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Friday, 08 January 2010 00:00

St. Peter Thomas, Bishop

stpeterthomas 150January 8 Feast

Born in Perigod, France, around 1305, Saint Peter Thomas joined the Carmelite Order when twenty years of age.

Sunday, 03 January 2010 00:00

St. Kuriakos Elias Chavara (CMI) Priest

stkuriakoseliaschavara 150January 3 Optional Memorial in the regions of India

Saint Kuriakos Elias Chavara, co-founder and first prior general of the congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, was born at Kainakary in Kerala, India, on 10 February 1805.

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:21

Lectio Divina: Matthew 26:14-25

Season of Lent  

1) Opening prayer

God our Father,

when the hour of Your Son Jesus had come

to accept suffering and death

out of love of You

and His saving love for us, He did not refuse that suffering and deep pain.

In the hour of trial

that we may have to pass through,

do not let us become rebellious

but keep us trusting in You,

for You save us

through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The teacher says, my appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."' The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born." Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so." 

3) Reflection

• Yesterday the Gospel spoke of the betrayal of Judas and of the denial of Peter. Today, it speaks once again of the betrayal of Judas. In the description of the Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the failure of the disciples is strongly stressed. In spite of having lived three years together with Jesus, not one of them defends Jesus. Judas betrays Him, Peter denies Him, and the others flee. Matthew narrates everything, not to criticize or to condemn, neither to discourage the readers, but in order to underline that acceptance and the love of Jesus exceed the defeat and the failure of the disciples! This way of describing the attitude of Jesus was a help for the Communities at the time of Matthew. Because of the frequent persecutions, many were discouraged and had abandoned the community and asked themselves: “Will it be possible to return? Will God accept and forgive us?” Matthew responds by suggesting that we can break the relationship with Jesus, but Jesus never breaks it with us. His love is greater than our infidelity. This is a very important message which we get from the Gospel during Holy Week.

• Matthew 26:14-16: The Decision of Judas to betray Jesus. Judas took the decision after Jesus did not accept the criticism of the disciples concerning the woman who wastes a very expensive perfume only to anoint Jesus (Mt 26:6-13). He went to the chief priest and asked: “What are you prepared to give Me if I hand Him over to you?” They agreed on the sum of thirty silver pieces. Matthew recalls the words of the Prophet Zechariah to describe the price agreed upon (Zc 11, 12). At the same time, the betrayal of Jesus for thirty silver coins recalls the sale of Joseph by his brothers, decided by the buyers for twenty coins (Gn 37:28). It also is reminiscent of the price of thirty coins to be paid for the wounding of a slave (Ex 21:32).

• Matthew 26:17-19: The preparation for the Passover. Jesus was coming from Galilee. He did not have a house in Jerusalem. He spent the night in the Garden of Olives (cf. Jn 8:1). In the days of the feast of the Passover the people of Jerusalem increased three times in number because of the enormous number of pilgrims who went there from all parts. For Jesus it was not easy to find a big room to celebrate the Passover together with the pilgrims coming from Galilee. He ordered His disciples to find a person in whose house He had decided to celebrate the Passover. The Gospel does not offer any other information and allows the imagination to complete what is missing in the information. Was this a person known by Jesus? A relative? A disciple? Throughout the centuries the imagination of the Apocrypha has tried to complete this information, but with little credibility.

• Matthew 26:20-25: The announcement of the betrayal of Judas. Jesus knew that He will be betrayed. In spite of the fact that Judas did things secretly. Jesus knew. But in spite of that, He wants to act fraternally with the group of friends to which Judas belongs. When all were together for the last time, Jesus announces who is the traitor “Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with Me will betray Me”. This way of announcing the betrayal renders even clearer the contrast. For the Jews, the communion around the table, to dip the hand together in the same dish, was the maximum expression of intimacy and trust. In this way, Matthew suggests that in spite of the betrayal made by someone who was a friend, the love of Jesus is greater than the betrayal!

• What strikes us in the way in which Matthew describes these facts? Between the denial and the betrayal there is the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26:26-29): the betrayal of Judas first (Mt 26:20-25); the denial of Peter and the flight of the disciples, afterwards (Mt 25:30-35). Thus, he stressed for us the incredible love of Jesus, which exceeds the betrayal, the denial, and the flight of the friends. His love does not depend on what others do for Him. 

4) Personal questions

• It seems obvious that Judas will betray Jesus from our reading the Gospel, but put yourself there at the time. Would you have suspected one of your close group to do this? How would you interpret the indications Jesus was giving at the time?

• In Holy Week it is important to reserve some moments to become aware of the unbelievable gratuity of God’s love for me. 

5) Concluding Prayer

Sing to God, play music to His name,

build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,

rejoice in Yahweh, dance before Him.

Father of orphans, defender of widows,

such is God in His holy dwelling. (Ps 68:4-5)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:20

Lectio Divina: John 13:21-33, 36-38

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

Your Son Jesus Christ

had to undergo the humiliation

of being betrayed and denied

by those He called His friends.  But He made His suffering and death

into instruments of love and reconciliation.

Make us with Him, people-for-others,

who accept difficulties, even betrayals

and misunderstanding of our best intentions,

and turn them into sources of life and joy

for those around us.

Keep us faithful to You and to one another

through Jesus Christ our Lord. >

2) Gospel Reading - John 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times." 

3) Reflection

• This is the third day of Holy Week. The texts of the Gospel of these days place before us the terrible facts which will lead to the imprisonment and condemnation of Jesus. The texts not only present the decisions of the religious and civil authority against Jesus, but also the betrayal and the negotiations of the disciples which rendered it possible for the authority to arrest Jesus and contributed enormously to the suffering of Jesus.

• John 13:21: The announcement of the betrayal. After having washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:2-11) and having spoken about the obligation that we have of washing each other’s feet (Jn 13:12-16), Jesus is profoundly touched. And it is no wonder. He was fulfilling that gesture of service and total gift of self, while at His side one of the disciples was planning how to betray Him that same night. Jesus expresses His emotion saying: “In all truth I tell you one of you is going to betray Me!” He does not say: “Judas will betray Me”, but “one of you”. It is one of His group who will betray Him.

• John 13:22-25: The reaction of the disciples. The disciples are frightened. They did not expect that declaration, that is, that one of them would be the traitor. Peter makes a sign to John to ask Jesus which of the twelve would be the traitor. This is a sign that they did not know one another well, they could not succeed in understanding who could be the traitor. A sign, that is, that the friendship among them had not as yet reached the same transparency that Jesus had with them (cf. Jn 15:15). John reclined near Jesus and asked Him: “Who is it?”

• John 13:26-30: Jesus indicates Judas. Jesus says: “It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread that I dip in the dish.” He took a piece of bread, dips it in the cup and hands it over to Judas. This was a common and normal gesture which the participants at a supper used to do among themselves. And Jesus tells Judas: “What you are going to do, do quickly!” Judas had charge of the common fund. He was in charge of buying things and of giving the alms to the poor. This is why no one perceived anything special in the gesture and in the words of Jesus. In this description of the announcement of the betrayal is evoked the Psalm in which the psalmist complains about the friend who betrays Him: “Even My trusted friend on whom I relied, who shared My table takes advantage of Me” (Ps 41:10; cf. Ps 55:13-15). Judas becomes aware that Jesus knew everything (cf. Jn 13:18). But even knowing it, he does not change his mind but keeps the decision to betray Jesus. This is the moment in which the separation between Judas and Jesus takes place. John says at this moment Satan entered him. Judas rises and leaves. He places himself at the side of the enemy (Satan). John comments: “”It was night”. It was dark.

• John 13:31-33: The glorification of Jesus begins. It is as if history had waited for this moment of separation between light and darkness. Satan (the enemy) and darkness entered into Judas when he decides to carry out what he was planning. In that moment the light was made in Jesus who declares: “Now the son of man has been glorified, and in Him God has been glorified also. 32 If God has been glorified in Him, God will in turn glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him very soon!” The decisions had already been taken by Jesus (Jn 12:27-28) and now by Judas. The facts follow one another hastily. And, Jesus announces it: “Little children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going you cannot come”. There is little time left before the Passover.

• John 13:34-35: The new commandment. Today’s Gospel omits these two verses on the new commandment of love, and begins to speak about the announcement of the denial of Peter.

• John 13:36-38: Announcement of the denial of Peter. Together with the betrayal of Judas, the Gospel also speaks of the denial of Peter. These are the two facts which contribute the most to Jesus’ suffering and pain. Peter says that he is ready to give his life for Jesus. Jesus recalls and reminds him of reality: “You are ready to lay down your life for Me? In all truth I tell you, before the cock crows you will have disowned Me three times”. Mark had written: “Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned Me three times” (Mk 14:30). Everybody knows that the cock crows rapidly. When in the morning the first cock begins to sing, almost at the same time all the cocks crow together. Peter is more rapid in his denial than the cock in crowing. 

4) Personal questions

• Do I love so much as to protect someone who betrays me too?

• Satan prowls like a lion looking to devour souls. It happened to Judas. What do I do to prevent Satan from entering me? 

5) Concluding Prayer

You are my hope, Lord,

my trust, Yahweh, since boyhood.

On You I have relied since my birth,

since my mother's womb You have been my portion,

the constant theme of my praise. (Ps 71:5-6)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:20

Lectio Divina: John 12:1-11

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

You have called Your people

to be the servants of one another

in the cause of justice and mercy. You showed us in Jesus, Your Son,

what it means to serve

and how much this may cost us.

Fill us with the Spirit of Jesus,

that we too may not break those who are weak

nor repel those groping in the dark.

Let Him teach us to serve and to love

with compassion for the helpless

and respect for the least and the poorest,

together with Jesus Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

3) Reflection

• We have entered into Holy Week, the week of the Passover of Jesus, of His passing from this world to the Father (Jn 13:1). Liturgy today places before us the beginning of chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, which serves as a link between the Book of the Signs (cc 1-11) and the Book of the Glorification (cc 13-21). At the end of the “Book of Signs” there appears, very clearly, the tension between Jesus and the religious authority of the time (Jn 10:19-21.39) and the danger which Jesus was facing. Several times they had tried to kill Him (Jn 10:31; 11:8. 53; 12,:10). It was such that Jesus was obliged to lead a clandestine life, because He could be arrested at any moment (Jn 10:40; 11:54).

• John 12:1-2: Jesus persecuted by the Jews, goes to Bethany. Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to the house of His friends Martha and Mary and of Lazarus. Bethany means, House of Poverty. The police were looking for Him (Jn 11:57). They wanted to kill Him (Jn 11:50). But even now that the police were looking for Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus received Him in their house and offered Him something to eat. Because love overcomes fear.

• John 12:3: Mary anoints Jesus. During the meal, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a pound of perfume of pure spikenard (cf. Lk 7:36-50). It was a very costly perfume, so very expensive that it cost three hundred denarii. Then she dried His feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the scent of the ointment. Mary does not speak during this whole episode. She only acts. The gesture filled with symbolism speaks for itself. In washing the feet, Mary becomes a servant. Jesus will repeat the gesture at the Last Supper (Jn 13:5).

• John 12:4-6: Reaction of Judas. Judas criticizes the gesture of Mary. He thinks that it is a waste. In fact, three hundred denarii were the wages of three hundred days! The wages of almost a whole year spent in one time alone! Judas thinks that the money should have been given to the poor. The Evangelist comments and says that Judas had no concern at all for the poor, but that he was a thief. They had a common fund and he stole the money. A strong judgment which condemns Judas. It does not condemn the concern for the poor, but the hypocrisy which uses the poor for self promotion and to enrich oneself. Judas, in his own egoistic interests, thought only about money. This is why he was not aware of what Mary kept in her heart. Jesus reads the heart and defends Mary.

• John 12:7-8: Jesus defends the woman, Judas thinks only of the waste and criticizes the woman. Jesus thinks of the gesture and defends the woman: “Leave her alone; so that she can keep it for the day of My burial!” And immediately Jesus says: “You have the poor with you always; you will not always have Me!” Which of the two lived closer to Jesus: Judas or Mary? Judas, the disciple, lived together with Jesus for almost three years, twenty-four hours a day. He was part of the group. Mary saw Him once or twice a year, on the occasion of some feast, when Jesus went to Jerusalem and visited her in her house. But to live together with, not having any love does not help us to know others. Rather it blinds people. Judas was blind. Many people live together with Jesus and praise Him even with many hymns, but do not truly know Him and do not reveal Him (cf. Mt 7:21). Two affirmations of Jesus merit a more detailed comment: (a) “You have the poor with you always” and (b) “let her keep it for the day of My burial”.

(a) “You have the poor with you always “. Is it perhaps that Jesus wants to say that we should not be concerned about the poor, given the fact that there will always be poor? Or does He want to say that poverty is the destiny imposed by God? How is this phrase to be understood? At that time, people knew the Old Testament by heart. It sufficed for Jesus to begin quoting a phrase of the Old Testament and persons already knew the rest. The beginning of the phrase said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the country” (Dt 15:11ª). The rest of the phrase which people already knew and which Jesus wants to remind is the following: “And this is why I am giving you this command: always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and is poor!” (Dt 15:11b). According to this Law, the community should accept the poor and share its goods with them. But, Judas instead of “opening his hand to help the poor” and to share his goods with them, wanted to do charity with the money of others! He wanted to sell the perfume of Mary for three hundred denarii and use it to help the poor. Jesus quotes the Law of God which taught the contrary. Anyone, who like Judas, carries out a campaign with the money from the sale of the goods of another, does not disturb or trouble. But, the one who, like Jesus, insists on the obligation to accept the poor and to share with them one’s own goods, this one disturbs, troubles and runs the risk of being condemned.

(b) John 12:9-11: The crowds and the authority. To be the friend of Jesus could be dangerous. Lazarus is in danger of death because of the new life received from Jesus. The Jews had decided to kill Him. Lazarus alive was a living proof that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the crowd was looking for Him, because people wanted to experience closely the living proof of the power of Jesus. A living community runs the risk of its life because it is the living proof of the Good News of God!

4) Personal questions

• Mary was misinterpreted by Judas. Have you been misinterpreted sometimes?

• Do I actually serve the poor, or do I just share the goods of others?

• Are lavish expenses on church buildings and decorations a case of worshiping Jesus as Mary did, or is taking from the poor?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is my light and my salvation,

whom should I fear?

Yahweh is the fortress of my life,

whom should I dread? (Ps 27:1)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:19

Lectio: Palm Sunday

Luke 22:14-23,56

The death of Jesus:

when love goes to the extreme

Luke 22:14-23,56

1. Opening prayer

Holy Spirit,

poured out on the world by the divine suffering and death,

guide us to contemplate

and understand the way of the cross

of our Savior

and the love with which He walked this way.

Grant us eyes and hearts of true believers,

so that we may perceive

the glorious mystery of the cross.

“Thanks to the cross we no longer wander through the desert,

because we know the true path;

we no longer live outside the house of God, our King,

because we have found the entrance to it;

we no longer fear the fiery spears of the devil,

because we have found a spring of water.

Through Him we are no longer alone,

because we have found the spouse again;

we do not fear the world,

because now we have found the Good Shepherd.

Thanks to the cross

the injustice of the powerful does not frighten us,

because we sit at table with the King” (St. John Chrysostom).

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

The liturgical context: the ancient tradition of proclaiming the Gospel of the passion and death of Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Sunday before Easter goes back to the time when the celebrations of Holy Week were reduced to a minimum. The aim of the reading is to lead the hearers to contemplate the mystery of the death that prepares for the resurrection of the Lord and that, therefore, is the condition by which the believer enters into the “new life” in Christ. The custom of reading this long Gospel passage in parts, not only helps to make the reading less monotonous so as to facilitate an attentive listening, but also in order to involve emotionally the participation of the listeners, almost making them feel present and taking part in the narrative.

The two readings before the Gospel of this Sunday help us with an interpretation that gives a certain perspective to the text: the Servant of JHWH is Jesus, the Christ, a divine person who, through His ignominious death, comes into the glory of God the Father and communicates His own life to those who listen to Him and welcome Him.

The Gospel context: it is well known that the literary nucleus around which the Gospels were written was the Paschal Mystery: Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. We have here, therefore, a text that is ancient and homogeneous in its literary composition, even though it was written through a gradual process. However, its importance is paramount: in it we are told the fundamental event of the Christian faith, what every believer must face and conform to (even though the text of the liturgy of this Sunday ends with the burial of Jesus).

As usual, Luke comes through as an efficient and delicate narrator who pays attention to details and is capable of letting the reader glimpse something of the feelings and inner motivations of the main characters, above all of Jesus. The terrible and unjust suffering Jesus undergoes is filtered through His unalterable attitude of mercy towards all, even His persecutors and murderers. Some of these are touched by the way He faces suffering and death, so much so that they show signs of faith in Him: the torment of the passion is rendered soft by the power of the divine love of Jesus.

In the third Gospel, Jesus goes to the holy city only once: that decisive moment for  human history and for the history of salvation. The whole of Luke’s Gospel is like a long preparation for the events of the last days that Jesus passes in Jerusalem, preaching acting at times even grandiosely (esp. the driving of the merchants from the temple 19:45-48), and at other times mysteriously or in a provocative manner (esp. the reply concerning the tribute to Caesar, 20:19-26). It is not by chance that Luke puts together in these last days many events and words that the other synoptic Gospels place elsewhere in the public life of Jesus. All this takes place while the plot of the chiefs of the nation thickens and becomes ever more concrete, until Judas offers them a perfect and unexpected chance (22:2-6).   

In this last and definitive stage of the life of the Lord, the third Evangelist uses various terms such as a “passing” or an “exodus” (9:31), a “taking up” (9:51) and an “attaining of the end” (13:32). Thus, Luke leads us to understand, before the fact, how to interpret the terrible and scandalous death of the Christ to whom they had entrusted their life: He accomplishes a painful and difficult stage to understand, but one “necessary” in the economy of salvation (9:22; 13:33; 17:35; 22:37) in order to bring to success (“fulfillment”) His journey towards glory (cf. 24:26; 17:25). This journey of Jesus is the paradigm of the journey to be achieved by each of His disciples (Acts 14:22).

b) A division of the text to help us in its reading:

The story of the Last Supper: from 22:7 to 22:38;

The prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani: from 22:39 to 22:46;

The arrest and the Jewish trial: from 22:47 to 22:71

The civil trial before Pilate and Herod: from 23:1 to 23:25

The sentence, crucifixion and death: from 23:26 to 23:49

Events after the death: from 23:50 to 23:56.

c) The text:

The story of the Last Supper

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. "And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed." And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed. Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors'; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers." He said to him, "Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you." But he replied, "I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me." He said to them, "When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?" "No, nothing, " they replied. He said to them, "But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, He was counted among the wicked; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment." Then they said, "Lord, look, there are two swords here." But he replied, "It is enough!"

The prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test." After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."

The arrest and the Jewish trial

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, "Lord, shall we strike with a sword?" And one of them struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, "Stop, no more of this!" Then he touched the servant's ear and healed him. And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness." After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, "This man too was with him." But he denied it saying, "Woman, I do not know him." A short while later someone else saw him and said, "You too are one of them"; but Peter answered, "My friend, I am not." About an hour later, still another insisted, "Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean." But Peter said, "My friend, I do not know what you are talking about." Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly. The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" And they reviled him in saying many other things against him. When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, "If you are the Christ, tell us, " but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth."

The civil trial before Pilate and Herod

Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, "We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king." Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He said to him in reply, "You say so." Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find this man not guilty." But they were adamant and said, "He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here." On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, "You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him." But all together they shouted out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us." — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate addressed them a third time, "What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him." With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

Luke 22:14-23,56

The sentence, crucifixion and death

As they led him away

they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,

who was coming in from the country;

and after laying the cross on him,

they made him carry it behind Jesus.

A large crowd of people followed Jesus,

including many women who mourned and lamented him.

Jesus turned to them and said,

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;

weep instead for yourselves and for your children

for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,

'Blessed are the barren,

the wombs that never bore

and the breasts that never nursed.'

At that time people will say to the mountains,

'Fall upon us!'

and to the hills, 'Cover us!'

for if these things are done when the wood is green

what will happen when it is dry?"

Now two others, both criminals,

were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull,

they crucified him and the criminals there,

one on his right, the other on his left.

Then Jesus said,

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

They divided his garments by casting lots.

The people stood by and watched;

the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said,

"He saved others, let him save himself

if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."

Even the soldiers jeered at him.

As they approached to offer him wine they called out,

"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."

Above him there was an inscription that read,

"This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,

"Are you not the Christ?

Save yourself and us."

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,

"Have you no fear of God,

for you are subject to the same condemnation?

And indeed, we have been condemned justly,

for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,

but this man has done nothing criminal."

Then he said,

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

He replied to him,

"Amen, I say to you,

today you will be with me in Paradise."

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land

until three in the afternoon

because of an eclipse of the sun.

Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit";

and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said,

"This man was innocent beyond doubt."

When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened,

they returned home beating their breasts;

but all his acquaintances stood at a distance,

including the women who had followed him from Galilee

and saw these events.

Events after the death

Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 22:14-23,56

3. A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may enter into our hearts and shed light on our lives.

4. A few questions

to help us in our meditation and prayer.

a) At the end of this long reading, what feeling prevails in me: is it relief for having come to the end, admiration for Jesus, pain for His pain, joy for the salvation achieved, or something else?

b) I re-read the text and pay special attention to the way the many “powerful” acted: the priests, the scribes and Pharisees, Pilate, Herod. What do I think of them? How would I have thought, acted, spoken and decided in their place?

c) I read the passion once more and, this time, pay attention to the action of the “little ones”: the disciples, the people, individuals, the women, the soldiers and others. What do I think of them? How would I have acted, thought and spoken in their place?

d) Finally, I look at my way of acting in my daily life. With which of the main or lesser characters can I identify myself with? Which character would I like to identify myself with?

5. A key to the reading

for those who wish to go deeper into the theme.

A commentary on the text with special emphasis on some key points:

22:14: When the hour came He took His place at table, and the apostles with Him: Although Luke is writing for a Christian community mostly of gentile origin, he stresses that the Last Supper of Jesus is part of the Jewish rite of pesach. Just before the supper he describes the preparations (vv. 7-13).

22:15: I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: this recalls the words in 12:50: “There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is My distress till it is over! (cf.  Jn 12:32). Luke gives us a ray of light on the interior dimension of Jesus as He prepares to suffer and die: what impels Him is, as always for Him, the radical choice of conforming to the will of the Father (cf. 2:49), but in these words we glimpse a very human desire for fraternity, for sharing and for friendship.

22:17: Then, taking a cup, He gave thanks: we have not yet come to the Eucharistic chalice strictly speaking, but only to the first of four cups of wine that are drunk at a paschal meal.

22:18: From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes: this is the second explicit reference to His nearing death. It is a repetition of the proclamations concerning the passion (9:22.44; 12:50; 18:31-32) and, like those, it refers implicitly to the resurrection. However, the proclamation, even in all the seriousness of the moment, contains intimations of hope and of the eschatological expectation, together with the certainty that the Father will not abandon Him to death. Jesus is aware of what He has to face, but is quite serene, interiorly free, certain of His final destiny and of the final results of what He is about to experience.

22:19-20: the story of the Eucharistic institution is quite similar to the one mentioned in Paul (1Cor 11:23-25) and has a pronounced sacrificial character: Jesus offers Himself, not things, as an oblation for those who believe in Him.

22:21: Here with Me on the table is the hand of the man who betrays Me: eating with him, Jesus allows even Judas to enter into communion with Him, and yet He knows well that this disciple is about to betray Him definitively. The contrast is strident and made so on purpose by the Evangelist, as is true also elsewhere in this passage.

22:28: You are the men who have stood by Me faithfully in My trials: unlike Judas, the other disciples have “stood by Jesus in His trials”, because they have stayed with Him at least up to the present moment. The Lord, then, acknowledges that they have reached a high level of communion with Him so that they deserve special honor in the glory of the Father (v. 29).  

It is Jesus Himself, then, who creates a close parallel between the constant communion of His disciples (those of then and those of today) with His suffering and the final and eternal sharing in His glory (“eat and drink”, v. 30).

22:31-37: Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail: this passage seems to come from another context. Jesus’ reference to Satan and his actions against the disciples recalls what the evangelist had said concerning the cause of Judas’ betrayal (22:3) and is almost parallel with Luke’s view of the passion as the final assault of Satan against Jesus (cf. 4:13; 22:53).  

Peter is protected from the snares of the tempter by the prayers of Jesus Himself and because he chose firmly to be a disciple of the Lord, also because he has a special mission towards his brothers and sisters in the faith (v. 32b). Jesus hastens to warn him: for him, as for the other disciples too, the terrible passion of Jesus will cost them a hard fight against Satan and many ambushes that, in various forms, will assail the disciples who will be close to Jesus during the various stages of the passion (vv. 35-36) on account of the terrible trial that He will have to endure (v. 37); these last words explicitly refer to the text in Isaiah concerning the “suffering Servant” (Isa 53:12), with whom Jesus is clearly identified.

22:33-34: Lord… I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death… I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know Me: Peter is a generous man, also a little impatient, as we see from his words, which seem to force Jesus to tell him about the denials. As in verses 24-27 the chiefs of the Christian community were faced with their responsibility as “servants” of the faith of the brothers and sisters entrusted to them, so now they are reminded of their duty to be prudent and vigilant towards themselves and towards their weakness.

22:39-46: the story of the moral-spiritual agony in the garden of Gethsemani follows the text of Mark (14:32-42)closely, except for some details, especially those referring to the consoling appearance of the angel (v.43).   

As the most difficult and insidious moment of his life approaches, Jesus intensifies his prayer. As Luke says, Gethsemani was the “usual” (v.37) place where Jesus often spent nights in (21:37) prayer.

22:47-53: The real passion begins with the arrest of Jesus. This passage presents the following events as “the reign of darkness” (v.53) and shows Jesus as He who overcomes and will overcome violence by patience and the ability to love even His persecutors (v.51); that is why the sad but loving words He addresses to Judas stand out: "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (v.48).

22:54-71: The Jewish trial does not evolve that night. Nothing is said of Jesus as prisoner until morning. This lack of news concerning Jesus immediately after His arrest and until the beginning of the case is typical of Luke.

22:60-62: “My friend,” said Peter, “I do not know what you are talking about"… the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter and Peter remembered what the Lord had said… And he went outside and wept bitterly: the two looks meeting each other, who knows how they happened in the confusion of that interminable night, mark the moment when Peter becomes aware: notwithstanding his gallant declarations of fidelity, he realizes what Jesus had told him a little earlier. In that look, Peter experiences first hand the mercy of the Lord of which he had heard Jesus talking: it does not hide the reality of sin, but heals it and brings men and women back to a full awareness of their own condition and of the personal love of God for them.

22:70-71: So you are the Son of God then? … It is you who say I am… What need of witness have we now? We have heard it for ourselves from His own lips: the Jewish trial begins officially at first dawn of that day (v.66) and concentrates on seeking proofs (some true, in Luke, but cf. Mk 14:55-59) to sentence Jesus to death. According to Luke, then, the chiefs of the Jews did not bring forth false witnesses, but – even in their savage aversion towards Jesus – they behaved towards Him in a somewhat correct juridical manner.

In replying positively to the question “You are the Son of God then?”, Jesus shows that He is fully aware of His divine dignity. Through this awareness, His suffering, death and resurrection are eloquent witness of the benign will of the Father towards humanity. Thus, however, He “signs” his own sentence of death: it is a blasphemy that profanes the Name and the very being of JHWH since He declares himself explicitly to be “son”.

23:3-5: Are you the king of the Jews? … It is you who say it… He is inflaming the people with His teaching: we are passing from a Jewish juridical process to a Roman one: the Jewish chiefs hand over the condemned person to the governor so that he may carry out their sentence and, to give him an acceptable reason, they “domesticate” the movements of their sentence, presenting them in a political light. Thus, Jesus is presented as subverting the people and usurping the royal title of Israel (which by then was but a memory and a purely honorific title).

The means used by Jesus to carry out His crime, as chance would have it, is His preaching: the words of peace and mercy that He spread freely are now used against Him!       

Jesus confirms the accusation, but it is certain that He is not accused of seeking royal status, only one of the reflections of His divine nature. This, however, neither Pilate nor the others are able to understand.

23:6-12: He passed Him over to Herod: Perhaps Pilate intuited that they were trying to play a “dirty trick” on him, so he probably tries to distance himself from the prisoner by invoking respect for jurisdiction: Jesus comes from a district, which at that historical time, did not come under Roman responsibility but that of Herod Antipas.         

The latter is presented in the Gospels as someone quite ambiguous: he admires and at the same time is averse to John the Baptist, because the prophet had taken him to task over his matrimonial position, which was irregular and almost incestuous, and finally has him arrested and then put to death so as not to show a poor figure before his guests (3:19-20; Mk 6:17-29). Then he tries to get to know Jesus just out of curiosity, because he had heard of His fame as a worker of miracles, and he concocts a case against Him (v.10), He questions Jesus personally, but then – before the obstinate silence of Jesus (v. 9) – leaves Him to the mockery of the soldiers as had happened at the end of the religious process (22:63-65) and as will happen when Jesus is crucified (vv. 35-38). He ends up sending Jesus back to Pilate.

Luke concludes this episode with an interesting footnote: Pilate’s gesture begins a new friendship between him and Herod. The circumstances speak clearly as to the purity of the motivation of this friendship.

23:13-25: You brought this man before me… as a political agitator; …I have found no case against the man in respect of the charges you bring against Him: as he suspected from the first meeting with Jesus (v.4) and as he will repeat later (v.22), Pilate pronounces Him innocent. He tries to convince the chiefs of the people to let Jesus go, but they have already decided that He should die (vv.18,21,23) and insist on a sentence of death.         

What is the substance of the governor’s interrogation?  Not much, according to the few phrases that Luke reports (v.3). And yet, Jesus replied positively to Pilate, declaring Himself “king of the Jews”! At this point, it is clear that Pilate does not consider Jesus a dangerous man on the political level, nor for public order, perhaps because the tone of Jesus’ declaration left no doubt on these scores.

The intention of the Evangelist is quite clear in that he seeks to attenuate the responsibility of the Roman governor. The latter, however, is known from historical sources as a “man of inflexible nature and, on top of his arrogance, hard, capable only of extortion, violence, robbery, brutality, torture, executions without trial and fearful and unlimited cruelty” (Philo of Alexandria) and that “he liked to provoke the nations entrusted to him, sometimes by being rude and at other times by hard repression” (Josephus Flavius).

23:16.22: I shall have Him punished and then let Him go…: the fact that Jesus was held to be innocent would not have spared Him a hard “punishment”, inflicted solely so as not to let down the expectations of the chiefs of the Jews.

23:16.18.25: Away with Him! Give us Barabbas! He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased: in the end, Pilate gives in completely to the insistent demands of the chiefs of the people, even though he does not pronounce any formal sentence on Jesus.  

Barabbas, a real delinquent and political agitator, thus becomes the first person saved (at least at that moment) by the sacrifice of Jesus.

23:26-27: They seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed Him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for Him: Simon and the women were not only privileged witnesses of the passion, but, in Luke, they are models of discipleship, people who show in action to the reader how to follow the Lord. Besides, thanks to them and to the crowd, Jesus is not alone as He approaches death, but is surrounded by men and women who are deeply and emotionally close to Him, even though they need conversion, a matter that He recalls to them in spite of His terrible condition (vv.28-31).      

Simon of Cyrene is “seized”, but Luke does not say that he was reluctant to help the Lord (cf. Mk 15:20-21).

The “large numbers of people” are also quite involved in what is happening to Jesus. This is in strident contrast with the crowd that, a little earlier, was demanding the sentence of death from Pilate.

23, 34: Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing: Luke brings out the main concern of the crucified Lord who, in spite of being in atrocious physical pain from the process of crucifixion, prays for them to the Father: He is not concerned with His own condition nor with the historical causes that produced it, but only with the salvation of all humankind. Stephen the martyr will act like Him (Acts 7:60) to show the paradigmatic character of the life and death of Jesus for the existence of every Christian.

To emphasize this strong orientation of Jesus, Luke omits the anguished cry reported by the other synoptic Gospels: “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”

23:33.39-43: They crucified Him there and the two criminals… Jesus… remember me when You come into Your kingdom… Indeed, I promise you… today you will be with Me in paradise: the episode of the dialogue with one of His condemned companions is emblematic of the way Luke understands the death of Jesus: an act of self-giving made for love and in love to bring salvation to the greatest number of people in whatever condition or situation they may find themselves.

”Today” (v. 43): the thief had spoken in the future, but Jesus replies using a verb in the present: the salvation He gives is immediate, the “final days” begin with this saving event.

”You will be with Me” (v. 43): this expression indicates the full communion in force between God and those He welcomes to Himself in eternity (cf. 1Thess 4:17). According to some apocryphal writings of the late Judaic period, the Messiah Himself had “to open the gates of paradise”.

23:44-46: It was now about the sixth hour… Jesus cried out in a loud voice, He said, Father into Your hands I commit My spiritWith these words He breathed His last: Jesus’ last words, by their good nature, seem to contrast with the preceding declaration that He cried aloud.

Having come to the end of His human life, Jesus makes a supreme act of trust in the Father, for whose will He had suffered so much. In these words we can glimpse a hint at the resurrection: the Father will hand Him back this life that Jesus now entrusts to Him (cf. Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27, 13:35).       

Luke writes very concisely of the last moments of Jesus: he is not interested in dwelling on details that would offer satisfaction to some macabre curiosity, like the one that drew and still draws so many spectators at a capital sentence in many places of the world.

23:47-48: When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God: “This was a great and good man”. So too the crowds… went home beating their breasts: the saving efficacy of the sacrifice of Jesus acts almost immediately, simply on the evidence of what had happened: pagans (such as the centurion who commanded the platoon in charge of the execution), and the Jews (the people), begin to change. The centurion “glorifies God” and seems to be just a step from becoming a Christian believer. The Jewish people, perhaps without being aware, go back using gestures of repentance as Jesus had asked of the women of Jerusalem (v. 38).

23:49: All those who knew Him watched from afar: at a prudent distance, knowing the Roman attitude that forbade excessive gestures of mourning for those condemned to be crucified (on pain of being crucified themselves), the group of disciples is present dumbfounded by the whole scene. Luke gives no hint as to their emotions or attitudes: perhaps the pain and violence dazed them to the point of making them incapable of any outward reaction.

Similarly, the women disciples do not take part in any way in the work done by Joseph of Arimathea for the burial of Jesus: they just watch (v. 55).

23:53: Joseph took Him down from the cross, wrapped Him in a sheet and placed Him in a tomb dug in the rock: Jesus has really undergone torture. He is really dead, like so many others before and after Him, on the cross, in a common body of flesh. This event, without which there would be no salvation or eternal life for any one, is verified by the fact that it is necessary to bury Him. This is so true that Luke expands on some details concerning the speed with which the rite of burial was carried out by Joseph (vv. 52-54).

23:56: On the Sabbath they observed the day of rest, according to the commandment: as the Creator rested on the seventh day of creation, thus consecrating the Sabbath (Gen 2:2-3), so now the Lord observes the Sabbath in the tomb.

None of His people, now, seem to be able to hope for anything: Jesus’ words concerning the resurrection seem to have been forgotten. The women limit themselves to preparing some oils to make the burial of the Master a little more dignified.

The Gospel of this “Passion Sunday” concludes here, leaving out the story of the discovery of the empty tomb (24:1-12) and allowing us to savor the bitter sweet sacrifice of the lamb of God, we are left in a sad and suspended state where we remain immersed, even though we know the final result of the Gospel story. This terrible death of the young Rabbi of Nazareth does not lose its significance in His resurrection, but acquires an entirely new and unexpected value, which does not take away anything from the dimension of having been killed in sacrifice freely accepted, because of the “excessively” high respect for our human powers of understanding: it is pure mystery.

6. Isaiah 50:4-10

"The Lord God helps me"

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught,

that I may know how to sustain with a word Him that is weary.

Morning by morning He wakens,

He wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward.

I gave my back to those who struck me

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

For the Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been confounded;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary?

Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;

the moth will eat them up.

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His servant,

who walks in darkness and has no light,

yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God?

7. Closing prayer

of the Eucharistic prayer for this Sunday

Almighty and eternal God, You have given the human race Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility. He fulfilled Your will by becoming man and giving His life on the cross. Help us to bear witness to You by following His example of suffering and make us worthy to share in His resurrection.

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:17

Lectio Divina: John 11:45-56

Season of Lent  

1) Opening prayer

Lord God, creator and Father of all,

Your sons and daughters

are still scattered and divided: Christians and non-Christians,

various Churches and sects

claiming exclusive rights on Your Son,

and each of them full of factions.

Make us dream again the dream

which You alone can make possible:

that we can all be one

if we believe and follow Him

who died to unite all that is scattered,

Jesus Christ, our Lord for ever.

2) Gospel reading – John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him. So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today gives the last part of the long episode of the resurrection of Lazarus in Bethany, in the house of Martha and Mary (Jn 11:1-56). The resurrection of Lazarus is the seventh sign (miracle) of Jesus in John’s Gospel and is also the high and decisive point of the revelation which He made of God and of himself.

• The small community of Bethany, where Jesus liked to go, mirrors the situation and the life-style of the small community of the Beloved Disciple at the end of the first century in Asia Minor. Bethany means “The House of the Poor”. They were poor communities and a poor people. Martha means "Lady” (coordinator): a woman coordinated the community. Lazarus means “God helps”. The community which was poor expected everything from God. Mary means “loved by Yahweh: she was the beloved disciple, image of the community. The episode of the resurrection of Lazarus communicated this certainty: Jesus is the source of life for the community of the poor. Jesus is the source of life for all those who believe in Him.

• John 11:45-46: The repercussion of the Seventh Sign among the people. After the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44), there is the description of the repercussion of this sign among the people. The people were divided; “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what He did, believed in Him”. But some of them went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.

The latter denounced Him. In order to be able to understand this reaction of one part of the population it is necessary to become aware that half of the population of Jerusalem depended completely on the Temple so as to be able to live and to survive. Because of this, it would have been difficult for them to support an unknown prophet from Galilee who criticized the Temple and the authority. This also explains why some even were ready to inform the authority.

• John 11:47-53: The repercussion of the Seventh Sign among those in authority. The news of the resurrection of Lazarus increased the popularity of Jesus. This is why the religious leaders convoked a council meeting, the Sanhedrin, the maximum authority, to discern getting rid of Him; because “this man works many signs. If we let Him go on this way everybody will believe in Him and the Romans will come and suppress the Holy Place and our nation”. They were afraid of the Romans, because in the past it had been shown many times, by the Roman invasions in the year 64 before Christ until the time of Jesus, that the Romans repressed with great violence any attempt of popular rebellion. (Cf. Ac 5:35-37). In the case of Jesus, the Roman reaction could have lead to the loss of everything, even of the Temple and of the privileged position of the priests. Because of this, Caiaphas, the High Priest, decides: “It is better that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish”. And the Evangelist comments: “He did not speak this in His own person, but as high priest of that year, he was prophesying that Jesus was to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather together into one the scattered children of God”. Thus, beginning at that moment, because the chief priests were concerned Jesus’ authority was growing, and being motivated by the fear of the Romans, they decided to kill Jesus.

• John 11:54-56: The repercussion of the seventh sign in the life of Jesus. The final result is that Jesus had to live apart. “So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews; He left the district and went to a region near the desert, to a city called Ephraim and stayed there with His disciples”. The Jewish Passover was drawing near. At this time of the year, the population of Jerusalem tripled because of the great number of pilgrims. The conversation was all around Jesus: "What do you think, will He come to the festival or not?” In the same way, at the time that the Gospel was written at the end of the first century, the time of the persecution of the Emperor Domitian (from 81 to 96), the Christian communities who lived in the service of others were obliged to live clandestinely.

• A key to understand the seventh sign of the resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus was sick. His sisters Martha and Mary sent someone to call Jesus: “The one whom you love is sick!” (Jn 11:3. 5). Jesus responds to the request and explains to the disciples: “This sickness will not end in death, but it is for God’s glory so that through it the Son of God may be glorified” (Jn 11:4) In John’s Gospel, the glorification of Jesus comes through His death (Jn 12:23; 17:1). One of the causes of His condemnation to death was the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11:50; 12:10). Many Jews were in the house of Martha and Mary to console them because of the loss of their brother. The Jews, representatives of the Ancient Covenant, only know how to console. They do not give new life.... Jesus is the one who brings new life! Thus, on one side, the threat of death against Jesus! On the other, Jesus who overcomes death! In this context of conflict between life and death the seventh sign of the resurrection of Lazarus takes place. Martha says that she believes in the resurrection. The Pharisees and the majority of the people say that they believe in the Resurrection (Ac 23:6-10; Mk 12:18). They believed, but they did not reveal it. It was only faith in the resurrection at the end of time and not in the present resurrection in history, here and now. This ancient faith did not renew life. It is not enough to believe in the resurrection which will come at the end of time, but it is necessary to believe in the Resurrection already present here and now in the person of Jesus and in those who believe in Jesus. On these people, death no longer has any power, because Jesus “is the resurrection and the life”. Even without seeing the concrete sign of the resurrection of Lazarus, Martha confesses her faith: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God who was to come into the world” (Jn 11:27).

Jesus orders that the stone be removed. Martha reacts: "Lord, by now He will smell!  This is the fourth day since He died!” (Jn 11:39). Once again Jesus presents the challenge asking to believe in the resurrection, here and now, as a sign of the glory of God: "Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40). They removed the stone. Before the open tomb and before the unbelief of the persons, Jesus addresses himself to the Father. In His prayer, first of all, He gives thanks: “Father, I thank you for hearing My prayer. I myself know that you hear me always!” (Jn 11:41-42). Jesus knows the Father and trusts Him. But now He asks for a sign because of the multitude which is around Him, so that the people can believe that He, Jesus, has been sent by the Father. Then He cried out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus came out (Jn 11:43-44). This is the triumph of life over death, of faith over unbelief. A farmer once commented: "It is up to us to remove the stone. And it is up to God to resurrect the community. There are people who do not know how to remove the stone, and because of this their community has no life!”

4) Personal questions

• What does it mean for me to believe in the resurrection?

• Have I ever “sacrificed” someone rather than protect them in order to preserve the status quo?

5) Concluding prayer

For You are my hope, Lord, my trust, Yahweh, since my youth.

On You I have relied since my birth,

since my mother's womb You have been my portion,

the constant theme of my praise. (Ps 71:5-6)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:17

Lectio Divina: John 10:31-42

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

You are a loyal God,

ever faithful to Your promises. Strengthen our faith,

that with Jesus we may always keep trusting in You

in spite of prejudices, ridicule or contradiction.

Give us the firm conviction

that You are irrevocably committed to us

in Jesus Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, 'You are gods"'? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power. He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, "John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true." And many there began to believe in him.

3) Reflection

• We are close to Holy Week, during which we commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Beginning with the fourth week of Lent, the texts of the Gospel of every day are texts taken almost exclusively from the Gospel of John, two chapters which stress the dramatic tension between the progressive revelation, on the one side, which Jesus makes of the mystery of the Father which fills Him completely, and on the other side, the progressive closing up of the Jews who always become more impenetrable to the message of Jesus. The tragic aspect of this closing up is that they claim it is in fidelity to God. They refuse Jesus in the name of God.

• This way in which John presents the conflict between Jesus and the religious authority is not only something which has taken place in the far past. It is also a mirror which reflects what happens today. In the name of God, some persons transform themselves into bombs and kill other persons. In the name of God, we, members of the three religions of the God of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims, have fought among ourselves throughout history. Ecumenism is difficult and at the same time, necessary. In the name of God, many horrible things have been committed and as a world, we continue to commit them every day. Lent is an important period of time to stop and to ask ourselves: What is the image of God that I have within me?

• John 10:31-33: The Jews want to stone Jesus. The Jews prepare stone to kill Jesus and Jesus asks: “I have shown you many good works from My Father, for which of these are you stoning me?” The answer: “We are stoning you, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy; though you are only man, you claim to be God”. They want to kill Jesus because He blasphemes. The law ordered that such persons should be stoned.

• John 10:34-36: The Bible calls all sons of God. They want to kill Jesus because He says He is God. Jesus responds in the name of the law of God itself. “Is it not perhaps written in your Law: I said you are gods? Now, if the Law has called gods those to whom the Word of God was addressed (and Scripture cannot be set aside), to those whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, and you say: You blaspheme, because I have said: I am the Son of God?”

• Strangely, Jesus says “your law”. He could have said: “our Law”. Why does He speak in this way? The Jews understood the Law as applying the term “gods” to those who were the recipients of God’s Word. There are three ways it could be phrased: 1) the Law, 2) our Law, or 3) your Law. The rabbinic interpretation precludes number 1, as it would only be applied to true Israelites. The second way would indicate a common theological understanding of the Law. His entire ministry had shown their misunderstanding of the Law, so this would not be consistent. So, in option 3, we see He not only is using the Law to explain, but also to emphasize “their” interpretations of the Law versus what He has taught. In other words it could be said: “according to the Law as you have made it out to be”.

• John 10:37-38: At least believe in the works. Jesus again speaks of the works that He does and which are the revelation of the Father. If I do not do the works of the Father, there is no need to believe in me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe in me, at least believe in the works I do, so that you will believe that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. These are the same words that He said at the Last Supper (Jn 14:10-11).

• John 10:39-42: Once again they want to kill Him, but He flees from their clutches. There was no sign of conversion. They continue to say that Jesus blasphemes and insist in killing Him. There is no future for Jesus. His death has been decided, but as yet His hour has not arrived. Jesus goes out and crosses the Jordan going toward the place where John had baptized. In this way He indicates the continuity of His mission with the mission of John. He helped people to become aware of how God acts in history. The people recognize in Jesus the one whom John had announced.

4) Personal questions

• The Jews condemn Jesus in the name of God, in the name of the image that they have of God. Have I ever condemned someone in the name of God?

• Do you reveal the presence of Jesus within you by the works that you do?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is my rock and my fortress,

my deliverer is my God.

I take refuge in Him, my rock, my shield,

my saving strength, my stronghold,

my place of refuge. (Ps 18:2)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:16

Lectio Divina: The Annunciation of the Lord

God’s covenant with humanity

Mary’s yes and our yes

Luke 1:26-38

1. Opening prayer

Merciful Father, in this holy time of prayer and of listening to Your Word, send also to me Your holy angel that I may receive the proclamation of salvation and that, after opening my heart, I may offer my yes to Love. Let, I beg You, the Holy Spirit overshadow me as an overwhelming power. From now on, Father, I do not wish to express anything other than my “Yes!” and to say to You: “Behold, I am here for You. Do unto me whatever pleases You.”  Amen.

2. Reading

a) The context of the passage:

The story of the annunciation takes us from the temple, a holy place par excellence, to the house, to the intimacy of a personal meeting of God with His creature; it leads us into ourselves, into the deepest part of our being and our story, where God alone can reach and touch us. The announcement of the birth of John the Baptist had opened the sterile womb of Elizabeth, thus overcoming the absolute powerlessness of humankind and transforming it into the ability to collaborate with God. On the other hand, the announcement of the birth of Jesus, knocks on the door of a fertile womb of the one who is “full of grace” and awaits a reply: it is God who waits for our yes so as to work everything in us.

b) An aid to the reading of this passage:

vv. 26-27: The first two verses place us at the time and sacred space of the event on which we are meditating and which we relive: we are in the sixth month from the conception of John the Baptist and in Nazareth, a city in Galilee, the land of the marginalized and unclean. Here God has come down to speak with a virgin, to speak to our hearts.

The people involved in this unsettling event are presented to us: Gabriel, the messenger of God, a young woman called Mary and her spouse Joseph of the royal house of David. We too are made welcome into this company and are called to enter into the mystery.

vv. 28-29: These are the very first words of the dialogue between God and His creature: just a few words, a mere breath, but all-powerful words that disturb the heart, that question deeply the meaning of human life, plans and expectations. The angel announces joy, grace and the presence of God; Mary is disturbed and asks herself how can any of this be happening to her. Where can such a joy come from? How can such a great grace, that can change her very being, be hers?

vv. 30-33: These are the central verses of the excerpt: it is the explosion of the announcement, the manifestation of the gift of God, of His omnipotence in the life of human beings. Gabriel, the strong, speaks of Jesus: the eternal king, the Savior, the God made child, the humble all-powerful. He speaks of Mary, of her womb, of her life that she was chosen to be the gateway to welcoming God in this world and into the lives of all people. Even at this stage of the events, God begins to draw near, to knock. He stands, attentive, by the door of the heart of Mary,  and even now by our house, our hearts…

v. 34: Mary, faced with God’s proposal, allows herself to stand naked. She allows herself to be read to her very depths. She speaks of herself, her heart, her wishes. She knows that for God the impossible is possible; she does not doubt or harden her heart and mind;  she does not count the cost; she only wants to be fully available, open, and allows herself to be reached by that humanly impossible touch, but one already written, already realized in God. In a gesture of utter poverty, she places before God her virginity, her not knowing man. This is a complete and absolute surrender of self, full of faith and trust. It is her preliminary yes.

vv. 35-37: God, most humble, gives an answer; the all-powerful bends over the fragility of this woman, who represents each one of us. The dialogue continues; the covenant grows and is strengthened. God reveals the how. He speaks of the Holy Spirit, of the fruitful overshadowing, which does no violence, does not break, but preserves intact. He speaks of the human experience of Elizabeth. He reveals another impossible thing made possible; almost like a guarantee or security. And then comes the last word when one must make a choice: to say yes or no, believe or doubt, dissolve or harden oneself, to open the door or close it. “Nothing is impossible for God.”

v. 38: The last verse seems to contain an infinity. Mary says her “Here I am.” She opens herself wide to God and then the meeting, the union takes place forever. God enters into the human and the human becomes the place of God: these are the most sublime nuptials possible on earth. And yet, the Gospel ends on a sad and hard note: Mary stays alone; the angel leaves. What remains, however, is the yes pronounced to God and God’s presence; what remains is real life.

c) The Text:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

I have read and listened to the words of the Gospel. Now I stand in silence … God is present, at the door, and asks for shelter, yes, even from me and from my poor life …

4. A few questions

a) God’s announcement, His angel, enters my life, stands before me and speaks to me. Am I prepared to welcome Him, to give Him space, to listen to Him attentively?

b) Suddenly I receive an upsetting announcement. God speaks to me of joy, grace and presence: all the things that I have been seeking for so long, always. Who can make me really happy? Am I willing to trust in His happiness and His presence?

c) Not much is needed, just a movement of the heart, of my being; He is already aware of this. He is already overwhelming me with light and love. He says to me, “You have found favor in My sight.”  So, I please God? He finds me pleasant, loveable? Yes, that is how it really is. Why is it that I would not believe it before? Why have I not listened to Him?

d) The Lord Jesus wants to come into this world also through me; He wants to reach my brothers and sisters through the paths of my life, of my being. Would I lead Him astray? Would I refuse Him, keep Him at a distance? Would I wipe Him out of my story, my life?

5. A key to the reading

Some important and strong words that resonate in this Gospel passage.

● Rejoice!

This is a really strange greeting from God to His creature; it seems hard to explain and perhaps even senseless. And yet, for centuries it resonated in the pages of Sacred Scripture and thus also on the lips of the Hebrew people. Rejoice, be glad, exult! Many times the prophets had repeated this gentle breath of God and had shouted the silent beat of His heart for His people, His remnant. I read this in Joel: “Land, do not be afraid; be glad, rejoice, for Yahweh has done great things… (2:21-23); in Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has repealed your sentence” (3:14); in Zechariah: “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion, for now I am coming to live among you – Yahweh declares!” (2, 14). I read and listen to it today; I say it also in my heart, in my life; a joy is announced to me, a new happiness, never before experienced. I rediscover the great things that the Lord has done for me; I experience the freedom that comes from His pardon: I am no longer sentenced, but graced forever; I live the experience of the presence of the Lord next to me, in me. Yes, He has come to dwell in our midst; He is once more setting up His tent in the land of my heart, of my existence. Lord, as the psalm says, You rejoice in Your creatures (Ps 104:31); and I too rejoice in You, give thanks to You; my joy is in You (Ps 104:34).

● The Lord is with you

These simple and enlightened words,  pronounced by the angel to Mary, release an all-powerful force; I realize that these words alone would suffice to save my life, to lift me up again from whatever fall or humiliation, to bring me back when I go astray. The fact that He, my Lord, is with me, keeps me alive, gives me courage and trust to go on being. If I am, it is because He is with me. Who knows but that the experience of Isaac told in Scripture might not be valid for me, when one day Abimelech came to Isaac with his men to tell him, “It became clear to us that Yahweh was with you” (Gen 26:28) and then asked to become friends and form an alliance. Would that the same thing might be said of me; would that I could show that the Lord is truly with me, in my life, in my desires, in my affections, in my choices and actions; would that others might meet Him through me. Perhaps for this, it is necessary for me to absorb more of the presence of God, for me to eat and drink of Him.

Let me go to the school of Scripture, to read and re-read some passages where the voice of the Lord tells me again and again of this truth and, while He speaks, to be transformed, ever more in-dwelt. “Remain for the present in that country; I shall be with you and bless you” (Gen 26:3). “To Joshua son of Nun, Yahweh gave this order: Be strong and stand firm, for you are to be the one to bring the Israelites into the country which I have promised them on oath, and I myself shall be with you” (Deut 31:23). “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you and rescue you” (Jer 15:20). “The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said: Yahweh is with you, valiant warrior!” (Judg 6:12). “Yahweh appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I shall bless you and multiply your offspring for My servant Abraham’s sake’” (Gen 26:24). “Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this country, for I shall never desert you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28:15). “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand” (Is 41:10)

● Do not be afraid

The Bible is packed with this pronouncement full of kindness; like a river of mercy, these words are found throughout the sacred books, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. It is the Father who repeats to His children not to be afraid, because He is with them; He will not abandon them; He will not forget them; He will not leave them in the hands of their enemies. It is like a declaration of love from God to humanity, to each one of us; it is a pledge of fidelity that is relayed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, and finally comes down to us. Abraham heard these words and after him his son Isaac, then the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon and, with them, Jeremiah and all the prophets. No one is excluded from this embrace of salvation that the Father offers His children, even those farthest from Him, most rebellious against Him. Mary knows how to listen to these words and knows how to believe full of faith, in an attitude of absolute surrender.  She listens and believes, welcomes and lives for us too. She is the strong and courageous woman who opens herself to the coming of God, letting go of all fears, incredulity and a closed spirit. She repeats these same words of God in our lives and invites us to believe like her.

● You enjoy God’s favor

“Lord, if I enjoy favor in your sight…”. This is the prayer that time and time again comes out of the lips and hearts of those who seek refuge in the Lord. The Scriptures tell us about such people.  We come across them in our crossroads when we know not where to go, when we feel hounded by solitude or by temptation, when we experience abandonment, betrayals, heavy defeats of our own existence. When we no longer have anyone and we fail to find even ourselves, then we too, like them, find ourselves praying by repeating these same words: “Lord, if I enjoy favor in your sight…”. Who knows how often we have repeated these words, even alone and in silence. But today, here in this simple passage of the Gospel, we are forestalled, we are welcomed in anticipation; we need no longer plead, because we have already found everything that we always sought and much more. We have received freely. We are overwhelmed and now we can overflow!

● Nothing is impossible to God

I have nearly come to the end of this strong journey of grace and liberation; I now come across a word that shakes me in my depths. My faith is being sifted; the Lord is testing me, scrutinizing me, testing my heart. What the angel says here in front of Mary, had already been proclaimed many times in the Old Testament; now the time has come for the fulfilment;  now all the impossible things come to pass. God becomes man; the Lord becomes friend, brother; the distant is very close. And I, even I, small and poor as I am, am given to share in the immensity of this gift, this grace; I am told that in my life too the impossible becomes possible. I only have to believe, to give my consent. But this means that I have to allow myself to be shattered by the power of God; to surrender to Him, who will transform me, free me and renew me. Not even this is impossible. Yes, I can be reborn today, here and now, by the grace of the voice that has spoken to me, that has reached me even to the very depths of my heart. I seek and transcribe the passages of Scripture that repeat this truth. And as I write them, as I re-read them and say them slowly, devouring every word, and what they say takes place in me… Genesis 18:14; Job 42:2; Jeremiah 32:17; Jeremiah 32:27; Zechariah 8:6; Matthew 19:26; Luke 18:27.

● Here I am

Now I cannot escape, nor can I avoid the conclusion. I knew from the beginning that here, in this word, so small and yet so full, so final, that God was waiting for me. The appointment of love, of the covenant between Him and me had been fixed precisely on this word, just a gentle voice, just a kiss. I am unsettled by the richness of the presence I feel in this “Here I am!”; I need not make much effort to recall the number of times that God first pronounced and repeated these words to me. He is the ‘Here I am’ made man, absolutely faithful, unforgettable. I only need to tune into Him, only find His footprints in the sand of my poverty, of my desert; I only need to welcome His infinite love that never ceases to seek me, to stay close to me, to walk with me wherever I go. The “Here I am” has already been pronounced and realized. It is already real. How many before me and how many today have experienced this! I am not alone. I still remain silent, listening before I reply…

“Here I am!” (Is 65:1) God repeats; Mary replies, “Here I am, I am the servant of the Lord”; and Christ says, “I come to do Your will” (Ps 39:8)…

6. A time of prayer: Psalm 138

 Father, into Your hands I commend my life.

Yahweh, You examine me and know me,

You know when I sit, when I rise,

You understand my thoughts from afar.

You watch when I walk or lie down,

You know every detail of my conduct.

A word is not yet on my tongue before You,

Yahweh, know all about it.

You fence me in, behind and in front,

You have laid Your hand upon me.

Such amazing knowledge is beyond me,

a height to which I cannot attain.

Where shall I go to escape Your spirit?

Where shall I flee from Your presence?

If I scale the heavens You are there,

if I lie flat in Sheol, there You are.

You created my inmost self,

knit me together in my mother's womb.

For so many marvels I thank You;

a wonder am I, and all Your works are wonders.

You knew me through and through,

How hard for me to grasp Your thoughts,

how many, God, there are!

If I count them, they are more than the grains of sand;

if I come to an end, I am still with You.

God, examine me and know my heart,

test me and know my concerns.

Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin,

and guide me on the road to eternity.

7. Closing prayer

Father, You came down to me; You have come to me; You have touched my heart; You have spoken to me and promised joy, presence and salvation. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, who overshadows me, I, together with Mary, have been able to say to You yes, the “Here I am” of my life for you. Now there remains only the force of Your promise, of Your truth: “You are to conceive and bear Jesus.” Lord, here is the womb of my life, of my being, of all that I am and have, open before You. I place all things in You, in Your heart. Enter, come, come down again, I beg You, and make me fruitful, make me one who gives birth to Christ in this world. May the overflowing love I receive from You find its fullness and truth in touching the brothers and sisters that You place beside me. May our meeting, Father, be open, a gift to all. May Jesus be the Savior. Amen.

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:15

Lectio Divina: John 8:31-42

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

You call us to be free people.

Help us to give You always

a response of freedom.

Set free by Christ’s

liberating word and death,

may we never again

shackle ourselves with self-made chains,

of selfish sin and false attachments.

We ask You this through Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father's presence; then do what you have heard from the Father." They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!" So they said to him, "We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me."

3) Reflection

• The reflection on chapter 8 of the Gospel of John continues today. In the form of concentric circles, John deepens the mystery of God which envelopes the person of Jesus. It seems like a repetition, because he always goes back to speak of the same point. In reality, it is the same point, but every time at a more profound level. Today’s Gospel treats the theme of the relationship of Jesus with Abraham, the Father of the People of God. John tries to help the communities understand how Jesus places himself within the whole history of the People of God. He helps them to perceive the difference that existed between Jesus and the Jews, and also the Jews and the others, as all of us are sons and daughters of Abraham.

• John 8:31-32: The liberty which comes from fidelity to the word of Jesus. Jesus affirms to the Jews: “If you make My word your home you will indeed be My disciples; 32 you will come to know the truth and the truth will set you free”. To be a disciple of Jesus is the same as opening oneself to God. The words of Jesus are in reality words of God. They communicate the truth, because they make things known as they are in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of the Pharisees. Later, during the Last Supper, Jesus will teach the same thing to the disciples.

• John 8:33.38: What is it to be a son or a daughter of Abraham? The reaction of the Jews is immediate: “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone: what do You mean: You will be set free?” Jesus repeats and confirms making a distinction between son and slave and says: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave. The slave has no permanent standing in the household, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free”. Jesus is the son and remains in the house of the Father. The slave does not live in the house of the Father. To live outside the house, outside of God means to live in sin. If they would accept the word of Jesus they could become sons and attain liberty. They would no longer be slaves. And Jesus continues: “I know that you are descended from Abraham; but you want to kill Me, because My word finds no place in you”. The distinction is immediately very clear: “What I speak of is what I have seen at My Father’s side, and you too put into action the lessons you have learnt from your father”. Jesus denies to them the right to say that they are sons of Abraham, because their works affirm the contrary.

• John 8:39-41ª: A son of Abraham fulfills the works of Abraham. They insist in affirming: “Our father is Abraham!” as if they wanted to present to Jesus a document of their identity. Jesus repeats: “If you are sons of Abraham do the works of Abraham! 40 Now, instead you are seeking to kill Me, because I have told you the truth heard from God; Abraham has not done this. 41 You do the works of your father”. Between the lines, He suggests that their father is Satan (Jn 8:44). He suggests that they are sons of prostitution.

• John 8:41b-42: If God was your Father, certainly, you would love Me, because I have My origin in God and I come from Him; I did not come of My own accord, but He sent Me”. Jesus repeats the same truth using diverse words: “Whoever comes from God listens to the words of God”. The origin of this affirmation is from Jeremiah who says: “Within them I shall plant My Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be My people. There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother, saying: ‘Learn to know Yahweh!’ No, they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind” (Jr 31:33-34). But they will not open themselves to this new experience of God, and because of this they will not recognize Jesus as the one sent by the Father.

4) Personal questions

• This passage talks about slavery in a new way to the Jews. Even today, we often think of slavery in a narrow way and not as Jesus is talking about here. In what ways are we slaves to things of the world which the Father has no need of?

• Which is my deepest experience which leads me to recognize Jesus as the one sent by God?

• There is a strong statement for us to be put together from this passage. "If God were your Father, you would love Me” and "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.” It can then be said: “ If God were your Father, you would be doing the works of God”. Do we actively do the work of God every day as his children, or just when we have time or when it is convenient?

5) Concluding Prayer

May You be blessed, Lord, God of our ancestors,

be praised and extolled for ever.

Blessed be Your glorious and holy name,

praised and extolled for ever.

Blessed on the throne of Your kingdom,

exalted above all, glorified for ever. (Dn 3,52.54)

Lectio Divina:
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