.

Her faith and willing service

opened the way to Your new world.



Dispose us to seek Your will

and to cooperate with Your plans,

that we too, like Mary,

may give to the world its Savior,

Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord.



2) Gospel Reading – Luke 1:26-38



In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favor! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favor. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David; He will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and His reign will have no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”

Mary said, “You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.



3) Reflection



• The visit of the Angel to Mary reminds us of the visit of God to different women of the Old Testament: Sarah, mother of Isaac (Gen 18: 9-15), Anne, mother of Samuel (1 Sam 1: 9-18), the mother of Samson (Jg 13: 2-5). To all of them was announced the birth of a son with an important mission in the realization of God’s plan.

• The account begins with the expression “in the sixth month”. It is the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth. The need of Elizabeth, a woman advanced in age who is expecting her first son with the risk of delivery, is the background of this episode. Elizabeth is mentioned at the beginning (Lk 1: 26) and at the end of the visit of the angel (Lk 1: 36-39).

• The angel says: “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favor, the Lord is with you”!. Similar words were also said to Moses (Ex 3: 12), to Jeremiah (Jer 1: 8), to Gideon (Jg 6: 12) and to other people with an important mission in God’s plan. Mary is surprised at the greeting and tries to understand the significance of these words. She is realistic and wants to understand. She does not accept just any invitation.

• The angel answers: “Do not be afraid!” Just as it happened in the visit of the angel to Zechariah, the first greeting of God is always: “Do not be afraid!”. The angel recalls the promises of the past which will be fulfilled thanks to the son who will be born and who is to receive the name of Jesus. He will be called the Son of the Most High and in Him will be realized the Kingdom of God. This is the explanation of the angel in such a way that Mary is not afraid.

• Mary is aware of the mission which she is about to receive, but she continues to be realistic. She does not allow herself to be drawn by the greatness of the offer, and observes her condition. She analyses the offer according to certain criteria which she has available. Humanly speaking, it was not possible: “But how can this come about, I have no knowledge of man?”

• The angel explains that the Holy Spirit, present in God’s Word since the creation (Genesis 1: 2), is capable of things which seem impossible. This is why, the Holy One who will be born of Mary will be called Son of God. The miracle repeats itself up until today. When the Word of God is accepted by the poor, something new happens, thanks to the will of the Holy Spirit! Something new and surprising, such as a son born of a virgin or a son born to a woman of advanced age, like Elizabeth, whom everyone said was barren and could not have children! And the angel adds: “See, your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God”.

• The response of the angel clarifies everything for Mary, and she surrenders: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word”. Mary uses for herself the title of Servant, Handmaid of the Lord. This title of Isaiah, which represents the mission of the people not as a privilege, but rather as a service to the other people (Is 42:1-9, 49:3-6). Later Jesus will define his mission as a service: “I have not come to be served, but to serve!” (Mt 20:28). He learned this from His mother!



4) Personal questions



• What struck you the most in the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary?

• Jesus praises his mother when He says: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28). How does Mary relate to the Word of God during the visit of the Angel?



5) Concluding Prayer



To Yahweh belong the earth and all it contains,

the world and all who live there;

it is He who laid its foundations on the seas,

on the flowing waters fixed it firm. (Ps 24:1-2)


Lectio Divina:
2019-12-12
Monday, 02 October 2017 13:12

Lectio Divina October 2017

Written by

Pope's Prayer Intentions for October 2017

Workers and the Unemployed
That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.

Lectio Divina October - Octubre - Ottobre 2017

 

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Saturday, 01 July 2017 10:43

Lectio Divina July 2017

Written by

Pope's Prayer Intentions for July 2017

Lapsed Christians
That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.

Lectio Divina July- Julio - Luglio 2017

 

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Thursday, 29 June 2017 13:57

Lectio Divina: Matthew 13,36-43

Written by

1) Opening prayer

Lord, God of our fathers,
through Saints Joachim and Anne
You gave us the Mother of Your Incarnate Son.
May their prayers help us
to attain the salvation
You promised to Your people. Amen.

 

2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 13,36-43
Then, leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable about the darnel in the field.' He said in reply, 'The sower of the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the Evil One; the enemy who sowed it, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of falling and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Anyone who has ears should listen!
 
3) Reflection
• The Gospel today presents the explanation of Jesus, at the petition of the disciples, of the parable of the wheat grain and the darnel. Some experts think that this explanation, which Jesus gives to his disciples, is not Jesus’, but of the community. This is possible and probable, because a parable, because of its nature, requires the involvement and the participation of the persons in the discovery of the significance. Like the plant is already contained within the seed, in the same way, certainly, the explanation of the community is in the parable. And it is precisely this objective that Jesus wanted and wants to attain with the parable. The sense which we are discovering today in the parable which Jesus told two thousand years ago was already enclosed, contained, in the story that Jesus told, like the flower is already contained in its seed.
• Matthew 13,36: The request of the disciples to Jesus: the explanation of the parable of the wheat grain and the darnel. The disciples, in the house, speak and ask for an explanation of the parable of the wheat grain and the darnel. (Mt 13,24-30). It has been said many times that Jesus, in the house, continued to teach his disciples (Mk 7,17; 9,28.33; 10,10). At that time, there was no television and people spent together the long winter evenings to speak about the facts and events of life. On these occasions, Jesus completed the teaching and the formation of his disciples.
• Matthew 13,38-39: The meaning of each one of the elements of the parable. Jesus responds taking again each one of these elements of the parable and giving them significance: the field is the world; the good seed are the members of the Kingdom; the darnel is the members of the adversary (the evil one); the enemy is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, the reapers are the angels. And now reread the parable (Mt 13,24-30) giving to each one of these six elements: field, good seed, darnel, enemy, harvest and reapers, the right significance. In this way the story assumes a completely new sense and it is possible to attain the objective that Jesus had in mind when he told people the parable of the darnel and the good seed. Some think that this parable should be understood as an allegory and not as a parable properly so called.
• Matthew 13,40-43: The application of the parable or of the allegory. With the information given by Jesus, you will understand better its application: Just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of failing and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the upright will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father”.
The destiny of the darnel is the furnace; the destiny of the grain is to shine like the sun in the Kingdom of the Father. Behind these two images there is the experience of the persons. After they have listened to Jesus and have accepted him in their life, everything has changed for them. This means that in Jesus what they expected has taken place: the fulfilment of the promises. Now life is divided into before and after having accepted Jesus in their life. The new life has begun with the splendour of the sun. If they would have continued to live as before, they would be like the darnel in the furnace, life without meaning, which is good for nothing.
• Parable and Allegory. There is the parable. There is the allegory. There is the mixture of both which is the more common form. Generally, everything in the parable is a call. In the Gospel of today, we have the example of an allegory. An allegory is a story which a person tells, but when she is telling it, she does not think about the elements of the story, but about the theme which has to be clarified. In reading an allegory it is not necessary first to look at the story as a whole, because in an allegory the story is not constructed around a central point which later serves as a comparison, but rather each element has its own independent function, starting from the sense which it receives. It is a question of discovering what each element of the two stories tries to tell us about the Kingdom, as the explanation which Jesus gave of the parable: field, good seed, darnel, enemy, harvest, reapers. Generally the parables are also allegories, a mixture of both.
 
4) Personal questions
• In the field everything is mixed up: darnel and grain. In the field of my life, what thing prevails: darnel or grain?
• Have you tried to speak with other persons to discover the sense of some parable?

 

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, your faithful love is in the heavens,
your constancy reaches to the clouds,
your saving justice is like towering mountains,
your judgements like the mighty deep. (Ps 36,5-6)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017 13:15

Lectio Divina: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Renouncing all to follow Jesus

"No one who prefers father or mother to me 

is worthy of Me!"

Matthew 10:37-42



1. Opening prayer 



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



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



2. Reading



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



Matthew 10:37: Love of Jesus must be above love of father and mother and children

Matthew 10:38: The cross is part of the following of Jesus

Matthew 10:39: To know how to lose one’s life so as to keep it

Matthew 10:40-41: Jesus identifies Himself with the missionary and the disciple

Matthew 10:42: The least deed done to one of the least is rewarded



b) A key to the reading:



In the 13th Sunday of ordinary time, we meditate on the last section of the Discourse on Mission (Mt 10:1-42). This discourse contains words and counsels of Jesus, teaching us to carry out the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God. Jesus does not deceive, and points out clearly the difficulties that this mission implies. As we read this text, it is good to pay attention to what follows: “What is Jesus’ basic demand of those who go on mission?”



c) Text:



Matteo 10,37-42



37 'No one who prefers father or mother to Me is worthy of Me. No one who prefers son or daughter to Me is worthy of Me. 38 Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in My footsteps is not worthy of Me. 39 Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it.

40 'Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me; and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the one who sent Me. 41 'Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet's reward; and anyone who welcomes a righteous person because he is righteous will have the reward of a righteous person. 42 'If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward.'



3. A moment of prayerful silence



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



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) What part of the text touched you most? Why?

b) What recommendations does this text hold for us? What is its basic demand? 

c) Jesus says, "No one who prefers father or mother to Me is worthy of Me” – How are we to understand this statement?

d) What does the text tell us about the mission we must undertake as disciples of Jesus?



5. For those who wish to go deeper into the topic



a) The context of our text in the Gospel of Matthew:



The Gospel of Matthew organizes the words and actions of Jesus around five great discourses: (i) Matthew 5 to 7: The Sermon on the Mount describes the gateway to the Kingdom. (ii) Matthew 10: the Discourse on the Mission describes the way those who follow Jesus must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and the difficulties involved. (iii) Matthew 13: the Discourse of the Parables, by means of parallels taken from daily life, Jesus reveals the presence of the Kingdom in people’s lives. (iv) Matthew 18: the Discourse on Community describes how Christians ought to live together in such a way that the community becomes a revelation of the Kingdom. (v) Matthew 24 and 25: the Eschatological Discourse describes the future coming of the Kingdom of God. Through this literary device, Matthew imitates the five books of the Pentateuch, and thus presents the Good News of the Kingdom as the New Law of God. 

In the Discourse on the Mission (Mt 10:1-42), the Evangelist puts together words and recommendations of Jesus that shed light on the difficult situation of the Judeo-Christians towards the second half of the first century. He wants to encourage them not to lose heart in spite of the many and grave difficulties they have to face in proclaiming the Good News to the brothers and sisters of their race. It is indeed at this time, the 80’s, that the Jews are recovering from the disaster of the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in the 70’s, and are beginning to reorganize themselves in the regions of Syria and Galilee. A tension is growing between the “Synagogue” and the “Ecclesia”. This tension, source of much suffering and persecution, forms the background to the Discourse on the Mission and, therefore, to the Gospel of the 13th Sunday of ordinary time.



b) A commentary on the text:



Matthew 10:37: Love of Jesus must be greater than love of parents and children

Jesus says, “No one who prefers father or mother to Me is worthy of Me; no one who prefers son or daughter to Me is worthy of Me”. We find this same statement in the Gospel of Luke with even greater force: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:26). Does Jesus then want to disintegrate family life? This cannot be so, because elsewhere He insists on the observance of the fourth commandment which binds us to love father and mother (Mk 7:8-13; 10:17-19). He Himself obeyed His parents (Lk 2:51). These seem to be contradictory statements. One thing is certain: Jesus does not contradict Himself. We shall give an interpretation to show that the two statements are both true and not mutually exclusive.



Matthew 10:38: The cross is part of following Jesus

Jesus says, “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in My footsteps is not worthy of Me”. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me!” (Mk 8:34). In those days, the cross was the death sentence imposed by the Roman Empire for thieves and the marginalized. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus was equivalent to agreeing to be marginalized by the unjust system of the Empire. Jesus’ cross is the consequence of the free commitment taken on to reveal the Good News that God is Father and that, therefore, all are to be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary proclamation, Jesus was persecuted and was not afraid to give up His life. Greater love than this no man has, that he lay down his life for his friends.



Matthew 10:39: To know how to lose one’s life so as to keep it

This manner of speaking was quite common among the early Christians because it expressed what they were living through. For instance, for Paul to be faithful to Jesus and obtain life, he had to lose everything he had:  career, the respect of his people, and suffer persecution. The same happened to many Christians. Christians were persecuted for being Christian. Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ”. “I wish to experience His cross and his death, so that I may also experience His resurrection.” “I am crucified to the world and the world to me”. This is the paradox of the Gospel: The last is first, the one who loses wins, the one who gives all keeps all, the one who dies lives. The one who has the courage to lose life obtains it. This is a logic that is quite different from the neo-liberal system that rules the world today.



Matthew 10:40-41: Jesus identifies Himself with the missionary and the disciple

For the missionary and the disciple, it is very important to know that he/she will never be alone. If she/he remains faithful to her/his mission, she/he will have the certainty that Jesus identifies Himself with her/him, and through Jesus the Father will reveal Himself to those to whom the missionary and disciple proclaim the Good News. And so, just as Jesus reflected the face of the Father, so also the disciple should be a mirror where people can glimpse something of the love of Jesus.



Matthew 10:42: The least deed done for the little ones, reveals the presence of the Father

In order to change the world and human relationships, the political decisions of powerful people are not enough, nor are the decrees of Councils and of bishops. What is needed is a change in the lives of people, in interpersonal and community relationships; otherwise, nothing will change. That is why Jesus puts so much importance on small acts of sharing: a glass of water given to a poor person!



c) A deepening: To love father and mother, to hate father and mother!



One of the things that Jesus insists on for those who wish to follow Him is that of leaving behind father, mother, wife, children, sisters, house, land, to leave everything for love of Him and His Gospel (Lk 18: 29; Mt 19:29; Mk 10:29). He even commands us “to hate father, mother, wife, children, sisters, brothers. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciples” (cf. Lk 14:28). These demands are not just for some but for all those who wish to follow Him (Lk 14:25-26, 33). How can we understand these statements that seem to dismantle and break up all family ties? We cannot imagine Jesus demanding of all men and women in Galilee to leave their families, lands, villages to follow Him. In fact, this did not happen except for a small group of followers. So what is the meaning of these demands?



If we place the demand to leave one’s family within the social context of the period, we can see another meaning, much more fundamental and practical. The invasion of Palestine in 64 B.C. and the imposition of the tribute by Herod (35 to 3 B.C.) and his son Herod Antipas (3 B.C. to 37 A.D.), a policy in favor of the Roman government, brought progressive impoverishment and growing unemployment. Through Herod’s policy, supported by the Roman Empire, the Hellenic ideology permeated daily life, thus bringing with it growing individualism. All this caused the larger family, the clan and the community to disintegrate. Thus the small family began to feel bound to turn in on itself and not able to practice the law. Besides, the practice of ritual purity caused people to despise and exclude those persons and families that lived in legal impurity. The economic, social, political and religious context made it possible for families to turn in on themselves and weaken the clan. Preoccupation with family problems stopped people from uniting in community. It stopped the clan from realizing the aim for which it was created, that is, to offer real and adequate protection for families and persons, to preserve identity, to defend land, to prevent exclusion and to welcome the excluded and the poor, and thus to reveal the face of God. Now, for the Kingdom to reveal itself again in the sharing, it was necessary to break the vicious cycle. People had to overcome the strict limits of the small family to open themselves to the larger family and the Community. This is the context that forms the background to the words proclaimed by Jesus.



Jesus Himself gives an example. When His family tries to claim Him, He reacts and says, “Who are My mother and My brethren?” And, looking around, He says, “Behold My mother and My brethren! For whoever does the will God, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:33-35). He stretched the family. He created community. The people He attracted and called were the poor and the excluded (Lk 4:18; Mt 11:25). He asked the same thing of those who wished to follow Him. The excluded and marginalized must be welcomed again into the sharing and thus feel welcomed by God (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This was the way to achieve the end of the Law that said, “There should be no one of you in need” (Deut 15:4).



Jesus tries to change the process of disintegration of the clan, of the community. Like the great prophets of the past, He seeks to consolidate community life in the villages of Galilee. He takes up again the deep meaning of the clan, of the family, of the community as an expression of the incarnation of the love of God in the love of neighbor. That is why He asks of those who wish to be His disciples to leave father, mother, wife, brother, sister, house, all! They have to lose their life in order to possess it! He is the guarantor of this: “Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the Gospel’s sake, who shall not receive now in the present time a hundredfold as much, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands – along with persecutions, and in the age to come life everlasting” (Mk 10:29-30). Truly, those who have the courage to break the closed circle of their family will find again, in the clan, in the community, a hundredfold whatever they have left: brother, sister, mother, child, land! Jesus does what people expected in messianic times: to lead back the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents, to rebuild the clan, reweave the social pattern.



6. Psalm 19:7-14



The Law of Yahweh is perfect



The Law of Yahweh is perfect, 

refreshment to the soul; 

the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, 

wisdom for the simple.

The precepts of Yahweh are honest, 

joy for the heart; 

the commandment of Yahweh is pure, 

light for the eyes.

The fear of Yahweh is pure, 

lasting forever; 

the judgements of Yahweh are true, 

upright, every one,

more desirable than gold, 

even than the finest gold; 

His words are sweeter than honey, 

that drips from the comb.



Thus Your servant is formed by them; 

observing them brings great reward.

But who can detect his own failings? 

Wash away my hidden faults.

And from pride preserve Your servant, 

never let it be my master. 

So shall I be above reproach, 

free from grave sin.



May the words of my mouth always find favor, 

and the whispering of my heart, in Your presence, 

Yahweh, my rock, my redeemer.



7. Final Prayer



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


Lectio Divina:
2020-06-28
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 14:41

Lectio Divina: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Witness to the Gospel without fear

Matthew 10: 26-33



1. OPENING PRAYER



In the darkness of a starless night,

a night of no sense,

You, the Word of life,

like lightning in the storm of forgetfulness,

entered within the bounds of doubt

under cover of the limits of precariousness

to hide the light.



Words made of silence and of the ordinary,

Your human words, heralds of the secrets of the Most High:

like hooks cast into the waters of death

to find man once more, immersed in his anxious follies,

and reclaim him, plundered,

through the attractive radiance of forgiveness.

To You, Ocean of Peace and shadow of eternal Glory,

I render thanks:

Calm waters on my shore that awaits the wave, I wish to seek You!

And may the friendship of the brothers protect me

when night falls on my desire for You. Amen.



2. READING



Matthew 10, 26-33



a) The text:



26 'So do not be afraid of them. Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops. 28 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. 30 Why, every hair on your head has been counted. 31 So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 'So if anyone declares himself for Me in the presence of human beings, I will declare Myself for him in the presence of My Father in heaven. 33 But the one who disowns Me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of My Father in heaven.



b) A moment of silence:



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



3. MEDITATION



a) Questions for reflection:



There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed: the truth under the veil of silence is spread more than if it is exposed in the avid or greedy hands of people who are deaf to the breath of the Spirit. Where do you place the Word of God that you listen to: in the power of your adventurous thoughts or in the sacrarium of your profound acceptance?



That which I tell you in the dark, tell it in the daylight: Christ speaks in the dark, in the secret of the heart. To offer His words to the light, these must go though your thought, within your feelings, in your entrails before they come to your lips. The words which you habitually say to others, are they words said in the secret of Him or rather syllables of thoughts which just come to mind?



And do not be afraid of those who kill the body: not anything nor anybody can do you harm if God is with you. They can make you a prisoner, but they cannot take away liberty and dignity from you because these cannot be seized by anybody. Fears, worry, suspicions, anxieties... can become a souvenir which is far away. When will you leave all this aside, trusting that God will not abandon you ever and will take care of you?



Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. God’s Providence can be similar to destiny, but it is something different. Think of the sparrows which fall to the ground. It is not God who throws them down, but when they fall the Father is there. It is not God who sends sickness, but when people become ill, the Father is there with them. Our things belong to Him. Solitude, which frequently presses on us,  is not abandonment. Will we look around to encounter the eyes of Christ who lives with us in that moment of desolation?



If anyone declares himself to be for Me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father: Give Christ the courage of our faith in Him... this is a requirement of life in which God is not an accessory, but daily bread and the identity card of Himself. Does this challenge you or does it remain only a hidden desire? Even among the heads or leaders, says John, many believed in Him, but did not recognize Him openly because of the Pharisees, so as not to be expelled from the Synagogue. Would you risk your name for Him?



b) Key for the reading:



Do not fear! This is a key word, which, repeated three times, gives unity to the passage.

Probably it is a literary unity which joins together four isolated sayings. Faith requires as a basic disposition, not to fear. The themes which emerge: public proclamation of the Gospel (vv. 26-27), the availability to face martyrdom sacrificing physical life in order to attain eternal life (v. 28), images of trust in Providence (vv. 29-31), the courageous profession of faith in Christ (vv. 32-33).

The counter-positions are of a remarkable efficacy: veiled/unveiled, or covered/uncovered, hidden/known, darkness/light, body/soul, acknowledge/deny... which make evident the shore of a life lived evangelically. The veils of knowledge open themselves in the light and on the roofs of the universe the word heard in secret goes forth. The whole person is present to the heart of God, and if the creatures of the earth arouse tenderness, how much more the life of a creature-child. Belonging makes the difference in the witness.



v. 26. Do not be afraid of them, for everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. That which is covered is not reserved for few but it is simply kept waiting to be manifested. There is a time to keep hidden and a time to make manifest, as Qoheleth would say... to know how to keep the truth in the secret of the days that go by: this is what forges the credibility of the manifestation. A seed cannot be thrown into the air, it is put into the furrow of the heart, it is left to itself while it is transformed in dying, and it is attentively followed until it germinates and comes to light, until the spike is ripe and ready to be harvested. Every word of God requires that it pass through the furrow of one’s own history in order to bear abundant fruit in due time.



v. 27. What I say to you in the dark, tell it in the daylight, and what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops. Jesus speaks in secret; we speak in the light. God speaks, we listen and we become His mouth for others. The darkness of the listening, of putting it in, of assimilation, precedes the dawn of every proclamation. And when from the housetops the good news will be heard, people will be obliged to look up. A treasure of glory is enclosed in every moment of listening.  It is a moment of waiting which leads to the birth of light.



v. 28. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. One can be afraid of those who can strike that which is not man in fullness: to stop earthly life is not equal to death. The only really fearful is God. But God also after death preserves the life for the human being. That is why we should not fear. Whatever can happen, God is with humanity. This is a certainty which permits us to sail on even in the midst of the most devastating storms, because the treasures of humanity are taken care of in God, and from the hands of God nobody can snatch the elect.



v. 29. Can you not buy two sparrow for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. There are two sparrows, one penny. A minimum value but which is in the thought of the Father. Where life beats, there God is, completely. This attentive care enchants and consoles... and invites listening to everything that vibrates and presents holy images of the Eternal splendor. Two sparrows: two very small creatures, of a brief life. The value of things is not given to them because of the greatness or the strength, but from what animates, that which is “body”. Therefore, every space where there is life which accepts the print of the Creator is a place of encounter with Him. It bears witness to His solicitude.



v. 30. Why every hair on your head has been counted. The solicitude or thoughtfulness of God extends itself even to counting the hair on our head. It is absurd, the way the Lord loves! When desolation and abandonment become the words  of our today, it will be enough to count some of our hair to remember the presence of God with us. The protection of the Heavenly Father will not be lacking for the disciples of Jesus. The Mystery which embraces all cannot be less towards those who have chosen to follow His Son, leaving the earth of their human securities.



v. 31. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows! If God uses His thought for two sparrows how much more will He think of us! Fear disappears before this living image of human and religious sensibility of Christ. God is in favor of humanity, not against humanity. And if He keeps silence it is not because of lack of care, but because His thoughts of us have broader perspectives which go beyond the horizons of earthly temporality.



v. 32. If anyone declares himself for Me in the presence of human beings, I will declare Myself for him in the presence of My Father in Heaven. One must acknowledge oneself. When you find yourself in a square crowded to the full among unknown faces, you have the experience of being a foreigner. But as soon as you see a familiar face, your heart expands and you make your way until you get close to him. This recognizing others allows one to manifest oneself before others and to expose oneself. Christ in the midst of the crowd is the familiar face to recognize Him as the Master and Lord of our life. And what fear can we have if we think that He will declare us before His Father in Heaven?



v. 33. But the one who disowns Me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of My Father in Heaven. Could we think of a vengeful God? This is not a discourse to “put wood into the fire”, but a discourse which comes from an existential encounter. Christ will not be able to recognize as His own the one who will have chosen everything outside of Him. It is a discourse of fidelity and of respect for human liberty. God respects the creature to the point of not interfering in the space of his error. The Gospel demands belonging, not words and actions. The heart lives in heaven, when Christ is its beating of life!



4. PRAYER (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,

honor Him! Revere Him,

all the race of Israel!'



For He has not despised nor disregarded

the poverty of the poor,

has not turned away His face,

but has listened to the cry for help.



Of You is my praise in the thronged assembly,

I will perform my vows before all who fear Him.

The poor will eat and be filled,

those who seek Yahweh will praise Him,

'May your heart live for ever.'



The whole wide world will remember

and return to Yahweh,

all the families of nations bow down before Him.

For to Yahweh, ruler of the nations,

belongs kingly power!

All who prosper on earth will bow before 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.



5. CONTEMPLATION



Lord, among the veils of what I have received and have not given, may I be able to meditate and to accept everything from you. Let not my proclamation be an unconscious repeater, but rather a word possessed in so far as it has indwelling and digested for a long time. May the beauty of Your presence be unveiled to my senses, and in the mystery of Your unceasing giving may the veil of the encounter descend bringing You closer. The treasure hidden for centuries is now known, and from darkness to light, the dawn has raised for centuries, in a day without sunset which, shining on that which love has created and the sin being broken, it makes all things new. I will acknowledge You, my God, before my brothers because it will be impossible for me to hide the lamp that You have lit in my life. Who will give me the words which create me and make of my limitations a marvelous definition of what I am, I, in particular, like nobody else? Only You, Lord, have words of eternal life. And I will eat them and will offer them, at the cost of being devoured with them. It will be sufficient for me to feel that I am a sparrow to find again the hope when the tempest will fall on me, because the pennies that You give for the sparrows are not counted in Your knapsack. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-06-21
Thursday, 30 March 2017 14:25

Lectio Divina: The Ascension of the Lord (A)

Written by
Lectio Divina: 
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Go into the whole world
Universal mission
Matthew 28:16-20


1. Opening prayer

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

2. Reading

a) A key to guide the reading:

The text reports the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. This is like a testament, his last wish for the community, that which is uppermost in his mind. In our reading, let us try to pay attention to the following: What does Jesus insist on most in his final words?

b) A division of chapter 14 to help with the reading:

Mt 28:16 – Geographical indication: return to Galilee
Matthew 28:16-20Mt 28:17 – Jesus’ apparition and the reaction of the disciples
Mt 28:18-20a – Jesus’ final instructions
Mt 28:20b – The great promise, source of all hope.

c) The text:

16: Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.
17: When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.
18-20a: Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.
20b: And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What struck you and touched your heart most?
b) Identify the chronological and geographical information in this text.
c) How do the disciples react? What is the content of Jesus’ words to the disciples?
d) What is this "all power in heaven and on earth" given to Jesus?
e) What does it mean, "to become a disciple" of Jesus?
f) In this context, what does the baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" mean?
g) What do the words "I am with you always, even to the end of time" remind us of in the OT?

5. A key to the reading

for those who wish to go deeper into the text.

a) The context of Matthew’s Gospel

* Matthew’s Gospel, written about the year 85, is addressed to a community of converted Jews who lived in Syria-Palestine. They were going through a deep identity crisis concerning their past. When they accepted Jesus as the awaited Messiah, they continued to go to the synagogue and to observe the law and the ancient traditions. Moreover, they had a certain affinity with the Pharisees, and after the revolution of the Jews in Palestine against the Romans (65 to 72), they and the Pharisees were the only two groups to have survived the Roman oppression.

* From the 80s, these Jewish brothers, Pharisees and Christians, only survivors, began to fight among themselves as to who had inherited the promises of the OT. Each claimed to be the inheritors. Gradually, tension grew between them and they began to excommunicate each other. The Christians could no longer attend the synagogue and were cut off from their past. Each group began to regroup: the Pharisees in the synagogue, the Christians in church. This added to the identity problem of the community of Jewish Christians because it raised serious questions in need of urgent solutions. "Who has inherited the promises of the OT, those of the synagogue or those of the church? On whose side is God? Who are really the people of God?

* Now, Matthew writes his Gospel to help these communities overcome their crisis and to find an answer to their problems. His Gospel is, first of all, a Gospel of revelation showing how Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses, the culmination of the whole of the history of the OT and its promises. It is also the Gospel of consolation for those who felt excluded and persecuted by their Jewish brothers. Matthew wants to console and help them to overcome the trauma of the split. It is the Gospel of the new practice because it shows the way to achieve a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees. It is the Gospel of openness and shows that the Good News of God that Jesus brought cannot be hidden, but must be placed on a candlestick so that it may enlighten the life of all peoples.

b) Commentary on the text of Matthew 28: 16-20

* Matthew 28:16: Returning to Galilee: It was in Galilee that it all began (Mt 4:12). It was there that the disciples first heard the call (Mt 4:15) and it was there that Jesus promised to reunite them again after the resurrection (Mt 26:31). In Luke, Jesus forbids them to leave Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). In Matthew they are commanded to leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee (Mt 28: 7.10). Each evangelist has his own way of presenting the person of Jesus and his plans. For Luke, after the resurrection of Jesus, the proclamation of the Good News has to begin in Jerusalem in order to reach to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For Matthew, the proclamation begins in Galilee of the pagans (Mt 4:15) in order to prefigure the passage from the Jews to the pagans.
The disciples had to go to the mountain that Jesus pointed out to them. The mountain reminds us of Mount Sinai, where the first Covenant took place and where Moses received the tablets of the Law of God (Ex 19 to 24; 34:1-35). It also reminds us of the mountain of God, where the prophet Elijah took refuge in order to find again the meaning of his mission (1Kings 19:1-18). It also reminds us of the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, appear with Jesus, thus confirming that he is the promised Messiah (Mt 17:1-8).

* Matthew 28:17: Some doubted: The first Christians had great difficulty in believing in the resurrection. The evangelists insist in saying that they doubted a lot and did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus (Mk 16:11.13.14; Lk 24:11.21.25.36.41; Jn 20:25). Faith in the resurrection was a slow and difficult process, but ended by being the greatest certainty of Christians (1Cor 15:3-34).

* Matthew 28:18: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me: The passive form of the verb shows that Jesus received his authority from the Father. What is this authority? In the Apocalypse, the Lamb (the risen Jesus) received from the hand of God the book with seven seals (Ap 5:7) and became the Lord of history, he who must assume the responsibility for the execution of God’s project as described in the sealed book, and as such is adored by all creatures (Ap 12:11-14). By his authority and power he conquers the Dragon, the power of evil (Ap 12:1-9). And captures the Beast and the false prophet, symbols of the Roman Empire (Ap 19:20). In the Creed at Mass we say that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, thus becoming the judge of the living and the dead.

* Matthew 28:19-20a: Jesus’ last words: three commands to the disciples: Vested with supreme authority, Jesus passes on three orders to the disciples and to all of us: (i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; (ii) baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; (iii) teach them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.

i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations: To be a disciple is not the same as being a student. A disciple is in relation to the master. A student is in relation to the teacher. The disciple lives with the master 24 hours a day; the student receives lessons from the teacher for a few hours then goes back home. The disciple presupposes a community. The student presupposes being present in a classroom for lessons. The state of discipleship in those days was marked by the expression to follow the master. In the Carmelite Rule we read: To live in obedience to Jesus Christ. For the first Christians, to follow Jesus meant three connected things:
- To imitate the example of the Master: Jesus was the model to imitate and to be repeated in the life of the disciple (Jn 13:13-15). Living together every day meant a constant meeting. In this School of Jesus only one subject was taught: the Kingdom! This Kingdom could be seen in the life and practice of Jesus.
- Sharing in the fate of the Master: Those who followed Jesus, had to commit themselves to "stay with him in temptations" (Lk 22:28), and in persecution (Jn 15:20; Mt 10:24-25) and had to be willing to take up the cross and die with him (Mk 8:34-35; Jn 11:36).
- To possess in oneself the life of Jesus: After Easter, a third dimension was added: "I live now not I but Christ lives in me". The first Christians sought to identify themselves with Jesus. This is the mystical dimension in the following of Jesus, fruit of the Spirit’s action.

ii) Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: The Trinity is the source, the end and the way. Those baptised in the name of the Father, revealed in Jesus, commit themselves to live as brothers and sisters in fraternity. And if God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters. Those baptised in the name of the Son, Jesus, commit themselves to imitate Jesus and to follow him even unto the cross in order to rise with him. And the power that Jesus received from the Father is a creative power that conquers death. Those baptised in the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus on the day of Pentecost, commit themselves to interiorising fraternity and the following of Jesus, allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit alive in the community.

iii) Teaching them to observe all my commands: For us Christians, Jesus is the New Law of God, proclaimed from on high in the mountain. Jesus is the chosen of the Father as the new Moses, whose word is law for us. "Hear him" (Mt 17:15). The Spirit sent by him will remind us of all the things he taught us (Jn 14:26; 16:13). The observance of the new Law of love is balanced by the gratuitous presence of Jesus in our midst, till the end of time.

* Matthew 28:20b: I am with you always, even to the end of time: When Moses was sent to free the people from Egypt, he received a guarantee from God, the only guarantee that offers complete certainty: "Go, I shall be with you!" (Ex 3:12). It is the same certainty promised to the prophets and other persons sent by God to undertake an important mission in God’s plan (Jer 1:8; Jud 6:16). Mary received the same guarantee when the angel said to her, "The Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). The person of Jesus is the living expression of this guarantee, because his name is Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23). He will be with his disciples, with all of us, even to the end of time. Here we see Jesus’ authority. He controls history and time. He is the first and the last (Ap 1:17). Before the first, nothing existed and after the last, nothing is. This guarantee sustains people, nourishes their faith, sustains hope and generates love and the gift of oneself.

c) Highlighting the words of Jesus: The universal mission of the community.

Abraham was called to be the source of blessings not only for his descendants, but for all families on earth (Gen 12:3). The slave people were called not only to restore the tribe of Jacob, but also to be light to the nations (Is 49:6; 42:6). The prophet Amos said that God not only freed Israel from Egypt, but also the Philistines from Kaftor and the Aramaians from Quir (Am 9:7). God, then, looks after and is concerned for the Israelites as well as for the Philistines and the Aramaians who were the greatest enemies of the people of Israel! The prophet Elijah thought he was the only defender of God (Kings 19:10.14), but he had to be told that apart from himself there were seven thousand others! (1Kings 19:18) The prophet Jonah wanted Yahweh to be only the God of Israel, but had to admit that he is the God of all nations, even the inhabitants of Niniveh, the bitterest enemies of Israel (Jo 4:1-11). In the New Testament, John, the disciple, wanted Jesus only for the little group, for the community, but Jesus corrected him and said, He who is not against me is for me! (Mk 9:38-40).

At the end of the first century after Christ, the difficulties and persecutions could have driven the Christian communities into losing the missionary impetus and to close in on themselves, as if they were the only ones defending the values of the Kingdom. But Matthew’s Gospel, faithful to this long tradition of openness to all nations, tells the communities that they cannot close in on themselves. They cannot claim for themselves a monopoly on the action of God in the world. God is not the community’s property; rather the community is Yahweh’s property (Ex 19:5). In the midst of humanity that struggles against and resists oppression, the communities must be salt and yeast (Mt 5:13; 13:33). They must proclaim aloud to the whole world, among all nations, the Good News that Jesus brought us. God is present in our midst, the same God who, in Exodus, commits himself to free those who call on his name! (Ex 3:7-12). This is our mission. If this salt loses its savour, what will it be good for? "It is of no use for the earth or for the fertiliser" (Lk 14:35)

6. Psalm 150

Universal praise

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy sanctuary;
give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.
Give praise for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his great majesty.

Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
praise him with harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance,
praise him with flutes and strings.

Give praise with crashing cymbals,
praise him with sounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
give praise to the Lord!
Hallelujah!

7. Final Prayer

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

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