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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:14

Lectio Divina: John 8:21-30

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Our saving, merciful God,

wandering in our deserts of injustice and lack of love,

we cry out with fear

or are stunned into silence,

some into doubt or despair.

Give us enough trusting faith

to look up to Him

who took our evil and doubts upon himself,

suffered for them on a cross, and rose from them,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come." So the Jews said, "He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, 'Where I am going you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world." They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him." Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

3) Reflection

• Last week, the Liturgy led us to meditate on chapter five of the Gospel of John. This week it confronts us with chapter 8 of the same Gospel. Like chapter 5, chapter 8 also contains profound reflections on the mystery of God which surrounds the person of Jesus. It is a dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees (Jn 8:13). The Pharisees want to know who Jesus is. They criticize Him because He gives testimony of himself without any proof or witness to legitimize himself before the people (Jn 8:13). Jesus responds by saying that He does not speak in His own name, but always for the Father and in the name of the Father (Jn 8:14-19).

• In reality, the dialogues are also an expression of how the faith was transmitted in the catechesis in the communities of the beloved disciple toward the end of the first century. They show the prayerful reading of the word of Jesus that the Christians did, considering it Word of God. The method of question and answer helped to find the response to the problems which the Jews raised to the Christians toward the end of the first century. It was a concrete way to help the community to deepen its faith in Jesus and in His message.

• John 8:21-22: Where I am going, you cannot come. Here John presents a new theme or another aspect which surrounds the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks about His departure and says that where He is going the Pharisees cannot follow Him. “I am going away; you will look for Me and you will die in your sin“. They will look for Jesus, but will not find Him, because they do not know Him and will look for Him with mistaken criteria. They live in sin and will die in sin. To live in sin is to live far away from God. They imagine God in a certain way, but God is different from what they imagine. This is why they are not capable to recognize the presence of God in Jesus. The Pharisees do not understand what Jesus wants to say and they take everything just literally: “Is He going to kill himself?”

• John 8:23-24: You are from here below; I am from above. The Pharisees consider everything according to the criteria of this world. “You are from this world; I am not from this world!” The framework of reference which guides Jesus in everything which He says and does is the world above, that is, God, Father, and the mission which He has received from the Father. The framework of reference of the Pharisees is the world below, without openness, closed up in its own criteria. This is why they live in sin. To live in sin is not to have the gaze of Jesus on their life. The look of Jesus is totally open toward God up to the point that God himself is in Him in all His fullness (cf. Col 1:19). We say: “Jesus is God”. John invites us to say: “God is Jesus!”. This is why Jesus says: “If you do not believe that I AM HE, you will die in your sins”. I AM is the affirmation with which God presents himself to Moses at the moment of liberating His people from the oppression of Egypt (Ex 3:13-14). This is the maximum expression of the absolute certainty of the fact that God is in our midst in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the definitive proof of the fact that God is with us. Emmanuel.

• John 8:25-26: Who are you? The mystery of God in Jesus does not fit into the criteria with which the Pharisees judge Jesus. Once again they ask: “who are you?” They did not understand because they do not understand Jesus’ language. Jesus was very careful to speak to them according to all that He experienced and lived in union with the Father and for the knowledge and awareness of His mission. Jesus does not promote himself. He only says and expresses what He hears from the Father. He is the pure revelation because He is pure and total obedience.

• John 8:27-30: When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM HE. The Pharisees did not understand that Jesus, in everything He says and does, is the expression of the Father. They will understand it only after the Son of man will be lifted up. “Then you will know that I AM HE”. The word lifted up has a double sense, to be lifted up on the Cross and to be lifted up to the right hand of the Father. The Good News of the death and resurrection reveals who Jesus is, and they will know that Jesus is the presence of God in our midst. The foundation of this certainty of our faith is twofold: on the one side, the certainty that the Father is always with Jesus and He never remains alone and, on the other side, the radical and total obedience of Jesus to the Father, which becomes total openness and total transparency of the Father for us.

4) Personal questions

• The one who wraps up in his own rules and thinks that he already knows everything, will never be capable of understanding others. This is the way the Pharisees were before Jesus. How do I accept the new while not losing the truths in doctrine and tradition?

• Jesus is radical obedience to the Father, and because of this, He is total revelation of the Father. What is the image of God which I show and which comes from me?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, hear my prayer,

let my cry for help reach You.

Do not turn away Your face from me

when I am in trouble;

bend down and listen to me, when I call,

be quick to answer me! (Ps 102:1-2)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:13

Lectio Divina: John 8:1-11

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Just and merciful God,

You take pity even on sinners

You continue with them

a dialogue of grace and hope.Help us too never to condemn,

never to give up on people,

but to be patient, understanding and forgiving,

together with
You and Jesus Your Son

who lives with
You and the Holy Spirit

for ever and ever.

2) Gospel Reading - John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to Him, He sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in the middle they said to Jesus, 'Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What do You have to say?'

They asked Him this as a test, looking for an accusation to use against Him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. As they persisted with their question, He straightened up and said, 'Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her.' Then He bent down and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until the last one had gone and Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained in the middle. Jesus again straightened up and said, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she replied. 'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus. 'Go away, and from this moment sin no more.'

3) Reflection

• In today’s Gospel, we will meditate on the encounter of Jesus with the woman whom was going to be stoned. Because of His preaching and His way of acting Jesus disturbs and troubles the religious authority. Because of this, they tried, by all possible means, to accuse Him and to get rid of Him. Thus, they bring before Him a woman, caught committing adultery. Under the appearance of fidelity to the Law, they use the woman in order to have an argument against Jesus. Today also, under the appearance of fidelity to the Laws of the Church, many persons are marginalized. Divorcés/divorcées, prostitutes, sick with AIDS, single mothers, homosexuals, etc. Let us see how Jesus reacts:

• John 8:1-2: Jesus and the people. After the discussion on the origin of the Messiah, described at the end of chapter 7 (Jn 7:37-52), “They all went home” (Jn 7:53). Jesus did not have a house in Jerusalem. This is the reason why He went to the Mount of Olives. There was a garden there, where He usually spent the night in prayer (Jn 18:1). The following day, before dawn, before the rising of the sun, Jesus was again in the Temple. People came very close to Him to be able to listen to Him. They sat on the ground, around Jesus and He taught them. What did Jesus teach? It must have been very beautiful because people went there before sunrise to listen to Him!

• John 8:3-6ª: The Scribes prepare the ambush. Unexpectedly, the Scribes and Pharisees arrive, with a woman caught committing adultery. They make her stand in the middle. According to the law, the woman would have to be stoned (Lev 20: 20; Deut 22: 22,24). They ask, “What is your opinion, what do you have to say?” It was a trap. If Jesus had said, “Apply the Law”, they would have said, “He is not as good as He seems, because He has said to kill the poor woman!” If He had said, “Do not kill her”, they would have said, “He is not as good as He seems, because He does not even observe the law!” Under appearances of fidelity to God, they manipulate the law using the person of the woman in order to be able to accuse Jesus.

• John 8: 6b-8: Reaction of Jesus: He writes on the ground. It seemed to be a dead alley without an exit. But Jesus is not frightened, nor does He get nervous. Instead, calmly, He bends down and begins to write on the ground with His finger. His enemies are those who get nervous. They insist and they want Jesus to give His opinion. Then Jesus rises and says, “Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her!” Then bending down again He continued to write on the ground. Jesus does not discuss the law. But He changes the objective of the judgment. Instead of allowing them to place the law above the woman to condemn her, He asks them to examine themselves in the light of what the law demands from them. The symbolical action of writing on the ground clarifies everything. The word of the Law of God has its own consistency. A word written on the ground has no consistency. The rain and the wind carry it away. The forgiveness of God takes away sin identified and denounced by the law.

• John 8:9-11: Jesus and the woman. The gesture and response of Jesus make His enemies go away; they are conquered. The Pharisees and the Scribes go away full of shame, one after the other, beginning with the eldest. This is the opposite of what they expected to take place. The person condemned by the law was not the woman, but rather they who believed themselves to be faithful to the law. At the end, Jesus remained alone with the woman who stood in the middle. Jesus straightened up and said, “Woman, where are they who condemned you? Has no one condemned you?!” She replied: “No one, Sir!” And Jesus concludes, “Neither do I condemn you! Go away, and from this moment sin no more!”

• Jesus does not allow anyone to use the Law of God to condemn the brother or the sister when the person who condemns is himself/herself a sinner. This episode, better than any other teaching, reveals that Jesus is the light which makes truth shine. He opens up what exists in the secret of persons, in the intimate depth of each one of us. In the light of His word, those who seemed to be the defenders of the law reveal themselves being full of sin and they themselves recognize it, and they leave, beginning by the eldest. And the woman considered to be guilty and deserving of death, remains standing up before God, absolved, redeemed and with her dignity recovered (cf. Jn 3:19-21).

4) Personal questions

• Try to put yourself in the woman’s place: What were her feelings at that moment?

• Wh
at are the steps which our community can and should take to accept those who are excluded?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows
He lets me lie.

By tranquil streams
He leads me

to restore my spirit.

He guides me in paths of saving justice

as befits
His name. (Ps 51:1-3)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:13

Lectio: 5th Sunday of Lent

Jesus meets a woman about to be stoned
“Let the one among you who is guiltless
be the first to throw a stone at her!”

John 8:1-11

1. Opening prayer

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

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

Today’s text leads us to a meditation on the conflict between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees. Because of his preaching and his manner of acting, the doctors of the law and the Pharisees do not like Jesus. So they seek every possible way to accuse and eliminate him. They bring before him a woman caught in adultery to ask him whether they should observe the law that said that such a woman was to be stoned. They wanted to provoke Jesus. By posing as people concerned for the law, they were using the woman to argue with Jesus. The same story happens time and time again. Under the pretence of concern for the law of God, the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have condemned and massacred many people. This goes on today too. Under the guise of concern for the law of God, many people are deprived of communion and even excluded from the community. Laws and customs are created to exclude and marginalize certain categories of people.
As we read John 8:1-11, it is good to consider the text as it were a mirror reflecting our own likeness. As we read, let us try to note well the attitudes, words and action of those who appear in the story: the Scribes, the Pharisees, the woman. Jesus and the people.

b) A division of the text as a help to the reader:

Jn 8:1-2: Jesus goes to the temple to teach the crowd
Jn 8:3-6a: His adversaries provoke him
Jn 8:6b: Jesus’ reaction, he writes on the ground
Jn 8:7-8: Second provocation, and same reaction from Jesus
Jn 8:9-11: Final epilogue

c) Text:

John 8:1-111 and Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in the middle 4 they said to Jesus, 'Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, 5 and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you got to say?' 6 They asked him this as a test, looking for an accusation to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. 7 As they persisted with their question, he straightened up and said, 'Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her.' 8 Then he bent down and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until the last one had gone and Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained in the middle. 10 Jesus again straightened up and said, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 11 'No one, sir,' she replied. 'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus. 'Go away, and from this moment sin no more.'

3. A moment of prayerful silence

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

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What struck or pleased you most in this text? Why?
b) Several persons and groups appear in this episode. What do they say and do?
c) Try to step into the woman’s shoes: how did she feel?
d) Why did Jesus begin to write with this finger on the ground?
e) What can and must our community do to welcome those excluded?

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

a) Literary context:

Scholars say that John’s Gospel grew gradually, that is, that it was written bit by bit. Over some time, up to the end of the first century, members of John’s community in Asia Minor, recalled and added details to events in Jesus’ life. One of these events, to which some details were added, is our text, the episode concerning the woman about to be stoned (Jn 8:1-11). A little before our text, Jesus had said: "If any man is thirsty, let him come to me! Let the man come and drink who believes in me!” (Jn 7:37). This statement provoked much discussion (Jn 7:40-53). The Pharisees even ridiculed the people, considering them ignorant for believing in Jesus. Nicodemus reacted saying: “Surely the law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?” (Jn 7:51-52). After our text we come across another statement by Jesus: "I am the light of the world!" (Jn 8:12), which again provoked discussion among the Jews. The episode of the woman whom the law would have condemned, but who is pardoned by Jesus (Jn 8:1-11), is inserted between these two statements and their subsequent discussions. These statements before and after, suggest that the episode was inserted here to shed light on the fact that Jesus, light of the world, enlightens the life of people and applies the law better than the Pharisees.

b) A commentary on the text:

John 8:1-2: Jesus and the crowd
After the discussion reported at the end of chapter 7 (Jn 7:37-52), all go home (Jn 7:53). Jesus has no home in Jerusalem, so he goes to the Mount of Olives. There he finds a garden where he can spend the night in prayer (Jn 18:1). The next day, before sunrise, Jesus is once more in the temple. The crowd draws near to listen. Usually, the crowd sat in a circle around Jesus when he taught. What would Jesus have been teaching? Whatever it was, it must have been great because the crowd went there before dawn to listen to him!

John 8:3-6a: His enemies’ provocation
Suddenly, the Scribes and Pharisees arrive and bring with them a woman caught in flagrant adultery. They place her in the middle of the circle between Jesus and the crowd. According to the law, this woman had to be stoned (Lv 20:10; Dt 22:22.24). They ask: "Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you got to say?” This was a provocation, a trap. If Jesus said: "Apply the law", the Scribes would have said to the crowd: he is not as good as he appears to be because he orders the woman to be killed. If Jesus said: "Do not kill her”, they would have said: "He is not as good as he appears to be since he does not observe the law!" Under the appearance of fidelity to God, they manipulate the law and use a woman to accuse Jesus.

John 8:6b: Jesus’ reaction: he writes on the ground
This situation looked like a sure trap. But Jesus is neither frightened nor nervous. Rather the opposite. Quietly, like one in control of the situation, he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. What does writing on the ground mean? Some think that Jesus is writing the sins of his accusers. Others say that it was just the sign of one who is in control of the situation and pays no attention to the accusations made by others. But it is possible that this may have been a symbolic action, an allusion to something much more common. If you write a word on the ground, the next morning it will be gone, swept away by wind or rain, gone! We find a similar allusion in Jeremiah where we read that the names of the attributes of God are written on the ground, that is, that they have no future. The wind and the rain carry them away (cf Jr 17:13). Perhaps Jesus is saying to those around him: the sin of which you accuse this woman, has been forgiven by God as I write these letters on the ground. From now on these sins will not be remembered!

John 8:7-8: Second provocation and the same reaction from Jesus
Faced with this quiet attitude of Jesus, it is the adversaries who become nervous. They insist and want to know Jesus’ opinion. Jesus, then, stands up and says: "Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her!" And bending down he again starts to write on the ground. He does not engage in a sterile and useless discussion concerning the law, because, in reality, the problem lies elsewhere. Jesus shifts the centre of the discussion. Instead of allowing the light of the law to be focussed on the woman so as to condemn her, he asks that his adversaries examine themselves in the light of what the law demands of them. Jesus does not discuss the letter of the law. He discusses and condemns the evil attitude of those who manipulate people and the law to defend their own interests that are contrary to God, the author of the law.

John 8:9-11: Final epilogue: Jesus and the woman
Jesus’ reply upsets the adversaries. The Pharisees and the Scribes retreat shamefaced one by one “beginning with the eldest”. The opposite of what they had planned happened. The one condemned by the law was not the woman but those who believed themselves to be faithful to the law. Finally, Jesus is left alone with the woman. Jesus stands up, goes to her and says: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you!" She answers: "No one, sir!" Then Jesus says: "Neither do I condemn you. Go away, and from this moment sin no more!" Jesus will not allow any one to use the law of God to condemn a brother or sister, when that person is also a sinner. Any one who has a plank in his eye cannot accuse the one who only has a splinter in his. “Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly to take out he splinter that is in your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:42).
This episode, better than any other teaching, shows that Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 11:12) who reveals the truth. It brings to light the hidden and most intimate things within a person. In the light of Jesus’ words, those who seemed to be defenders of the law are revealed to be full of sin. They recognise this and go away beginning with the eldest. And the woman, thought to be guilty and meriting the death sentence, stands before Jesus, absolved, redeemed, dignified (cf. Jn 3:19-21). Jesus’ action gives her new life and restores her dignity as woman and daughter of God.

c) Further information:

Laws concerning women in the Old Testament and people’s reactions

From the time of Ezdra and Nehemiah, the official tendency was to exclude women from any public activity and to consider them unsuitable to carry out any function in society, except that of spouse and mother. What contributed greatly to the marginalization of the woman was precisely the law on purity. A woman was declared impure for being mother, spouse and daughter, for being a woman. For being mother: in giving birth she became unclean (Lv 12:1-5). For being daughter: a son born made her unclean for forty days (Lv 12:2-4); and worse, a daughter born made her unclean for 80 days! (Lv 12:5). For being spouse: sexual relationship made both the woman and the man unclean for a whole day (Lv 15:18). For being woman: menstruation made a woman unclean for a whole week and rendered others unclean. Any one who touched a woman during menstruation had to go through a ritual of purification (Lv 15:19-30). It was not possible for a woman to hide her uncleanness, because the law obliged other people to denounce her (Lv 5:3). This legislation made daily life at home unbearable. For seven days every month, the mother of a family could not rest in bed or sit on a chair, much less touch her children or husband so as not to contaminate them! This legislation was the result of a mentality, according to which a woman was inferior to a man. There are some sayings that reveal this discrimination against women (Eccl 42:9-11; 22:3). Marginalization became such that women were considered to be the origin of sin and of death and the cause of all evils (Eccl 25:24; 42:13-14). Thus the privilege and dominion of man over woman kept on being preserved.

In the context of the times, the situation of women in the world of the Bible was neither better nor worse than that of other people. It was a general culture. Even today, there are many who continue in this same way of thinking. But like today, so also previously, from the beginning of the Bible history, there have always been those who opposed this exclusion of women, especially after the exile, when foreign women, considered dangerous, were expelled (cfr. Ez 9:1-3 and 10:1-3). Women’s resistance grew at times when their marginalization was worst. In several wisdom books we discover the voice of such resistance: the Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Judith, Esther. In these books, women appear not so much as mothers or spouses, but as persons who could use their beauty and femininity to fight for the rights of the poor and thus defend the Covenant of the people. These were fights not so much for the temple, nor for abstract law, but for the life of the people.

The resistance of women against their exclusion finds an echo and a response in Jesus. Here are some episodes of Jesus’ response towards women:
* The prostitute: Jesus welcomes and defends her against the Pharisee (Lk 7:36-50).
* Jesus defends the woman bent double against the chief of the synagogue (Lk 13:10-17).
* The woman considered impure is welcomed without criticism and is healed (Mk 5:25-34).
* The Samaritan woman, considered a heretic, is the first to receive Jesus’ secret that he is the Messiah (Jn 4:26).
* The pagan woman is helped by Jesus and she helps him to discover his mission (Mk 7:24-30).
* The mothers with children, rejected by the disciples, are welcomed by Jesus (Mt 19:13-15).
* Women are the first persons to experience the risen Jesus (Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:16-18).

6. Praying Psalm 36 (35)

God’s goodness will unmask hypocrisy

Sin is the oracle of the wicked in the depths of his heart;
there is no fear of God before his eyes.

He sees himself with too flattering
an eye to detect and detest his guilt;
all he says is malicious and deceitful,
he has turned his back on wisdom.
To get his way
he hatches malicious plots even in his bed;
once set on his evil course
no wickedness is too much for him.

Yahweh, your faithful love is in the heavens,
your constancy reaches to the clouds,
your saving justice is like towering mountains,
your judgements like the mighty deep.

Yahweh, you support both man and beast;
how precious, God, is your faithful love.
So the children of Adam take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the bounty of your house,
you let them drink from your delicious streams;
in you is the source of life,
by your light we see the light.
Maintain your faithful love to those who acknowledge you,
and your saving justice to the honest of heart.
Do not let the foot of the arrogant overtake me
or wicked hands drive me away.
There they have fallen, the evil-doers,
flung down, never to rise again.

7. Final Prayer

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

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:11

Lectio Divina: John 7:40-53

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Almighty God,

when people encountered Your Son,

He became a source of division:

He affected their lives

one way or another. May we accept Him fully

and empty ourselves to make room for Him

in our everyday life, even when it hurts.

Help us, that with Him

we may always seek and do Your will.

We ask You this through Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, "This is truly the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Christ." But others said, "The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David's family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?" The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man." So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed." Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, "Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee." Then each went to his own house.

3) Reflection

• In chapter 7, John confirms that there were diverse opinions and much confusion among the people regarding Jesus. The relatives thought something (Jn 7:2-5) and the people thought something different (Jn 7:12). Some said: “He is a prophet!” (Jn 7:40). Others said: “He leads the people astray!” (Jn 7:12). Some praised Him: “He is a good man!” (Jn 7:12). Others criticized Him: “He has not been educated, has not studied!” (Jn 7:15). Each one had his own arguments, taken from the Bible or from Tradition. But nobody remembered the Messiah Servant, announced by Isaiah (Is 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13; 53:12; 61:1-2). Today, too, there is much discussion on religion, and all take their arguments from the Bible. As in the past, it happens many times that little ones are deceived by the discourses of the great ones and, some times, even by the discourses of those who belong to the Church. It is important to understand the full picture, and not be led astray by personal interpretations or the person sitting next to us. It is a personal responsibility to seek and learn every day, while discerning the authenticity, history, and meaning of what we see, hear, or find.

• John 7:40-44: The confusion among the people. The reaction of the people is very diverse. Some say: He is the prophet. Others: He is the Messiah; the Christ. Others claim: He cannot be because the Messiah will come from Bethlehem and He comes from Galilee! These diverse ideas on the Messiah produce division and confrontation. There were some who wanted to take Him, to arrest Him, but they did not do it. Perhaps because they were afraid of the people (cf. Mt 14:2). There were many sources of authority at the time, both formal and informal, from the Roman occupation, to the Elders, the priests and religious leaders, and even to the people themselves who were able to demand and obtain Jesus’ execution despite there not being cause.

• John 7:45-49: The arguments of the authority. Previously, before the reaction of the people who were in favor of Jesus, the Pharisees had sent some guards to arrest Him (Jn 7:32). But the guards returned without Jesus. They had been greatly impressed in hearing people speak so well: “No one has ever spoken like this man!” The Pharisees reacted: “Have you also been led astray?” According to the Pharisees who said: “This rabble knows nothing about the Law” and allows itself to be deceived by Jesus. It is as if they said: “No, we the chief priests know things better and we do not allow ourselves to be led astray!” and they say that the people are “damned”! The religious authority of that time treated people with great contempt.

• John 7, 50-52: The defense of Jesus by Nicodemus. Before this stupid argument, the honesty of Nicodemus emerges and he raises his voice to defend Jesus: “But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgment on anyone without first giving him a hearing and discovering what He is doing?” The reaction of the others is that Nicodemus is mocking them: “Nicodemus are you also from Galilee? Look at the Bible and you will see for yourself that prophets do not arise in Galilee!” They are sure! Holding the book of the past, they defend themselves against the future which arrives and disturbs them.

4) Personal questions

• Today, what are the diverse opinions that people have about Jesus? In your community, are there different opinions which cause confusion? What are they? Name them, describe them.

• There are people who accept only the new which agree with their own ideas and their past. There are others today that accept every new idea no matter how crazy. How do you discern authentic change and not be tossed about by every new idea?

5) Concluding Prayer

Have mercy on me, O God,

in Your faithful love,

in Your great tenderness wipe away my offenses;

wash me clean from my guilt,

purify me from my sin. (Ps 51:1-2)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:10

Lectio Divina: Saint Joseph

Matthew 1:16.18-21.24a

Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, the Mother of Jesus 


a) Opening prayer:

Spirit who moves over the water,

calm in us all discordance,

the agitated waves, the noise of the words,

the whirlwind of vanity,

and make the Word which recreates,

arise in silence.

Spirit who in a sigh you whisper

to our spirit the Name of the Father,

come and gather together all our desires,

make them grow in a beam of light

which will be a response to Your light,

the Word of the new Day.

Spirit of God, the sap of love

of the immense tree on which you graft us,

so that all our brothers and sisters

will seem to us as a gift

in the great Body in which

the Word of communion matures.

(Frère Pierre-Yves of Taizé)

b) Reading of the Gospel: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

c) A moment of silence:

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


a) A key to the reading:

The passage of today’s Gospel is taken from the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew which forms part of the section concerning the conception, birth and infancy of Jesus. The center of all this account is the person of Jesus around which are all the events and the persons mentioned. One must keep in mind that the Gospel reveals a theology of the history of Jesus, and so getting close to the Word of God we should get the message which is hidden under the veils of the account without losing ourselves, as Paul so wisely advises us “in foolish speculations”, avoiding “those genealogies and the quibbles and disputes about the Law, they are useless and futile” (Tt 3:9).

In fact, this text is connected to the genealogy of Jesus, which Matthew arranges with the intention of stressing the dynastic succession of Jesus, the Savior of his people (Mt 1:21). To Jesus are conferred all the rights inherited from the lineage of David, of “Joseph, son of David” (Mt 1:20; Lk 2:4-5) His legal father. For the Biblical and Hebrew world legal paternity was sufficient to confer all the rights of the lineage in question (cf.: the law of the levirate and of adoption (Dt 25:5ff). That is why from the beginning of the genealogy, Jesus is designed as “Christ the Son of David” (Mt 1:1) that is, the anointed one of the Lord Son of David, with whom all the promises of God to David His servant, are fulfilled (2 Sam 7:1-16; 2 Cr 7:18; 2 Cr 21:7; Ps 89:30). This is why Matthew adds to the account of the genealogy and of the conception of Jesus the prophecy of Isaiah: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet.: The young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, which means God with us” (Mt 1:21-23 and Is 7:14).

Let us stop to say something, on the spiritual reality of adoption, we can refer to the fact that the elected people possess “the glory, the covenants, the legislation, the cult, the promises”, because “they are Israelites and possess the adoption of sons” (Rm 9:4). But we also, the new people of God in Christ receive the adoption of children because “when the completion of the time came God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5). This is the salvation which Jesus has brought to us. Christ “will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21) because He is the “God with us!” (Mt 1:23) who makes us adopted children of God.

Jesus is born from “Mary who was betrothed to Joseph” (Mt 1:18a)) who “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18b). Matthew does not give the account of the annunciation as Luke does (Lk 1:26-38), but structures the account from the point of view of the experience of Joseph the just man. The Bible reveals to us that God loves the just and many times chooses them for an important mission, protects them and does not join them to the impious (Gen 18:23ff). In the Old Testament we find many persons who are considered just. We think of Noah “a good man, an upright man among his contemporaries” (Gen 6:9). Or also Johoash who “did what Yahweh regards as right” (2 K 12:3).

A constant idea in the Bible is the “dream” as a privileged place where God makes His plans and designs known, and sometimes reveals the future. The dreams of Jacob at Bethel are well known (Gen 28:10ff) and Joseph his son, as also those of the cup-bearer and the chief baker imprisoned in Egypt with him (Gen 37:5ff; Gen 40:5ff) and the dreams of Pharaoh which revealed the future years of plenty and of famine and want (Gen 41:1ff).

“An Angel of the Lord“ appeared to Joseph (Mt 1:20) to reveal to him God’s design. In the Gospels of the infancy frequently the Angel of the Lord is mentioned as the heavenly messenger (Mt 1:20.24; 2:13.19; Lk 1:11; 2:9) and also on other occasions the angel appears to calm, to reveal the plans of God, to heal and to liberate from slavery (cf. Mt 28:2; Jn 5:4; Acts 5:19; 8:26; 12:7.23). Many are the references to the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament where originally the angel represented the Lord himself who guided and protected His people being close to them (cf. Gen 16:7-16; 22:12; 24:7; Ex 3:3; 23:20; Tb 5:4).

b) Questions to orient the meditation and make it relevant:

● What is the most important thing to you in this passage? Why?

● In the key to the reading, consideration is given to some terms (adoption, angel, dream, just). What thoughts did these raise in your heart? What relevance can they have for your journey of spiritual maturation?


a) Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to Yahweh,

to make music for Your name, Most High,

to proclaim Your faithful love at daybreak,

and Your constancy all through the night,

on the lyre, the ten-stringed lyre,

to the murmur of the harp.

You have brought me joy, Yahweh,

by Your deeds, at the work of Your hands I cry out,

'How great are Your works, Yahweh,

immensely deep Your thoughts!'

Stupid people cannot realize this,

fools do not grasp it.

The wicked may sprout like weeds,

and every evil-doer flourish,

but only to be eternally destroyed;

whereas You are supreme for ever, Yahweh.

Look how Your enemies perish,

how all evil-doers are scattered!

You give me the strength of the wild ox,

You anoint me with fresh oil;

I caught sight of the ambush against me,

overheard the plans of the wicked.

The upright will flourish like the palm tree,

will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.

Planted in the house of Yahweh,

they will flourish in the courts of our God.

In old age they will still bear fruit,

will remain fresh and green,

to proclaim Yahweh's integrity;

my rock, in whom no fault can be found.

b) Moments for a prayerful silence


The Christian contemplation of God’s dream, of the plan which God cherishes for the history of humanity does not produce alienation but keeps the consciences vigilant and active and stimulates us to face with courage and altruism the responsibilities which life gives us.

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:08

Lectio Divina: John 5:31-47

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God, we know,

perhaps more in theory than in practice,

that You are with us,

that You are our God and we Your people. Forgive us, Lord, when we fashion

our own gods made in our own image -

honor, power, prestige,

things to which we are attached and enslaved.

Remind us again and again

that You are our loyal God,

who made us in Your own indelible image

and who shows us Your perfect likeness

in Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews: "If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. "I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

3) Reflection

• John, interpreter of Jesus. John is a good interpreter of the words of Jesus. A good interpreter must have two-fold fidelity: fidelity to the words of the one who speaks, and fidelity to the language of the one who listens. In John’s Gospel, the words of Jesus are not transmitted materially or literally; rather they are translated and transferred to the language of the people of the Christian communities of the first century in Asia Minor. For this reason, the reflections in the Gospel of John are not always easy to understand, because in them are mixed the words of God and the words of the Evangelist himself, who mirrors the language of faith of the communities of Asia Minor. The scholarly or scientific study of Jesus is not sufficient for this. It is also necessary that we have the lived experience of faith in the community. Today’s Gospel is a typical example of the spiritual and mystical depth of the Gospel of the Beloved Disciple.

• Reciprocal enlightenment between life and faith. Here it is well to repeat what John Cassian says regarding the discovery of the full and profound sense of the psalms: “Instructed by that which we ourselves feel, let us not consider the text as something which we have only heard, but rather like something which we have experienced and which we touch with our hands; not like a strange and unheard of story, but rather like something that we bring out to light from the deepest part of our heart, as if these were sentiments which form part of our being. Let us repeat them; it is not the reading (the study) what makes us penetrate into the sense or meaning of the words, but rather our own experience which has previously been acquired in the life of every day.” (Collationes X, 11). Life enlightens the text; the text enlightens life. If, at times, the text says nothing, it is not because of lack of study or because of lack of prayer, but simply because of lack of depth in one’s own life.

• John 31-32: The value of the witness of Jesus. The witness of Jesus is true because He does not promote or exalt Himself. “There is another witness who speaks on My behalf,” that is,  the Father. And His witness is true and deserves to be believed.

• John 5:33-36: The value of the witness of John the Baptist and of the works of Jesus. John the Baptist also gave witness to Jesus and presents Him to the people as the One sent by God who has to come to this world (cf. Jn 1:29, 33-34; 3:28-34). For this reason, even if the witness of John the Baptist is very important, Jesus does not depend on him. He has a witness in His favor who is greater than the witness of John, that is, the works which the Father carries out through Him (Jn 14:10-11).

• John 5:37-38: The Father bears witness to Jesus. Previously, Jesus had said, “Whoever is from God listens to the words of God” (Jn 8:47). The Jews who accused Jesus did not have a mind open to God. And for this reason, they do not  perceive the witness of the Father which reaches them through Jesus.

• John 5:39-41: Scripture itself gives testimony of Jesus. The Jews say that they have faith in the Scriptures, but, in reality, they do not understand Scripture, because the Scripture speaks of Jesus (cf. Jn 5:46; 12:16,41; 20:9).

• John 5:42-47: The Father does not judge but entrusts His judgment to the Son. The Jews say that they are faithful to the Scripture of Moses and, because of this, they condemn Jesus. In reality, Moses and the Scripture speak about Jesus and ask us to believe in Him.

4) Personal questions

• Life enlightens the text; the text enlightens life. How does one use this to gain an authentic understanding of each?

• The Jews of the time were following their hardened beliefs and not open to Jesus’ teaching. What is the proper balance between keeping old beliefs and accepting new ones? How does one discern what to keep and what to adopt, and how does this apply to Church doctrine and ritual?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, Your kingship is a kingship forever;

Your reign lasts from age to age.

Yahweh is trustworthy in all His words,

and upright in all His deeds.

Yahweh supports all who stumble,

lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps 145:13-14)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:08

Lectio Divina: John 5:17-30

Season of Lent  

1) Opening prayer

Our God and Father,

You keep seeking us out

with love as passionate as a mother's love,

even when we have abandoned you. Give us hope and courage,

especially when we feel uncertain.

Reassure us that You want us to live

in the security of Your love

and that You stay with us

through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews: "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. "I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me."

3) Reflection

• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension, which only faith is able to perceive, in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”; it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16:12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5:17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on the sabbath, Jesus answers, “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on the sabbath, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20:8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on the sabbath. He imitates His Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father in continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill Him for two reasons: because He denied the sense of the sabbath and for saying He was equal to God.

• John 5:19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What He sees the Father do, He does also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out His action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and giving life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5:22-23: The Father judges no one; He has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on Him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1:19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know Him and honor Him in the revelation which He makes of Himself in Jesus.

• John 5:24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life; He is the creating force. Wherever He is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads Him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5:25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus, which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live. With the Word of Jesus, which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5:30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek to do not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” This last statement is the summary of all that has been said before. This is the idea that the Johannine community had and diffused regarding Jesus.

4) Personal questions

• How do you allow the creative work of the Father in your life?

• “Those who have done good deeds will go to the resurrection of life”. Do you exercise your faith in deeds, or just in talk, or in just showing off for  others?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is tenderness and pity,

slow to anger, full of faithful love.

Yahweh is generous to all;

His tenderness embraces all His creatures. (Ps 145:8-9)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:07

Lectio Divina: John 5:1-16

Season of Lent  

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

You have quenched our thirst for life

with the water of baptism.

Keep turning the desert of our arid lives

into a paradise of joy and peace,

that we may bear fruits

of holiness, justice and love.

Lord, hear our prayer

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." He answered them, "The man who made me well told me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?" The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

3) Reflection

• Today’s Gospel describes Jesus curing the paralytic who had waited 38 years for someone to help him get to the water of the pool so as to be healed! Thirty-eight years! Faced with this total absence of solidarity, what does Jesus do? He transgresses the law of Saturday and cures the paralytic. Today, in poor countries, assistance to sick people is lacking; people experience the same lack of solidarity. They live in total abandonment, without help or solidarity from anyone.

• John 5:1-2: Jesus goes to Jerusalem. On the occasion of the Jewish festival, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. There, close to the Temple, was a pool with five porticos or corridors. At that time, worship in the Temple required much water because of the numerous animals which were sacrificed, especially during the great festivals. This is why near the Temple there were several cisterns where rain water was gathered. Some could contain over one thousand litres. Close by, because of the abundance of water, there was a public bathing resort, where crowds of sick people gathered waiting for help or to be healed. Archeology has shown that in the same precincts of the Temple, there was a place where the Scribes taught the Law to students. On one side, the teaching of the Law of God. On the other, the abandonment of the poor. The water purified the Temple, but it did not purify the people.

• John 5:3-4: The situation of the sick. These sick people were attracted by the water of the bathing resort. They said that an angel would disturb the water, and the first one who would enter after the angel disturbed the water, would be cured. In other words, the sick people were attracted by a false hope – a superstition. Healing was only for one person. Just like the lottery today. Only one person gets the prize! The majority pays and wins nothing. In this situation of total abandonment, in the public baths, Jesus meets sick people.

• John 5:5-9: Jesus cures a sick man on Saturday. Very close to the place where the observance of the Law was taught, a paralytic had been waiting for 38 years for someone who would help him to go down to the water to be cured. This fact reveals the total lack of solidarity and of acceptance of the excluded! Number 38 indicated the duration of a whole generation (Dt 2:14). It is a whole generation which does not  experience solidarity or mercy. Religion at that time was not able to reveal the welcoming and merciful face of God. In the face of this dramatic situation Jesus transgresses the law of Saturday and takes care of the paralytic, saying, “Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around!” The man picked up his mat and started to walk around among the people.

• John 5:10-13: Discussion of the cured man with the Jews. Immediately after, some Jews arrived and criticized the man who was carrying his sleeping mat on the Sabbath. The man did not know who the one who had cured him was. He did not know Jesus. This means that Jesus, passing by that place where the poor and the sick were, saw that person; He noticed the dramatic situation in which the man found himself and cured him. He did not cure him to convert him, neither so that he would believe in God. He cured him because He wanted to help him. He wanted the man to experience love and solidarity through His help and loving acceptance.

• John 5:14-16: The man meets Jesus again. Going to the Temple, in the midst of the crowds, Jesus meets the same man and tells him, “Now, you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.” In that age, people thought and said, “Sickness is a punishment from God. God is with you!” Once the man is cured, he has to keep from sinning again, so that nothing worse will happen to him! But in his naiveté, the man went to tell the Jews that Jesus had cured him. The Jews began to ask Jesus why He did those things on the Sabbath. In tomorrow’s Gospel we have what follows.

4) Personal questions

• If I were the cured man, and told not to say anything, would I be silent or not?

• By proclaiming what had been done for him, despite his instruction, did he sin again?

• Have I ever had an experience similar to that of the paralytic: to remain for some time without any help? How is the situation regarding assistance to the sick in the place where you live? Do you see any signs of solidarity?

• Do I show the same compassion and help others without expecting a return and in a significant way every day?

5) Concluding Prayer

God is both refuge and strength for us,

a help always ready in trouble;

so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil,

though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,

and its waters roar and seethe,

and the mountains totter as it heaves. (Ps 46:1-3)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:07

Lectio Divina: John 4:43-54

Season of Lent

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God, almighty Father,

You want us not to turn to the past

to regret it and to mourn over it

but to hope in the future,

in the new earth and the new heaven.

Give us a firm faith

in Your Son Jesus Christ,

that notwithstanding the shortcomings of our time

we may have faith in the future,

which You want us to build up

with Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - John 4:43-54.

At that time Jesus left [Samaria for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast. Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.

3) Reflection

• Jesus had left Galilee and set forth toward Judah in order to arrive in Jerusalem on the occasion of the festival (Jn 4:45) and, passing through Samaria, He was returning again to Galilee (Jn 4:3-4). The observant Jews were forbidden to pass through Samaria, and they could not even speak with the Samaritans (Jn 4:9). When the Assyrians conquered Israel, the Jews there ended up scattered throughout the area and the Assyrians adopted the the God of Israel, Yahweh, and their practices. The Jews within Judah denied that any non-Hebrew had a right to worship Yahweh, or to worship outside of Jerusalem. Jesus did not care about these norms which prevented friendship and dialogue. He remained several days in Samaria and many people were converted (Jn 4:40). After that, He decided to return to Galilee.

• John 4:43-46ª: The return to Galilee. Even though Jesus knew that the people of Galilee had certain reservations about Him, He wished to return to His own home town.  John refers to how badly Jesus was received in Nazareth of Galilee. Jesus himself had declared that “No prophet is honored in his own home town” (Lk 4:24). But now, given the evidence of what He had done in Jerusalem, the Galileans change their opinion and receive Him well. Jesus then returns to Cana where He had worked the first “sign” (Jn 2:11).

• John 4:46b-47: The petition of the court official. It is the case of a gentile. A short time before, in Samaria, Jesus had spoken with a Samaritan woman, a heretical person according to the Jews, to whom Jesus revealed His condition of Messiah (Jn 4:26). And now, in Galilee, He receives a gentile, the official of the king, who was seeking help for his sick son. Jesus does not limit Himself to help those of His race only, nor those of His own religion. He is ecumenical and receives all.

• John 4:48: Jesus’ answer to the court official. The official wanted Jesus to go with him to his house to cure his son. Jesus answered, “Unless you see signs and portents you will not believe!” A harsh and strange answer. Why does Jesus answer in this way? What was wrong with the the official’s request? What did Jesus want to accomplish through this response? Jesus wants to explain how our faith should be. The official would believe only if Jesus went with him to his house. He wanted to see Jesus curing. In general, this is the attitude that we all have. We are not aware of the deficiency of our faith. We often expect God to accomplish His work in the way we think it should be done.

• John 4:49-50: The official repeats his petition and Jesus repeats the response. In spite of Jesus’ answer, the man does not keep silence and repeats the same petition: “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Jesus continues to stand His ground. He does not respond to the petition and does not go with the man to his house and repeats the same response, but formulated in a different way: “Go home! Your son will live!” Both in the first as well as in the second response, Jesus asks for faith, much faith. He asks that the official believe that his son has already been cured. And the true miracle takes place! Without seeing any sign, nor any portent, the man believes in Jesus’ word and returns home. It could not have been easy. This is the true miracle of faith: to believe without any other guarantee, except the Word of Jesus. The ideal is to believe in the word of Jesus, even without seeing (cf. Jn 20:29).

• John 4:51-53: The result of faith in the word of Jesus. When the man was on the way  home, his servants saw him and ran to meet him to tell him that his son had been cured, that he was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover and discovered that it was exactly the time when Jesus had said, “Your son will live!” He was confirmed in his faith.

• John 4:54: A summary presented by John, the Evangelist. John ends by saying, “This new sign, the second, Jesus performed.” John prefers to speak of sign and not of miracle. The word sign connotes something which I see with my eyes, but only faith can make me discover its profound sense. Faith is like an X-Ray: it enables one to see what the naked eye cannot see.

4) Personal questions

How do you live your faith? Do you have faith in God’s word or do you only believe in miracles and in perceptible experiences?

• Jesus accepts heretics and foreigners in a way that fosters conversion. How do I relate with people who are different from me? How do I foster their conversion through that relationship?

• These early cultures, like the Assyrians adopting the religion of the Hebrews over time, mixed their beliefs as they assimilated. That was probably one reason there was such resistance to outsiders among the Jews in Judah. This is true among cultures today. How should different cultures be welcomed within and into the Church, while preserving the Church’s teachings, doctrine, and culture?

5) Concluding Prayer

Make music for Yahweh,

all you who are faithful to Him,

praise His unforgettable holiness.

His anger lasts but a moment,

His favor throughout life;

In the evening come tears,

but with dawn cries of joy. (Ps 30:4-5)

Lectio Divina:
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:06

Lectio: 4th Sunday of Lent

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Luke 15,1-3.11-32


a) Opening prayer:

Come, Spirit Creator, reveal to us the great mystery of God the Father and of the Son united in one love. Grant that we may see the great day of God, resplendent with light: the dawn of a new world born in the blood of Christ. The prodigal son comes home, the blind sees the bright light; the pardoned good thief dissolves the ancient fear. Dying on the cross, Christ destroys death; death brings forth life, love conquers fear and sin seeks pardon. Amen.

b) Gospel reading

Luke 15,1-3.11-321 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
3 So he told them this parable:
11 "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' 31 And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

c) Prayerful silent time:

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


a) A key to the reading:

Dante says that Luke is the ‹‹scriba mansuetudinis Christi››. Indeed, he is the Evangelist who loves to emphasise the mercy of the Master towards sinners and presents us with scenes of forgiveness (Lk 7: 36-50; 23: 39-43). In Luke’s Gospel the mercy of God is manifested in Jesus Christ. We can say that Jesus is the incarnation of the merciful presence of God among us. “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (Lk 6: 36). Luke focuses on an image of God already revealed in the Old Testament (Es 34: 6), but which, unfortunately, seems to have been ignored by the Scribes and Pharisees who rather stressed the image of a God “who visits the sins of the fathers on the children” (Es 34: 7). Indeed, the Pharisees and the Scribes boasted on being just in the eyes of God because they did not break the law. Jesus criticises this attitude in his teaching and by his actions. He, the “just One” of God (1Pt 3: 18), “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15: 2). Think of the parable of the publican who goes home from the temple justified in contrast with the Pharisee who praised himself before God while passing judgment on his neighbours (Lk 18: 9-14). Jesus points out to us that God’s way of thinking and acting is quite different from ours. God is different, and his transcendence is revealed in the mercy that forgives sins. “My heart recoils from it, my whole being trembles at the thought. I will not give rein to my fierce anger… for I am God, not man; I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy” (Hos 11: 8-9).

This parable of the “prodigal son” brings out this merciful aspect of God the Father. That is why some people refer to this story as “the parable of the father who is prodigal with mercy and forgiveness”. The Gospel passage is part of a series of three parables on mercy and has a preamble that leads us to contemplate “all the publicans and sinners” who approach Jesus to listen to him (Lk 15: 1). These are reflected in the attitude of the younger son who comes to himself and begins to think on his state and on what he lost when he left his father’s house (Lk 15: 17-20). It is interesting to note the use of the verb “to listen”, which recalls the scene with Mary, Martha’s sister, “who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking” (Lk 10: 39); or the great crowd of people “who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases” (Lk 6: 18). Jesus acknowledges his relatives, not by their blood relationship, but from their listening attitude: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word o God and put it into practice” (Lk 8: 21). Luke seems to place importance on this attitude of listening. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is praised for having a contemplative listening attitude, she who “stored up all these things in her heart” (Lk 2: 19, 51). Elisabeth proclaims her blessed because “she has believed that the promise made by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1: 45), revealed at the time of the annunciation (Lk 1: 26-38).

The mercy of the compassionate father (Lk 15: 20), is in contrast with the severe attitude of the older son, who will not accept his brother as such and who, in the dialogue with the father, refers to him as: “this son of yours comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women…” (Lk 15: 30). In this we can see the attitude of the Scribes and Pharisees who “murmured: ‹‹This man receives sinners and eats with them››.” They do not associate with “sinners” whom they consider unclean, but rather distance themselves from them. Jesus’ attitude is different and, in their sight, it is scandalous. He likes to associate with sinners and sometimes invites himself into their houses to eat with them (Lk 19: 1-10). The murmuring of the Scribes and Pharisees prevents them from listening to the Word.

The contrast between the two brothers is quite evocative. The younger brother recognises his misery and fault and returns home saying: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son” (Lk 15: 18-19, 21). The older brother takes an attitude of arrogance not only towards his brother but also towards his father! His scolding is in great contrast with the tenderness of the father who comes out of the house and goes to meet him to “entreat” him to go into the house (Lk 15: 20, 28). This is an image of God the Father who invites us to conversion, to return to him: “Come back, disloyal Israel – it is Yahweh who speaks – I shall frown on you no more, since I am merciful – it is Yahweh who speaks. I shall not keep my resentment for ever. Only acknowledge your guilt: how you have apostatised from Yahweh your God, how you have flirted with strangers and have not listened to my voice – it is Yahweh who speaks. Come back disloyal children –it is Yahweh who speaks – for I alone am your Master” (Jer 3: 12-14).

b) A few questions:

to direct our meditation and practice.

i) Luke focuses on an image of God already revealed in the Old Testament (Es 34: 6), but which, unfortunately, seems to have been ignored by the Scribes and Pharisees who stressed rather the image of a God “who visits the sins of the fathers on the children” (Es 34: 7). What image of God do I have?

ii) The Pharisees and Scribes boast that they are just in the sight of God because they do not break the law. Jesus criticises their attitude in his teaching and by his actions. He the “Just One” of God (1Pt 3: 18) “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15: 2). Do I consider myself more just than others, perhaps because I try to observe the commandments of God? What are the motives that drive me to live a “just” life? Is it the love of God or personal satisfaction?

iii) “All the publicans and sinners” approached Jesus to listen to him (Lk 15: 1). Luke seems to place importance on this attitude of listening, reflection, entering into oneself, meditating and storing up the Word in our hearts. What place do I give to the contemplative listening of the Word of God in my daily life?

iv) The Scribes and Pharisees do not associate with “sinners” whom they consider unclean, but rather distance themselves from them. Jesus’ attitude is different and, in their sight, it is scandalous. He loves to be with sinners and sometimes invites himself to their houses to eat with them (Lk 19: 1-10). Do I judge others or do I try to pass on feelings of mercy and forgiveness, thus reflecting the tenderness of God the Father-Mother?

v) ‹‹“Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.›› (Lk 15: 23). In the image of the father who celebrates the return to life of his son, we recognise God the Father who has loved us so much “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life” (Jn 3: 16). In the killed “fattened calf”, we can see the Christ, the lamb of God who offers himself as a victim of expiation for the redemption of sin. I take part in the Eucharistic banquet full of grateful feelings for this infinite love of God who gives himself to us in his crucified and risen beloved Son.


a) Psalm 32 (31):

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I declared not my sin,
my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to thee,
and I did not hide my iniquity; I said,
"I will confess my transgressions to the Lord";
then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.

Thou art a hiding place for me,
thou preservest me from trouble;
thou dost encompass me with deliverance.

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice,
O righteous, and shout for joy,
all you upright in heart!

b) Closing prayer:

O God, who rewards the just and will not deny pardon to repentant sinners, listen to our plea: may the humble confession of our faults obtain for us your mercy.


Contemplation is knowing how to adhere with one’s mind and heart to the Lord who by his Word transforms us into new beings who always do his will. “Knowing these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (Jn 13: 17)

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