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Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:06

Lectio Divina: Luke 11:29-32


Forgiving, merciful God,

we pray to You for a good measure

of humility and honesty

to acknowledge before You and people

that we are weak and fallible men and women,

who often try to turn a blind eye

to our shortcomings and our sins.

Strong with the grace won in the hard way

by Your Son on the cross,

we beg You for the courage

to seek Your forgiveness

and to turn and return wholeheartedly to You

and to serve You and people.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”


We are in Lent. The Liturgy presents texts which can help us to convert ourselves and to change our life. What helps more in conversion are the facts of the history of the People of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents two episodes of the past: Jonah and the Queen of the South, and transforms this into a mirror in such a way that one can discover God’s call to conversion.

Luke 11:29: The evil generation which asks for a sign. Jesus calls the generation evil because it does not want to believe in Jesus and continues to ask for signs which can indicate that Jesus has been sent by the Father. But Jesus refuses to present these signs, because if they ask for a sign it is because they do not believe. The only sign which will be given is that of Jonah.

Luke 11:30: The sign of Jonah. The sign of Jonah has two different aspects. The first one is what the text of Luke affirms in today’s Gospel. Jonah was a sign, through his preaching, for the people of Nineveh. Listening to Jonah, the people were converted. In the same way, the preaching of Jesus was a sign for His people, but the people did not show any sign of conversion. The other aspect is that which the Gospel of Matthew affirms when he quotes the same episode: For as Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40). When the fish vomited Jonah into the dry land, he went to announce the Word of God to the people of Nineveh. In the same way, after the death and resurrection on the third day, the Good News will be announced to the people of Judah.

Luke 11:31: The Queen of the South. Following this, Jesus recalls the story of the Queen of the South, who came from the ends of the earth to meet Solomon, and to learn from his wisdom (cfr. I Kg 10:1-10). Twice Jesus affirms: Look, there is something greater than Solomon here, and look, there is something much greater than Jonah here .

A very important point in the discussion between Jesus and the leaders of His people is the way in which Jesus and His enemies place themselves before God. The Book of Jonah is a parable which criticizes the mentality of those who wanted God only for the Jews. In the story of Jonah, the pagans were converted listening to the preaching of Jonah and God accepts them in His goodness and does not destroy the city. When Jonah sees that God accepts the people of Nineveh and does not destroy the city Jonah became very indignant. He fell into a rage. He prayed to the Lord: Lord, is not this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? That was why I first tried to flee to Tarshish, since I knew You were a tender, compassionate God, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, who relents about inflicting disaster. So now, Lord, please take my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living!. (Jon 4:1-3). For this reason, Jonah was a sign for the Jews of the time of Jesus and it continues to be for us Christians. He wants for all to be disciples (Mt 28:19), that is, that they be persons who, like Him, radiate and announce the Good News of the love of God for all peoples (Mk 16:15).


Lent, the time for conversion. What has to change in the image of God that I have? Am I like Jonah or like Jesus?

On what is my faith based, founded? In signs or in the Word of Jesus?


God, create in me a clean heart,

renew within me a resolute spirit,

do not thrust me away from Your presence,

do not take away from me Your spirit of holiness. (Ps 51,10-11)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:06

Lectio Divina: Matthew 6:7-15

Season of Lent


Lord God,

You speak Your mighty word to us,

but we cannot hear it

unless it stirs our lives

and is spoken in human terms.

Keep speaking Your word to us, Lord,

and open our hearts to it,

that it may bear fruit in us

when we do Your will

and carry out what we are sent to do.

We ask You this through Your living Word,

Jesus Christ our Lord.


Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. "If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."


There are two versions of the Our Father: Luke (Lk 11:1-4) and Matthew (Mt 6:7-13). In Luke, the Our Father is shorter. Luke writes for the communities which came from Paganism. In Matthew the Our Father is found in the Discourse on the Mountain, in the part where Jesus orientates the disciples in the practice of the three works of piety: alms (Mt 6:1-4), prayer (Mt 6:5-15) and fasting (Mt6:16-18). The Our Father forms part of a catechesis for the converted Jews. They were accustomed to pray, but had some vices which Matthew tries to correct.

Matthew 6:7-8: The faults to be corrected. Jesus criticizes the people for whom prayer was a repetition of a magic formula, strong words addressed to God to oblige Him to respond to our needs. The acceptance of our prayer by God does not depend on the repetition of words, but on God’s goodness, on God who is love and mercy. He wants our good and knows our needs even before we pray to Him.

Matthew 6:9a: The first words: Our Father, Abba Father, is the name which Jesus uses to address Himself to God. It reveals the new relationship with God that should characterize the life of the communities (Ga 4:6; Rm 8:15). We say Our Father and not My Father . The adjective places the accent on the awareness or knowledge that we all belong to the great human family of all races and creeds. To pray to the Father is to enter in intimacy with Him. It also means to be sensitive to the cry of all the brothers and sisters who cry for their daily bread. It means to seek in the first place the Kingdom of God. The experience of God as our Father is the foundation of universal fraternity.

Matthew 6:9b-10: Three requests for the cause of God: The Name, the Kingdom, the Will. In the first part we ask that our relationship with God may be re-established again. To sanctify His name: The name JAHVE means I am with you! God knows. In this name He makes Himself known (Ex 3:11-15). The name of God is sanctified when it is used with faith and not with magic; when it is used according to its true objective, not for oppression but for the liberty or freedom of the people and for the construction of the Kingdom. The coming of the Kingdom: The only Lord and King of life is God (Is 45:21; 46:9). The coming of the Kingdom is the fulfillment of all the hopes and promises. It is life in plenitude, the overcoming of frustration suffered with human kings and governments. This Kingdom will come when the Will of God will be fully accomplished. To do His will: The will of God is expressed in His Law. His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. In Heaven the sun and the stars obey the laws of their orbit and create the order of the universe (Is 48:12-13). The observance of the law of God will be a source of order and well-being for human life.

Matthew 6:11-13: Four petitions for the cause of the brothers: Bread, Pardon, Victory, Liberty. In the second part of the Our Father we ask that the relationship among persons may be restored. The four requests show how necessary it is to transform or change the structures of the community and society in order that all the sons and daughters of God may have the same dignity. The daily bread. In Exodus the people received the manna in the desert every day (Ex 16:35). Divine Providence passed through the fraternal organization, the sharing. Jesus invites us to live a new Exodus, a new fraternal way of living together which will guarantee the daily bread for all (Mt 6:34-44; Jo 6:48-51). Forgive us our debts: Every 50 years, the Jubilee Year obliged people to forgive their debts. It was a new beginning (Lv 25:8-55). Jesus announces a new Jubilee Year, a year of grace from the Lord (Lk 4:19). The Gospel wants to begin everything anew! Do not lead us into temptation, do not put us to the test: In Exodus, people were tempted and fell (Dt 9:6-12). The people complained and wanted to go back (Ex 16:3; 17:3). In the new Exodus, the temptation will be overcome by the strength which people receive from God (I Co 10:12-13). Deliver us from evil: The Evil One is Satan, who draws away from God and is a cause of scandal. He succeeds in entering in Peter (Mt 16:23) and to tempt Jesus in the desert. Jesus overcomes him (Mt 4:1-11). He tells us: Courage, I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33).

Matthew 6:14-15: Anyone who does not forgive will not be forgiven. In praying the Our Father, we pronounce the phrase which condemns us or absolves us. We say: Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass us (Mt 6:12). We offer God the measure of pardon that we want. If we forgive very much, He will forgive us very much. If we forgive little, He will forgive little. If we do not forgive, He will not forgive us.


Jesus prayer says forgive our debts . In some countries it is translated as forgive our offenses . What is easier to forgive, the offenses or to forgive the debts?

Christian nations of the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and USA) pray everyday: Forgive our debts as we forgive those who are in debt to us! But they do not forgive the external debt of poor countries of the Third World. How can we explain this terrible contradiction, source of impoverishment of millions of people?

Debt, in the context of society, is not only money. In fact, in referring to people who have served time in jail we say “they have paid their debt to society”. Do we accept these people back into society? Not only have they paid their “debt”, they are often treated as having not been forgiven.

How do we forgive others in terms of immigration, documented or not, and accept them into our communities?


Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,

let us acclaim His name together.

I seek Yahweh and He answers me,

frees me from all my fears. (Ps 34,3-4)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:05

Lectio Divina: Matthew 25:31-46

Season of Lent


Lord, holy God, loving Father,

you give us the task to love one another

because You are holy

and You have loved us before we could love You.

Give us the ability to recognize Your Son

in our brothers and sisters far and near.

Make us witnesses that love exists and is alive

and that You, the God of love,

exist and are alive now for ever.


Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."


The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the New Messiah. Like Moses, Jesus also promulgates the Law of God. As with the ancient law, the new one, given by Jesus, also contains five books or discourses. The Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5:1 to 7:27), the first discourse, opens with eight Beatitudes. The discourse on vigilance (Mt 2:4, 1 to 25, 46), the fifth discourse, contains the description of the Last Judgment. The Beatitudes describe the door of entrance into the Kingdom, enumerating eight categories of people: the poor in spirit, the meek, the afflicted, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted because of justice (Mt 5:3-10). The parable of the Last Judgment tells us what we should do in order to possess the Kingdom: accept the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigners, the naked, the sick and the prisoners (Mt 25:35-36): At the beginning, as well as at the end of the New Law, there are the excluded and the marginalized.

Matthew 25:31-33: Opening of the Last Judgment. The Son of Man gathers together around Him the nations of the world. He separates people as the shepherd does with the sheep and the goats. The shepherd knows how to discern. He does not make a mistake; sheep on the right, goats on the left. Jesus does not make a mistake. Jesus does not judge nor condemn. (cfr. Jn 3:17; 12:47). He does not separate alone. It is the person himself/herself who judges and condemns because of the way in which he/she behaves toward the little ones and the excluded.

Matthew 25:34-36: The sentence for those who are at the right hand of the Judge. Those who are at the right hand of the judge are called Blessed of my Father! That is, they receive the blessing which God promised to Abraham and to his descendants (Gen 12:3). They are invited to take possession of the Kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The reason for the sentence is the following: I was hungry, a foreigner, naked, sick and prisoner, and you accepted me and helped me! This sentence makes us understand who are the sheep. They are the persons who accepted the Judge when he was hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and prisoner. Because of the way of speaking about my Father and the Son of Man, we can know that the Judge is precisely Jesus Himself. He identifies Himself with the little ones!

Matthew 25:37-40: A request for clarification and the response of the Judge: Those who accept the excluded are called just . That means that the justice of the Kingdom is not attained by observing norms and prescriptions, but rather by accepting those in need. But it is strange that the just do not even know themselves when they accepted Jesus in need. Jesus responds: Every time that you have done this to one of my brothers, you have done it to me. Who are these little brothers of mine? In other passages of the Gospel of Matthew, the expression “my brothers” indicates the disciples (Mt 12:48-50; 28:10). This also indicates the members of the community who are more abandoned and neglected who have no place and are not well received (Mt 10:40). Jesus identifies Himself with them. In the broader context of the last parable, the expression “my smallest brothers” is extended and includes all those who have no place in society. It indicates all the poor. The just and the blessed by my Father are all the persons from all nations who accept and welcome others with total gratuity, independently of the fact that they are Christians or not.

Matthew 25:41-43: The sentence for those who were at the left hand side. Those who were on the other side of the Judge are called cursed and they are destined to go to the eternal fire, prepared by the devil and his friends. Jesus uses a symbolic language common at that time to say that these persons will not enter into the Kingdom. And here, also, their is only one reason: they did not accept or welcome Jesus as one who is hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and/or a prisoner. It is not that Jesus prevents them from entering into the Kingdom, rather it is our way of acting that is our blindness which prevents us from seeing Jesus in the little ones.

Matthew 25:44-46: A request for clarification and the response of the Judge. The request for clarification indicates that it is a question of people who have behaved well, people who have their conscience in peace. They are certain to have always practiced what God asked from them. For this reason they were surprised when the Judge says that they did not accept Him, did not welcome Him. The Judge responds: Every time that you have not done these things to one of my brothers, the little ones, you did not do it to me. It is the omission! They did not do anything extra. They only missed practicing good towards the little ones and the excluded. This is the way the fifth Book of the New Law ends!

In the saints and Church Fathers we have a lot to learn about virtues and vices. It is not enough to just avoid vice, or sin, but to also work toward attaining virtue and virtuous behavior. To do no harm is not the same as to help. This is what we are called to do: to not just avoid doing wrong or harm, but to go out of our way to do good as well.


What struck you the most in this parable of the Last Judgment?

Do I focus my life more on avoiding harm or on doing good for others?

Stop and think: if the Last Judgment would take place today, would you be on the side of the sheep or on the side of the goats?


The precepts of Yahweh are honest,

joy for the heart;

the commandment of Yahweh is pure,

light for the eyes. (Ps 19,8)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:04

Lectio: 1st Sunday of Lent

Luke 4, 1-13

The temptations of Jesus.
Victory by means of prayer and the Bible
Luke 4, 1-13


a) Initial Prayer

Oh Lord, at the beginning of this Lenten time you invite me to meditate, once more, on the account of the temptations, so that I may discover the heart of the spiritual struggle and, above all, so that I may experience the victory over evil.
Holy Spirit, “visit our minds” because frequently, many thoughts proliferate in our mind which make us feel that we are in the power of the uproar of many voices. The fire of love also purifies our senses and the heart so that they may be docile and available to the voice of your Word. Enlighten us (accende lumen sensibus, infunde amorem cordibus) so that our senses, purified by you, may be ready to dialogue with you. If the fire of your love blazes up in our heart, over and above our aridity, it can flood the true life, which is fullness of joy.

b) Reading of the Gospel:

Luke 4, 1-131 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, 2 for forty days being put to the test by the devil. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. 3 Then the devil said to him, 'If you are Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.' 4 But Jesus replied, 'Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone.' 5 Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world 6 and said to him, 'I will give you all this power and their splendour, for it has been handed over to me, for me to give it to anyone I choose. 7 Do homage, then, to me, and it shall all be yours.' 8 But Jesus answered him, 'Scripture says: You must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone you must serve.' 9 Then he led him to Jerusalem and set him on the parapet of the Temple. 'If you are Son of God,' he said to him, 'throw yourself down from here, 10 for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, to guard you, and again: 11 They will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.' 12 But Jesus answered him, 'Scripture says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' 13 Having exhausted every way of putting him to the test, the devil left him, until the opportune moment.

c) Moment of prayerful silence:

To listen silence is necessary: of the soul, of the spirit, of the sensibility and also exterior silence, with the tension to listen to what the Word of God intends to communicate.


a) Key for the reading:

Luke with the refinement of a narrator mentions in 4, 1-44 some aspects of the ministry of Jesus after His Baptism, among which the temptations of the devil. In fact, he says that Jesus “Filled with the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, for forty days” (Lk 4, 1-2). Such an episode of the life of Jesus is something preliminary to his ministry, but it can also be understood as the moment of transition of the ministry of John the Baptist to that of Jesus. In Mark such an account of the temptations is more generic. In Matthew, it is said that Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4, 1), these last words attribute the experience of the temptations to an influence which is at the same time heavenly and diabolical. The account of Luke modifies the text of Matthew in such a way as to show that Jesus “filled with the Holy Spirit” , leaves the Jordan on his own initiative and is led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, where “he is tempted by the devil” (4, 2). The sense which Luke wants to give to the temptations of Jesus is that those were an initiative of the devil and not a programmed experience of the Holy Spirit (S. Brown). It is as if Luke wanted to keep clearly distinct the person of the devil from the person of the Holy Spirit.

Another element to be kept in mind is the order with which Luke disposes the order of the temptations: desert – sight of the kingdoms of the world – pinnacle of Jerusalem. In Matthew, instead, the order varies: desert – pinnacle – high mountain. Exegetes discuss as to which is the original disposition, but they do not succeed in finding a unanimous solution. The difference could be explained beginning with the third temptation (the culminating one): for Matthew the “mountain” is the summit of the temptation because in his Gospel he places all his interest on the theme of the mountain (we just have to remember the sermon on the mountain, the presentation of Jesus as “the new Moses”); for Luke, instead, the last temptation takes place on the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem because one of the greatest interests of his Gospel is the city of Jerusalem (Jesus in the account of Luke is on the way toward Jerusalem where salvation is definitively fulfilled) (Fitzmyer).

The reader can legitimately ask himself the question: In Luke, just as in Matthew, were there possible witnesses to the temptations of Jesus? The answer is certainly negative. From the account of Luke it appears clearly that Jesus and the devil are one in front of the other, completely alone. The answers of Jesus to the devil are taken from Sacred Scripture, they are quotations from the Old Testament. Jesus faces the temptations, and particularly that of the worship which the devil intends from Jesus himself, having recourse to the Word of God as bread of life, as protection from God. The recourse to the Word of God contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, considered by exegetes as a long meditation on the Law, shows Luke’s intention to recall this episode of the life of Jesus with the project of God who wishes to save mankind.

Did these temptations take place historically? Why do some, among believers and non believers, hold that such temptations are only some fantasy on Jesus, some invention of a story? Such questions are extremely important in a context such as ours which seeks to empty the accounts in the Gospel, from its historical and faith content. Certainly, it is not possible to give a literary and ingenuous explanation, nor to think that these could have happened in an external way. That of Dupont seems to us to be sufficiently acceptable: “Jesus speaks about an experience which He has lived, but translated into a figurative language, adapted to strike the minds of his listeners” (Les tentationes, 128). More than considering them as an external fact, the temptations are considered as a concrete experience in the life of Jesus. It seems to me that this is the principal reason which has guided Luke and the other Evangelists in transmitting those scenes. The opinions of those who hold that the temptations of Jesus are fictitious or invented are deprived of foundation, neither is it possible to share the opinion of Dupont himself, when he says that these were “a purely spiritual dialogue that Jesus had with the devil” (Dupont, 125). Looking within the New Testament (Jn 6, 26-34; 7, 1-4; Hb 4, 15; 5, 2; 2, 17a) it is clear that the temptations were an evident truth in the life of Jesus. The explanation of R.E. Brown is interesting and can be shared: “Matthew and Luke would have done no injustice to historical reality by dramatizing such temptations within a scene, and by masking the true tempter by placing this provocation on his lips” (the Gospel According to John, 308). In synthesis we could say that the historicity of the temptations of Jesus or the taking root of these in the experience of Jesus have been described with a “figurative language” (Dupont) or “dramatized” (R.E. Brown). It is necessary to distinguish the content (the temptations in the experience of Jesus) from its container (the figurative or dramatized language). It is certain that these two interpretations are much more correct from those who interpret them in a an ingenious literary sense.

Besides Luke, with these scenes intends to remind us that the temptations were addressed to Jesus by an external agent. They are not the result of a psychological crisis or because He finds himself in a personal conflict with someone. The temptations, rather, lead back to the “temptations” which Jesus experienced in His ministry: hostility, opposition, rejection. Such “temptations” were real and concrete in his life. He had no recourse to His divine power to solve them. These trials were a form of “diabolical seducing” (Fitsmyer), a provocation to use His divine power to change the stones into bread and to manifest himself in eccentric ways.

The temptations end with this expression: “Having exhausted every way of putting him to the test, the devil left Jesus (4, 13). therefore, the three scenes which contain the temptations are to be considered as the expression of all temptations or trials” which Jesus had to face. But the fundamental point is that Jesus, in so far that He is the Son, faced and overcame the “temptation”. and, even more: He was tested and tried in His fidelity to the Father and was found to be faithful.

A last consideration regarding the third temptation. In the first two temptations the devil provoked Jesus to use His divine Filiation to deny the human finiteness: to avoid providing for himself bread like all men; requiring then from Him, an illusory omnipotence. In both of these, Jesus does not respond saying: I do not want to! But appeals to the Law of God, His Father: “It is written… it has been said…” A wonderful lesson. But the devil does not give in and presents a third provocation, the strongest of all: to save Himself from death. In one word, to throw himself down from the pinnacle meant a sure death. The Devil quotes Scripture, Psalm 91, to invite Jesus to the magic and spectacular use of divine protection, and in last instance, to the denial of death. The passage of the Gospel of Luke launches a strong warning: the erroneous use of the Word of God, can be the occasion of temptations. In what sense? My way of relating myself to the Bible is placed in crisis especially when I use it only to give moral teachings to others who are in difficulty or in a state of crisis. We refer to certain pseudo spiritual discourses which are addressed to those who are in difficulty: “Are you anguished? There is nothing else you can do but pray and everything will be solved”. This means to ignore the consistency of the anguish which a person has and which frequently depends on a biochemical fact or of a psycho-social difficulty, or of a mistaken way of placing oneself before God. It would be more coherent to say: Pray and ask the Lord to guide you in having recourse to the human mediations of the doctor or of a wise and knowledgeable friend so that they can help you in lessening or curing you of your anguish. One cannot propose Biblical phrases, in a magic way, to others, neglecting to use the human mediations. “The frequent temptation is that of making a Bible of one’s own moral, instead of listening to the moral teachings of the Bible” (X. Thévenot).

In this time of Lent I am invited to get close to the Word of God with the following attitude: a tireless and prayerful assiduity to the Word of God, reading it with a constant bond of union with the great traditions of the Church, and in dialogue with the problems of humanity today.


a) Psalm 119:

How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the Law of Yahweh!
Blessed are those who observe his instructions,
who seek him with all their hearts,

Let us renew ourselves in the Spirit
And put on the new man
Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in justice and in true sanctity.
(St. Paul).


and, doing no evil,
who walk in his ways.
You lay down your precepts
to be carefully kept.

Let us follow Jesus Christ
and serve Him
with a pure heart and good conscience.
(Rule of Carmel)

May my ways be steady
in doing your will.
Then I shall not be shamed,
if my gaze is fixed on your commandments.

Let us follow Jesus Christ
and serve Him
with a pure heart and good conscience. (Rule of Carmel)

I thank you with a sincere heart
for teaching me your upright judgements.
I shall do your will;
do not ever abandon me wholly.

Let us renew ourselves in the Spirit
And put on the new man
Christ Jesus, our Lord,
created according to God the Father
in justice and in true sanctity. Amen
(S. Paul).

b) Final Prayer:

Lord, we look for you and we desire to see your face, grant us that one day, removing the veil, we may be able to contemplate it.
We seek you in Scripture which speaks to us of you and under the veil of wisdom, the fruit of the search of people.
We look for you in the radiant faces of our brothers and sisters, in the marks of your Passion in the bodies of the suffering.
Every creature is signed by your mark, every thing reveals a ray of Your invisible beauty.
You are revealed in the service of the brother, you revealed yourself to the brother by the faithful love which never diminishes.
Not the eyes but the heart has a vision of You, with simplicity and truth we try to speak with You.


To prolong our meditation we suggest a reflection of Benedict XVI:
“Lent is the privileged time of an interior pilgrimage toward the One who is the source of mercy. It is a pilgrimage in which He himself accompanies us through the desert of our poverty, supporting us on the way toward the intense joy of Easter. Even in the “dark valley” of which the Psalmist speaks (Psalm 23, 4), while the tempter suggests that we be dispersed or proposes an illusory hope in the work of our hands, God takes care of us and supports us. […] Lent wants to lead us in view of the victory of Christ over every evil which oppresses man. In turning to the Divine Master, in converting ourselves to Him, in experiencing His mercy, we discover a “look” which penetrates in the depth of ourselves and which can encourage each one of us.”

Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:03

Lectio Divina: Luke 5:27-32

Season of Lent


Lord our God, merciful Father,

when You call us to repentance,

you want us to turn to people

and to build up peace and justice among us all. According to Your promise,

let us become, with Your strength,

lights for those in darkness,

water for those who thirst,

re-builders of hope and happiness for all.

May we thus become living signs

of Your love and loyalty,

for You are our God for ever.


Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."


Today s Gospel presents the same theme which we reflected upon in January in the Gospel of Mark (Mk 2:13-17). This time, it is only the Gospel of Luke which speaks and the text is much shorter, concentrating its attention on the principal supper which is the call and conversion of Levi, and what the conversion implies for us who are entering into the time of Lent.

Jesus calls a sinner to be His disciple. Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, and he immediately left everything, follows Jesus, and begins to form part of the group of the disciples. Luke says that Levi had prepared a great banquet in his house. In the Gospel of Mark, it seemed that the banquet was in Jesus’ house. What is important here is the insistence on the communion of Jesus with sinners, around the table, which was a forbidden thing.

Jesus did not come for the just, but for sinners. This gesture of Jesus causes great anger among the religious authorities. It was forbidden to sit at table with tax collectors and sinners, because to sit at table with someone meant to treat him as a brother! With His way of doing things, Jesus was accepting the excluded and was treating them as brothers of the same family of God. Instead of speaking directly with Jesus, the  of the Pharisees speak with the disciples: Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus answers: It is not those that are well who need the doctor; I have come to call not the upright, but sinners, to repentance! His consciousness of His mission helps Jesus to find the response to indicate the way for the announcement of the Good News of God. He has come to unite the dispersed people, to reintegrate those who are excluded, to reveal that God is not a severe judge who condemns and expels, but rather He is Father who accepts and embraces.


Jesus accepts and includes people. What is my way of accepting people?

Jesus’ gesture reveals the experience that He has of God the Father. What is the image of God which I bear and express to others through my behavior?


Listen to me, Yahweh, answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Guard me, for I am faithful,

save Your servant who relies on You. (Ps 861-2)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:03

Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:14-15

Season of Lent


Lord of the Covenant,

we have not to fear Your judgment

if like You we become rich in mercy

and full of compassion for our neighbor.

May we not only know that You ask us

but practice with sincere hearts

to share our food with the hungry

and to loosen the bonds of injustice,

that through us Your light may shine

and Your healing spread far and wide.

Be with us in Your goodness.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."


Today's Gospel is a brief version of the Gospel which we already meditated on in January, when the same theme of fasting was proposed to us (Mk 2:18-22), but there is a small difference. Today, the Liturgy omits the whole discourse of the new piece of cloth on an old cloak and the new wine in an old skin (Mt 9:16-17) and concentrates its attention on fasting.

Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient practice and done in almost all religions. Jesus Himself practiced it during the forty days (Mt 4:2). But He did not insist His disciples do the same. He leaves them free. For this reason, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.

While the bridegroom is with them, they do not need to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the spouse, that is, during the wedding feast, it is not necessary for them to fast. Jesus considers Himself the spouse. The disciples are the friends of the spouse. The time which Jesus is with the disciples is the wedding feast. The day will come in which the spouse will no longer be there. Then, they can fast if they so desire. In this phrase Jesus refers to His death. He knows and He becomes aware that if He continues along this path of freedom the religious authority will want to kill Him.

Fasting and abstinence from meat are universal practices. The Muslims have fasting during Ramadan, during which they don’t eat until the rising of the sun. For diverse reasons, people impose upon themselves some form of fasting. Fasting is an important means to control oneself and this exists in almost all religions. It is also appreciated by those who are health conscious.

The Bible has many references to fasting. It was a way of making penance and of attaining conversion. Through the practice of fasting, Christians imitated Jesus who fasted during forty days. Fasting helps to attain the freedom of mind, self-control, and perhaps a critical vision of reality. It is an instrument to free our mind and not allow one to be transported by any breeze. It is a means to take better care of health. Fasting can be a form of identification with the poor who are obliged to fast the whole year and eat meat very rarely. There are also those who fast in order to protest.

Even if fasting and abstinence are no longer observed today, the basic objective of this practice continues to remain unchanged and is a force which should animate our life: to participate in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Surrender one’s own life in order to be able to possess it in God. Become aware or conscious of the fact that the commitment to the Gospel is a one way journey, without returning, which demands losing one’s life in order to be able to possess and find all things in full liberty.


What form of fasting do you practice? And if you do not practice any, what is the form which you could practice?

How can fasting help me to better prepare for the celebration of Easter?


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:
Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:02

Lectio Divina: Luke 9:22-25

Season of Lent


Lord our God,

You love us and You invite us

to share in Your own life and joy,

through a personal decision.

Help us to choose You and life

and to remain ever loyal

to this basic option

by the power of Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who was loyal to You and to us, now and forever.


Jesus said to his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?"


Yesterday we entered into the season of Lent. Up until now the daily Liturgy followed the Gospel of Mark, step by step. Beginning yesterday until Easter, the sequence of the readings of the day will be dictated by the ancient tradition of Lent and of preparation for Easter. From the very first day, the perspective is that of the Passion, Death and Resurrection and of the meaning which this mystery has for our life. This is what is proposed in the rather brief text of today’s Gospel. The text speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and affirms that the following of Jesus presupposes that we carry our cross after Jesus.

Before, in Luke 9:18-21, Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered giving different opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the ancient prophets. After having heard the opinions of others, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answers, “The Christ of God!”  that is, the Lord is the one awaited by the people! Jesus agrees with Peter, but He orders and charges them not to say this to anyone. Why did Jesus forbid this? Because at that time everybody was expecting the Messiah, but each one according to his own mind: some as king, others as priest, doctor, warrior, judge or prophet! Jesus thinks in a different way. He identifies Himself with the Messiah, servant and suffering, announced by Isaiah (42:1-9; 52:13-53:12)

The first announcement of the Passion. Jesus begins to teach that He is the Messiah, the Servant and affirms that, as Messiah, the Servant announced by Isaiah, soon He will be put to death in the carrying out of His mission of justice (Is 49: 4-9; 53:1-12). Luke usually follows the Gospel of Mark, but here he omits the reaction of Peter, who advised Jesus against or tried to dissuade Him from thinking of the suffering Messiah and he also omits the hard response: “Far from me, Satan! Because you do not think as God, but as men!” Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who draws others far away from the path of God. Jesus does not allow Peter to get Him away from His mission.

Conditions to follow Jesus. Jesus draws conclusions valid even until now: “If anyone wants to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross every day and follow Me.” At that time the cross was the death penalty which the Roman Empire gave to marginalized criminals. To take up the cross and to carry it following Jesus was the same as accepting to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimized injustices. It was the same as to break away from the system. As St. Paul says in the letter to the Galatians, “The world has been crucified for Me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). The cross is not fatalism, neither is it an exigency from the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the commitment freely assumed by Jesus to reveal the Good News that God is Father, and that, therefore, we all should be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, He was persecuted and He was not afraid to deliver His own life. There is no greater proof of love than to give one’s life for one’s brother or sister.


Everybody was waiting for the Messiah, each one in his/her own way. Which is the Messiah whom I await and whom people today await?

The condition to follow Jesus is the cross. How do I react before the crosses of life?


How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked

and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread,

nor a seat in company with cynics,

but who delights in the law of Yahweh

and murmurs His law day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)


Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:45

Lectio Divina: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

The meaning of prayer, almsgiving and fasting

The way to spend the time of Lent well

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18


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

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


a) A key to the reading:

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

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

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

Matthew 6:2: How not to go about almsgiving

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

Matthew 6:5: How not to pray

Matthew 6:6: How to pray

Matthew 6:16: How not to fast

Matthew 6:17-18: How to fast

c) Text:

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


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


to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What touched you or pleased you most in this text?

b) What is the meaning of Jesus’ initial warning?

c) What does Jesus criticize and teach about almsgiving? Make a resume for yourself.

d) What does Jesus criticize and teach about prayer? Make a resume for yourself.

e) What does Jesus criticize and teach about fasting? Make a resume for yourself.


a) The context:

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

b) A commentary on the text:

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

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

Matthew 6:2: How not to go about almsgiving

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

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

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

Matthew 6:5: How not to pray

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

Matthew 6:6: How to pray

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

Matthew 6:16: How not to fast

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

Matthew 6:17-18: How to fast

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

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

c) Further information:

i) The broader context of Matthew s Gospel

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

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

ii) A key to the Sermon on the Mount

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

Mt 5:1-16: The way in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Proclaiming the great justice of God

I waited, I waited for Yahweh,

then He stooped to me and heard my cry for help.

He pulled me up from the seething chasm,

from the mud of the mire.

He set my feet on rock,

and made my footsteps firm.

He put a fresh song in my mouth,

praise of our God.

Many will be awestruck at the sight,

and will put their trust in Yahweh.

How blessed are those who put their trust in Yahweh,

who have not sided with rebels

and those who have gone astray in falsehood.

How much You have done, Yahweh, my God

Your wonders, Your plans for us -- You have no equal.

I will proclaim and speak of them;

they are beyond number.

You wanted no sacrifice or cereal offering,

but You gave me an open ear,

You did not ask for burnt offering or sacrifice for sin;

then I said, “Here I am, I am coming.”

In the scroll of the book it is written of me,

my delight is to do Your will;

Your law, my God, is deep in my heart.

I proclaimed the saving justice of Yahweh in the great assembly.

See, I will not hold my tongue,

as You well know.

I have not kept Your saving justice locked in the depths of my heart,

but have spoken of Your constancy and saving help.

I have made no secret of Your faithful and steadfast love,

in the great assembly.

You, Yahweh, have not withheld Your tenderness from me;

Your faithful and steadfast love will always guard me.

For troubles surround me,

until they are beyond number;

my sins have overtaken me;

I cannot see my way.

They outnumber the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails me.

Be pleased, Yahweh, to rescue me,

Yahweh, come quickly and help me!

Shame and dismay to all who seek to take my life.

Back with them,

let them be humiliated who delight in my misfortunes.

Let them be aghast with shame,

those who say to me, “Aha, aha!”

But joy and happiness in You to all who seek You!

Let them ceaselessly cry,

“Great is Yahweh” who love Your saving power.

Poor and needy as I am,

the Lord has me in mind.

You, my helper, my Savior, my God, do not delay.


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

Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:38

Lectio Divina: Mark 8:14-21

Ordinary Time 

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

when we do not see clearly in life,

when suffering comes our way,

we tend to blame You or people.

Help us to realize clearly

how much of the evil around us

comes from within ourselves:

from our greed for riches and power,

from our self-complacency and selfishness.

Speak to us Your word of forgiveness

and change us from a silent majority of evil

into solidarity of love,

by the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, "Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?" They answered Him, "Twelve." "When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?" They answered Him, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" 

3) Reflection

Yesterday’s Gospel spoke of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the Pharisees. Today’s Gospel speaks of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the disciples and shows that the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (religion and government), had taken possession of the mentality of the disciples to the point of hindering them from listening to the Good News.

Mark 8: 14-16: Attention to the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Jesus warns the disciples to look out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. But they do not understand the words of Jesus. They think that He is speaking like that because they forgot to buy bread. Jesus says one thing and they understood another. This clash was the result of the insidious influence of the yeast of the Pharisees on the mentality and on the life of the disciples.

Mark 8: 17-18a: Jesus’ question. In the face of this almost total lack of perception in the disciples, Jesus rapidly asks them a series of questions, without waiting for an answer. They are hard questions which express very serious things and reveal the total lack of understanding on the part of the disciples. Even if it seems unbelievable, the disciples reach the point in which there is no difference between them and the enemies of Jesus. First, Jesus had become sad seeing the hardness of heart of the Pharisees and of the Herodians (Mk 3: 5). Now, the disciples themselves have hardened their hearts (Mk 8: 17). First, those outside (Mk 4:11) do not understand the parables because they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand (Mk 4:12). Now, the disciples themselves understand nothing, because they have eyes and do not see, listen, but do not understand (Mk 8:18). Besides, the image of the hardened heart evoked the hardness of heart of the people of the Old Testament who always drifted away from the path. It also evoked the hardened heart of Pharaoh who oppressed and persecuted the people (Ex 4: 21; 7: 13; 8: 11, 15, 28; 9: 7 ). The expression “they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand” evoked not only the people without faith criticized by Isaiah (Is 6: 9-10), but also the adorers of false gods, of whom the psalm says, “They have eyes and see nothing, have ears and hear nothing” (Ps 115: 5-6).

Mark 8: 18b-21: The two questions regarding the bread. The two final questions refer to the multiplication of the loaves: How many baskets did they gather the first time? Twelve! And the second time? Seven! Like the Pharisees, the disciples also, though they had collaborated actively in the multiplication of the loaves, did not succeed in understanding the meaning. Jesus ends by saying, “Do you still not understand?” The way in which Jesus asks these questions, one after the other, almost without waiting for an answer, seems to cut the conversation. It reveals a very big clash. What is the cause of this clash?

The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples. The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples was not due to ill will on their part. The disciples were not like the Pharisees. The Pharisees did not understand, but in them there was malice. They used religion to criticize and to condemn Jesus (Mk 2: 7,16,18,24; 3: 5, 22-30). The disciples were good people. Theirs was not ill will, because even if they were victims of the yeast of the Pharisees and of the Herodians , they were not interested in defending the system of the Pharisees and the Herodians against Jesus. Then, what was the cause? The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples had something to do with the Messianic hope. Firstly, among the Jews there was an enormous variety of Messianic expectations. Second, the diverse interpretations of the prophecies: there were people who expected a Messiah King (cf. Mk 15: 9, 32); others, a Messiah Saint or Priest (cf. Mk1:24); others, a Messiah subversive Warrior (cf. Lk 23:5; Mk 15: 6; 13: 6-8); others, a Messiah Doctor (cf. Jn 4: 25; Mk 1: 22-27); still others, a Messiah Judge (cf. Lk 3: 5-9; Mk 1:8); others, a Messiah Prophet (6: 4, 14, 65). It seems that nobody expected a Messiah Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (Is 42: 1; 49: 3; 52: 13). They did not consider the messianic hope as a service of the people of God to humanity. Each group, according to their own interests and according to their social class, awaited the Messiah, but wanted to reduce Him to their own hope. This is why the title Messiah, according to the person or social position, could mean very different things. There was a great confusion of ideas! And precisely in this attitude of Servant is found the key which turns on a light in the disciples’ darkness and helps them toward conversion. It is only in accepting the Messiah as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, that they will be capable of opening their eyes and understanding the Mystery of God in Jesus. 

4) For Personal Confrontation

What is for us today the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod? What does it mean today for me to have a hardened heart?

The yeast of Herod and the Pharisees prevents the disciples from understanding the Good News. Perhaps, today the propaganda of television prevents us from understanding the Good News of Jesus?

5) Concluding Prayer

I need only say, “I am slipping,”

for Your faithful love, Yahweh, to support me;

however great the anxiety of my heart,

Your consolations soothe me. (Ps 94:18-19)

Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:37

Lectio Divina: Mark 8:11-13

1) Opening prayer

Lord God,

forgive us that in our weak faith

we ask sometimes for signs and wonders.

We know that You are our Father,

but it is not always easy for us

to recognize Your loving presence.

Give us eyes of faith to see the sign

that You are with us in Jesus and His message.

We say so reluctantly, for it is painful.

Purify our trust in You and in Jesus

that we may become more mature Christians,

who love You through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

3) Reflection

Mark 8: 11-13: The Pharisees ask for a sign from Heaven. Today’s Gospel narrates a discussion of the Pharisees with Jesus. Jesus also, as it happened with Moses in the Old Testament, had fed hungry people in the desert, by multiplying the bread (Mk 8: 1-10). This is a sign that He presented himself before the people as a new Moses. But the Pharisees were not capable of perceiving the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves. They continued to discuss with Jesus  and ask for a sign from Heaven . They had understood nothing of all that Jesus had done. Jesus sighed profoundly, probably feeling disgust and sadness before so much blindness. He concludes by saying, “No sign will be given to this generation.” He left them and went toward the other side of the lake. It is useless to show a beautiful picture to one who does not want to open his eyes. People who close their eyes cannot see!

The danger of dominating ideology. Here we can clearly perceive how the yeast of Herod and the Pharisees (Mk 8: 15), the dominating ideology of the time, made people lose their capacity to analyze events objectively. This yeast came from afar and had sunk profound roots in the life of the people. It went so far as to contaminate the disciples’ mentality and manifested itself in many ways. With the formation which Jesus gave them, He tried to uproot this yeast.

The following are some examples of this fraternal help which Jesus gave to His disciples:

a) The mentality of a closed group. On a certain day a person not belonging to the community used the name of Jesus to drive out devils. John saw this and forbade it: “We tried to stop him because he was not one of ours” (Mk 9: 38). John thought he had the monopoly on Jesus and wanted to prevent others from using the name of Jesus to do good. John wanted a community closed in upon itself. It was the yeast of the Elected People, the separated People! Jesus responds, “Do not stop him! Anyone who is not against us is for us!” (Mk 9: 39-40).

b) The mentality of a group which considers itself superior to others. At times, the Samaritans did not want to offer hospitality to Jesus. The reaction of some of the disciples was immediate: “May fire descend from heaven and burn them up!” (Lk 9:54). They thought that because they were with Jesus, everyone had to welcome Him, to accept Him. They thought they had God on their side to defend Him. It was the yeast of the Chosen People, the Privileged People! Jesus reproaches them: “Jesus turned and rebuked them” (Lk 9: 55).

c) The mentality of competition and prestige. The disciples discussed among themselves about the first place (Mk 9: 33-34). It was the yeast of class and of competitiveness, which characterized the official religion and the society of the Roman Empire. It was already getting into the small community around Jesus. Jesus reacts and orders them to have a contrary mentality: “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last” (Mk 9: 35).

d) The mentality of those who marginalize the little ones. The disciples scolded little children. It was the yeast of the mentality of that time, according to which children did not count and should be disciplined by adults. Jesus rebukes the disciples: “Let the little children come to me!”(Mk 10:14). The children become the teachers of the adults: Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it . (Lk 18:17).

As it happened in the time of Jesus, today also the  dominating ideology arises once again and appears even in the life of the community and of the family. The prayerful reading of the Gospel, done in community, can help to change our view of things and to deepen in us conversion and the fidelity which Jesus asks from us.

4) For Personal Confrontation

Faced with the alternative either to have faith in Jesus or to ask for a sign from heaven, the Pharisees want a sign from heaven. They were not able to believe in Jesus. The same thing happens to me. What have I chosen?

The yeast of the Pharisees prevented the disciples from perceiving the presence of the Kingdom in Jesus. Has some residue of this yeast of the Pharisees remained in me?

5) Concluding Prayer

Lord, You are generous and act generously;

teach me Your will. (Ps 119:68)

Lectio Divina:
Page 199 of 204

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