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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:35

Lectio: 6th Sunday of ordinary time (C)

“Blessed are you who are poor!

Alas for you who are rich!”

The light of the Gospel changes our way of looking.

Luke 6:17, 20-26

1. Opening prayer

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

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

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declares blessed those who are poor, those who weep, those who are hungry and who are persecuted. And He declares bound to unhappiness the rich, those who laugh, who are satisfied, or who are praised by all. Of what does the happiness consist which Jesus attributes to the poor, to the hungry, to those who weep, to those who are persecuted? Is it happiness? The words of Jesus contrast with the daily experience of our life. The common ideal of happiness is quite different from the happiness that Jesus speaks about. And you, in your heart, do you think that a person who is poor and hungry is really happy?

Keeping in mind these questions, which result from our daily experience, read the text of this Sunday’s Gospel. Read it attentively, perhaps without trying to understand it all. Allow the word of Jesus to enter into you. Keep silent. During the reading try to be attentive to two things: (i) to the social category of people who say they are happy, as well as those who are threatened by unhappiness; (ii) to people whom you know and who are part of the group of your friends and who could be part of one or another of these social categories.

The text of this Sunday’s Gospel omits verses 18 and 19. We take the liberty to include them in the brief comment that follows, because they explain a bit better the public, those to whom the word of Jesus is addressed.

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

Luke 6:17: Places the action of Jesus in time

Luke 6:18-19: The crowd seeking Jesus

Luke 6:20-23: The four beatitudes

Luke 6: 24-26: The four threats

c) Text:

 Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon

came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.

 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

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) Which is the point that you liked best or that struck you the most? Why?

b) Who constituted the great crowd around Jesus? From where did they come and what were they seeking?

c) What are the social categories of the people who are declared happy (Lk 6:20-23)? What is the promise that each one of them receives from Jesus? How are these promises to be understood?

d) When saying “Blessed are the poor”, would Jesus be trying to say that the poor should continue to live in their poverty?

e) What are the social categories of the people who are threatened by unhappiness? (Lk 6:24-26)? What are the threats for each one of them? How is this threat to be understood?

f) Do I look at life and at people as Jesus does?

5. For those who wish to deepen more on the theme

a) Context of the time and that of today:

Luke presents the teaching of Jesus in a progressive revelation. First, up to verse 6:16, Luke says many times that Jesus taught, but says nothing on the content of the teaching (Lk 4:15,31-32,44; 5:1,3,15,17; 6:6). Now, after informing us that Jesus saw a great multitude desirous of opening themselves to the Word of God, Luke presents the first sermon. The sermon is not long, but it is significant. The one who reads it unprepared will almost be  afraid. It seems to be a sort of shock therapy!

The first part of the sermon (Lk 6:20-38) begins with a provocative contrast: “Blessed you who are poor!” “Alas to you who are rich!” (Lk 6:36-38). The second part (6:39-49) says that nobody can consider himself superior to others (Lk 6:39-42); the good tree bears good fruit, the bad tree bears bad fruit (Lk 6:43-45). Certainly, a person is not helped by hiding behind beautiful words and prayers. What matters is to put the word into practice (Lk 6:46-49).

b) Commentary on the text:

Luke 6:17: Places the action of Jesus in time and space.

Jesus has spent the night in prayer (Lk 6:12) and has chosen the twelve to whom He has given the name of apostles (Lk 6:13-16). Now He goes down from the mountain together with the twelve. Having reached level ground, He finds two groups of people: a numerous group of disciples and an immense crowd of people who had come there from all of Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre, and Sidon.

Luke 6:18-19: The crowds who seek Jesus.

The crowds feel disoriented and abandoned and seek Jesus for two reasons: they want to listen to His word and they want to be cured of their illnesses. Many people were cured, who had been possessed by the evil spirits. The people try to touch Jesus because they are aware that there is a force in Him which does good and cures people. Jesus accepts all those who seek Him. Among these crowds there are also some Jews and foreigners. This is one of the favorite themes of Luke!

Luke 6:20-23  The four Beatitudes

*Luke 6:20: Blessed are you who are poor!

Fixing His eyes on His disciples,  Jesus declared, “Blessed are you who are poor, because the Kingdom of God is yours!” This first Beatitude identifies the social category of the disciples of Jesus. They are poor! Jesus guarantees for them: “Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven!” It is not a promise concerning the future. The verb is in the present. The Kingdom is already theirs. Even being poor, they are already happy. The Kingdom is not a good future. It already exists in the midst of the poor.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes the meaning clear and says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” (Mt 5:3). The poor are those who have the Spirit of Jesus, because there are also the poor who have the spirit and the mentality of the rich. The disciples of Jesus are poor and have the mentality of the poor. They also, like Jesus, do not want to accumulate, but accept their poverty and like Jesus, struggle for a more just living together where there will be a fraternal spirit and the sharing of goods, without discrimination.

* Luke 6:21: Blessed are you, who are now hungry, blessed are you who now weep!

In the second and third Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are now hungry, because you shall have your fill! Blessed are you who now weep, because you shall laugh!” The first part of these declarations is in the present, the second part in the future. What we now live and suffer is not definitive. What is definitive will be the Kingdom which we are constructing today with the force of the Spirit of Jesus. To construct the Kingdom presupposes suffering and persecution, but one thing is certain: the Kingdom will arrive and “you shall have your fill and shall laugh!” The Kingdom is at the same time a present and a future reality. The second Beatitude evokes the Canticle of Mary: “He has filled the starving with good things” (Lk 1:53). The third one evokes the prophet Ezekiel who speaks of those who “grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices” carried out in the city of Jerusalem (Ezek 9:4; cf. Ps 119: 136).

* Luke 6:23: Blessed are you, when people hate you…!

The fourth Beatitude refers to the future: “Blessed are you when people will hate you and will denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for your reward will be great in Heaven. This was the way the prophets were treated!” With these words of Jesus, Luke points out that the future announced by Jesus is about to arrive,and these people are on the right path.

Luke 6:24-26: The four threats.

After the four Beatitudes on behalf of the poor and the excluded, follow the four threats against the rich, those who are filled, those who laugh or who are praised by everyone. The four threats have the same literary form as the four Beatitudes. The first one is in the present. The second and third one have a part in the present and a part in the future. The fourth one refers completely to the future. These four threats are found in the Gospel of Luke and not in Matthew. Luke is more radical in denouncing injustice.

* Luke 6:24: Alas for you who are rich!

Before Jesus, on that level ground, there are only poor and sick people who have come from all parts (Lk 6:17,19). But before them, Jesus says, “Alas for you who are rich!” In transmitting these words of Jesus, Luke is thinking of the communities of his time, toward the end of the first century. There were rich and poor, there was discrimination against the poor on the part of the rich, discrimination which also affected the structure of the Roman Empire (cf. Jas 2:1-9; 5: 1-6; Rev 3:15-17). Jesus harshly and directly criticizes the rich: “You rich, you have already had your consolation!” It is good to remember what Jesus says at another moment concerning the rich! He does not believe very much in their conversion (Lk 18:24-25). But when the disciples are frightened, He says that nothing is impossible for God (Lk 18:26-27).

* Luke 6:25: Alas for you who now laugh because you will be afflicted and will weep!

“Alas for you who have now been filled, because you will be hungry! Alas for you who now laugh, because you will be afflicted and will weep!” These two threats indicate that for Jesus poverty is nothing fatal, and much less the fruit of prejudices, but rather the fruit of an unjust enrichment on the part of others. Here also, it is good to recall the words of the Canticle of Mary: “You sent the rich away empty handed!” (Lk 1:53).

* Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you!

“Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you; in fact, their fathers did the same with the false prophets!” This fourth threat refers to the Jews, that is, the sons of those who in the past praised the false prophets. In quoting these words of Jesus, Luke thinks about some converted Jews of his time who used their prestige and their authority to criticize the openness toward the gentiles (cf. Acts 15:1,5).

c) Extending the information:

The Beatitudes in Luke

The two affirmations “Blessed are you who are poor!” and “Alas for you who are rich!” urge those who listen to make a choice, an option on behalf of the poor. In the Old Testament, several times God places the people before the choice of the blessing or the curse. The people are free to choose: “I place you before life and death, blessing and curse; choose, therefore, life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30:19). It is not God who condemns. It is the people who choose life or death, it depends on their position before God and of others. These moments of choice are moments of the visit of God to His people (Gen 21:1; 50:24-25; Ex 3:16; 32:34; Jer 29:10; Ps 59:6; Ps 65:10; Ps 80:15; Ps 106:4). Luke is the only evangelist who uses this image of God’s visit (Lk 1:68,78; 7:16; 19:44). For Luke, Jesus is the visit of God who places the crowds before the choice of blessing or the curse: “Blessed are you who are poor!” and “Alas for you who are rich!” But the people do not recognize  God’s visit (Lk 19:44).

The message of Luke for the converted pagans

The Beatitudes and the threats form part of a sermon. The first part of the sermon is addressed to the disciples (Lk 6:20). The second part is addressed to “You who listen to Me” (Lk 1:27), that is to those immense crowds of the poor and the sick, who had come from all parts (Lk 6:17-19). The words which Jesus addressed to this crowd are demanding and difficult: “love your enemies” (Lk 6:27), “blessed are those who curse you” (Lk 6:28), “to those who slap you on one cheek, present the other cheek” (Lk 6:29), to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic” (Lk 6:29). Taken literally, these words may benefit the rich, because the harder choice is always for the poor. And these words seem to say the opposite of the message of the Beatitudes and of the threats which Jesus had communicated before to His disciples.

But they cannot be taken literally.  Not even Jesus took them like that. When the soldier slaps Him in the face, He does not offer the other cheek; rather, He reacts firmly: “If there is some offense in what I said, point it out; but if not, why do you strike Me?” (Jn 18:22-23). Then how can we understand these words? Two sentences help to understand what these words want to teach. The first sentence: “Treat others as you would like people to treat you!” (Lk 6:31). The second sentence: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate!” (Lk 6:36). Jesus does not simply want to change something, because that would change nothing. He wants to change the system. The new way which Jesus wants to construct comes from the new experience that Jesus has: the Father full of tenderness who accepts everyone! The words of threat against the rich cannot be an occasion of revenge on the part of the poor. Jesus commands them to have the contrary attitude: “Love your enemies!” True love cannot depend on what I receive from the other. Love should want the good of the other independently from what the other does for me. God’s love for us is like this.

The sermon on the mountain, the sermon on the level ground

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus comes down from the mountain and stops on level ground to give a sermon (Lk 6:17). This is why some call it the “sermon on the plain”. In the Gospel of Matthew, this same sermon is given on the mountain (Mt 5:1) and is called the “sermon on the mount”. Because Matthew seeks to present Jesus as the new legislator, the new Moses. It was on the mountain where Moses received the Law (Ex 19:3-6; 31:18; 34:1-2). And it is on the mountain that we receive the new law of Jesus.

6. Prayer of Psalm 34 (33)

“Gratitude which comes from a diverse way of looking at things”

I will bless Yahweh at all times, 

His praise continually on my lips.

I will praise Yahweh from my heart; 

let the humble hear and rejoice.

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.

Fix your gaze on Yahweh and your face will grow bright, 

you will never hang your head in shame.

A pauper calls out and Yahweh hears, 

saves him from all his troubles.

The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear Him, 

and rescues them.

Taste and see that Yahweh is good. 

How blessed are those who take refuge in Him.

Fear Yahweh, you His holy ones; 

those who fear Him lack for nothing.

Young lions may go needy and hungry, 

but those who seek Yahweh lack nothing good.

Come, my children, listen to me, 

I will teach you the fear of Yahweh.

Who among you delights in life, 

longs for time to enjoy prosperity?

Guard your tongue from evil, 

your lips from any breath of deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good, 

seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of Yahweh are on the upright, 

His ear turned to their cry.

But Yahweh's face is set against those who do evil, 

to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

They cry in anguish and Yahweh hears, 

and rescues them from all their troubles.

Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted; 

He helps those whose spirit is crushed.

Though hardships without number beset the upright, 

Yahweh brings rescue from them all.

Yahweh takes care of all their bones, 

not one of them will be broken.

But to the wicked evil brings death, 

those who hate the upright will pay the penalty.

Yahweh ransoms the lives of those who serve Him, 

and there will be no penalty for those who take refuge in Him.

7. Final Prayer

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

Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:31

Lectio Divina: Mark 7:24-30

1) Opening prayer


watch over Your family

and keep us safe in Your care,

for all our hope is in You.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 7:24-30

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

3) Reflection

In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus is attentive to a foreign woman, belonging to another race and to another religion, even though this was forbidden by the religious law of that time. At the beginning Jesus did not want to help her, but the woman insists and obtains what she wants: the cure of her daughter.

Jesus is trying to broaden the mentality of the disciples and of the people beyond the traditional vision. In the multiplication of the loaves, He had insisted on sharing (Mk 6: 30-44). He had declared all food pure (Mk 7: 1-23). In this episode of the Canaanite woman, He exceeds, goes beyond the frontiers of the national territory and accepts a foreign woman who did not belong to the people and with whom it was forbidden to speak. These initiatives of Jesus, which come from His experience of God the Father, were foreign to the mentality of the people of that time; Jesus helps the people to get out of their way of experiencing God in life.

Mark 7: 24: Jesus gets out of that territory. In the Gospel yesterday (Mk 7: 14-23) and of the day before (Mk 7: 1-13), Jesus had criticized the incoherence of the tradition of the ancients and had helped the people and the disciples to get out of the prison of the laws of purity. Here, in Mark 7: 24, He leaves Galilee. He seems to want to get out from the prison of territory and race. Finding Himself outside, He does not want to be recognized. But His fame had reached there before. People had recourse to Jesus.

Mark 7: 25-26: The situation. A woman approaches Jesus and begins to ask for help for her daughter who is sick. Mark says explicitly that she belongs to another race and to another religion. That means that she was a gentile. She throws herself at the feet of Jesus and begins to plead for the cure of her daughter, who was possessed by an unclean spirit. For the gentiles it was not a problem to go to Jesus. But for the Jews to live with gentiles was a problem!

Mark 7: 27: The response of Jesus. Faithful to the norms of His religion, Jesus says that it is not appropriate to take the bread of the children and give it to little dogs! This was a hard phrase. The comparison came from life in the family. Even now, children and dogs are numerous, especially in poor neighborhoods. Jesus affirms one thing: no mother takes away bread from the mouth of her children to give it to the dogs. In this case the children were the Hebrew people and the little dogs, the gentiles. At the time of the Old Testament, because of rivalry among the people, the people used to call other people dogs (1 Sam 17: 43). In the other Gospels, Jesus explains the reason for His refusal: “I have been sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel!” (Mt 15:24). In other words, the Father does not want Me to take care of this woman!

Mark 7: 28: The reaction of the woman. She agrees with Jesus, but she extends the comparison and applies it to her case:  Jesus, this is true, but the little dogs also eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the children! It is as if she said, “If I am a little dog, then I have the right of little dogs, that is, the crumbs that fall from the table belong to me!” She simply draws conclusions from the parable that Jesus told and shows that even in the house of Jesus, the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the children. And in the house of Jesus , that is, in the Christian community, the multiplication of the bread for the children was so abundant that there were twelve baskets full left over (Mk 6: 42) for the little dogs , that is, for her, for the gentiles!

Mark 7: 29-30: The reaction of Jesus: “Because of what you have said, go. The devil has gone out of your daughter!” In the other Gospels it is made more explicit: “Great is your faith! May it be done as you wish!” (Mt 15: 28). If Jesus accepts the woman’s request, it is because He understands that now the Father wanted Him to accept her request. This episode helps us to understand something of the mystery which envelops the person of Jesus and His life with the Father. Observing the reactions and the attitudes of the people, Jesus discovers the will of the Father in the events of life. The attitude of the woman opens a new horizon in the life of Jesus. Thanks to her, He discovers better the project of the Father for all those who seek to liberate themselves from the chains which imprison their energy. Thus, throughout the pages of the Gospel of Mark, there is a growing opening toward the people. In this way, Mark leads the readers to open themselves before the reality of the world which surrounds them and to overcome the preconceptions which prevent a peaceful living together among the people. This opening toward gentiles appears very clearly in the final order given by Jesus to the disciples, after His Resurrection: “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16: 15).

4) Personal questions

Concretely, what do you do to live peacefully with people of other Christian Churches?

In the neighborhood where you live, are there people of other religions? Which?

Do you normally speak with people of other religions?

What kind of broadening of mind does this text demand from us today, in the family and in the community?

5) Concluding prayer

Blessed are those who keep to what is just,

whose conduct is always upright!

Remember me, Yahweh, in Your love for Your people.

Come near to me with Your saving power. (Ps 106:3-4)

Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:30

Lectio Divina: Mark 7:14-23

1) Opening prayer


watch over Your family

and keep us safe in Your care,

for all our hope is in You.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

3) Reflection

The Gospel today is the continuation of the themes on which we meditated yesterday. Jesus helps the people and the disciples to understand better the significance of purity before God. For centuries, the Jews, in order not to contract impurity, observed many norms and customs bound to food, to drink, to dress, to hygiene of the body, to contact with persons of other races and religions, etc. (Mk 7: 3-4).   For them it was forbidden to have contact with gentiles and to eat with them. In the 70’s, the time of Mark, some converted Jews said, “Now that we are Christians we have to abandon these ancient customs which separate us from converted gentiles!”  But others thought that they had to continue with the observance of these laws of purity (cf. Col 2: 16,20-22). The attitude of Jesus, described in today’s Gospel, helps us to overcome this problem.

Mark 7: 14-16: Jesus opens a new way to try to bring people closer to God. He says to the crowds,  “Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out of someone that make that person unclean (Mk 7: 15). Jesus overturns things: what is impure does not come from outside to the inside, as the Doctors of the Law taught, but what comes from inside to the outside. Thus, nobody ever needs to ask himself if this or that food is pure or impure. Jesus places what is pure and impure on another level, not on the level of ethical behavior. He opens a new way to reach God, and in this way realizes the most profound design of the people. .

Mark 7: 17-23: In the house, the disciples asked for an explanation. The disciples did not understand what Jesus wanted to say with that affirmation. When they reached the house, they ask for an explanation. The disciples’ question surprises Jesus. He thought that they had understood the parable. In His explanation to the disciples He goes to the very bottom of the question of impurity. He declares that all food is pure! In other words, no food which enters into the human being from outside can make him become impure, because it does not go to the heart, but to the stomach and ends in the septic tank, but what makes one become impure, according to Jesus, is what comes out from within the heart to poison human relationships. And then He enumerates some of them: prostitution, murder, adultery, ambition, theft, etc. Thus in many ways, by means of the word, of life together, of living close to one another,  Jesus helps people to attain purity in another way. By means of the word He purified the lepers (Mk 1: 40-44), cast out unclean spirits (Mk 1: 26,39; 3: 15,22,  etc.), and overcame death, which was the source of all impurity. Thanks to Jesus, who touches her, the woman who was excluded and considered impure is cured (Mk 5: 25-34). Without fear of being contaminated, Jesus eats together with people who were considered impure (Mk 2: 15-17).

The laws of purity at the time of Jesus. The people of that time were concerned very much about purity. The laws and the norms of purity indicated the necessary conditions to be able to place oneself before God and to feel well in His presence. One could not approach God in just any way, because God is holy. The Law stated, “Be holy because I am holy!” (Lv 19: 2). One who was not pure could not get close to God to receive the blessings promised to Abraham. The laws of what was pure and impure (Lv 11 to 16) were written after the time of slavery in Babylon, around the year 800 after the Exodus, but had its origin in the ancient mentality and customs of the people of the Bible. A religious and mystical vision of the world led people to appreciate things, people and animals, beginning from the category of purity (Gn 7: 2; Dt 14: 13-21; Nm 12: 10-15; Dt 24: 8-9).

In the context of the Persian domination, the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ, before the difficulties of reconstructing the Temple of Jerusalem and of the survival of the clergy, the priests who governed the people of the Bible increased the laws relative to poverty and obliged the people to offer sacrifices of purification for sin. Thus, after child birth (Lv 12: 1-8), menstruation (Lv 15: 19-24) the cure of a hemorrhage (Lv 15: 25-30), women had to offer sacrifices to recover purity. Lepers (Lv 13) or people who had contact with impure things or animals (Lv 5:1-13) also had to offer sacrifices. Part of this offering remained for the priests (Lv 5: 13).

At the time of Jesus, to touch a leper, to eat with a tax collector or publican, to eat without washing your hands, and so many other activities rendered the person impure, and any contact with this person contaminated the others. For this reason, it was necessary to avoid an impure person. People lived with fear, always threatened by so many impure things which threatened life. They were obliged to live without trust, not trusting anything or anybody. Now, all of a sudden, everything changes! Through faith in Jesus, it was possible to have purity and to feel good before God without having to observe all those laws and those norms of the ancient tradition . It was liberation! The Good News announced by Jesus took away all fear from the people, and they no longer had to be in a defensive situation all the time, and He gives them back the desire to live, and the joy of being children of God, without fear of being happy!

4) Personal questions

In your life, are there any traditions which you consider sacred and others which you do not? Which ones? Why?

In the name of the tradition of the ancients, the Pharisees refused the Commandment of Jesus. Does this happen today? Where and when? Does it also happen in my life?

5) Concluding prayer

The upright have Yahweh for their Savior,

their refuge in times of trouble;

Yahweh helps them and rescues them,

He will rescue them from the wicked,

and save them because they take refuge in Him. (Ps 37:39-40)

Lectio Divina:
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:27

Lectio Divina: Mark 7:1-13

1) Opening prayer


watch over Your family

and keep us safe in Your care,

for all our hope is in You.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?" He responded, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." He went on to say, "How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, “If someone says to father or mother, ‘Any support you might have had from me is qorban’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things."

3) Reflection

The Gospel today speaks about the religious traditions of that time and of the Pharisees who taught this tradition to the people, for example, to eat without washing their hands, as they said, “to eat with impure hands.”  Many of these traditions were separated from life and had lost their significance. But even if this was the state of things, these traditions were kept and taught, either because of fear or because of superstition. The Gospel presents some instructions of Jesus concerning these traditions.

Mark 7: 1-2: Control of the Pharisees and liberty of the disciples. The Pharisees and some, who had come from Jerusalem, observed how the disciples of Jesus ate bread with impure hands. Here there are three points which deserve to be highlighted: a) They were from Jerusalem, from the capital city! This means that they had come to observe and to control what Jesus did. b) The disciples do not wash their hands before eating! This means that being with Jesus impels them to have the courage to transgress the norms which tradition imposed on the people, but that no longer had any sense, any meaning for life. c) The practice of washing hands, which up until now continues to be an important norm of hygiene, had assumed for them a religious significance which served to control and discriminate against people.

Mark 7: 3-4: The Tradition of the Ancients. The Tradition of the Ancients transmitted norms which had to be observed by the people in order to have the purity required by the Law. The observance of the Law was a very serious matter for the people of that time. They thought that an impure person could not receive the blessings promised by God to Abraham. The norms on purity were taught in order to open the way to God, source of peace. In reality, instead of being a source of peace, the norms constituted a prison, slavery. For the poor, it was practically impossible to observe the hundreds of norms, of traditions and of laws. For this reason they were considered ignorant and damned persons who did not know the Law (Jn 7: 49).

Mark 7: 5: The scribes and the Pharisees criticize the behavior of Jesus’ disciples. The scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus, “ Why do Your disciples not behave according to the tradition of the Ancients and eat the bread with impure hands? They think that they are interested in knowing the reason for the disciples’ behavior. In reality, they criticize Jesus because He allows the disciples to transgress the norms of purity. The Pharisees formed a type of confraternity, the principal concern of which was to observe all the laws of purity. The  were responsible for the doctrine. They taught the laws relative to the observance of purity.

Mark 7: 6-13 Jesus criticizes the inconsistency of the Pharisees. Jesus answers quoting Isaiah: “This people approaches me only in words, honors me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from me” (cf. Is 29:13). Insisting on the norms of purity, the Pharisees emptied the content of the commandments of God’s Law. Jesus quotes a concrete example. They said, “The person who offers his goods to the Temple cannot use these goods to help those in greater need.”  Thus, in the name of tradition they emptied the fourth commandment of its content, which commands to love father and mother. These people seem to be very observant, but they are only so externally. In their heart, they remain far away from God. As the hymn says, “ His name is Jesus Christ and is hungry, and lives out on the sidewalk. And people when they pass by, sometimes do not stop, because they are afraid to arrive late to church!” At the time of Jesus, people in their wisdom were not in agreement with everything they were taught. They were hoping that one day the Messiah would come to indicate another way to attain purity. In Jesus this hope becomes a reality.

4) Personal questions

Do you know any religious tradition today which does not make much sense, but which continues to be taught?

The Pharisees were practicing Jews, but their faith was divided, separated from the life of the people. This is why Jesus criticizes them. Would Jesus criticize us today? For what things?

5) Concluding prayer

Our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the world!

I look up at Your heavens, shaped by Your fingers,

at the moon and the stars You set firm-

what are human beings that You spare a thought for them,

or the child of Adam that you care for him? (Ps 8:1,3-4)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 09 January 2010 16:23

The Authors of Lectio Divina


Fr. Carlos was born in the Netherlands on 20 October 1931. In 1949, while he was still a student in the Carmelite minor seminary, he and seven other companions went to Brazil in order to become missionaries. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1952, studied philosophy in São Paolo, Brazil, and pursued his theological studies from 1954 to 1963 in Rome at St. Albert’s International College and at the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum). He also undertook studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and at the École Biblique in Jerusalem. On his return to Brazil in 1963, he was appointed professor of Scripture at the seminary until 1973. From 1973 to 2001 he worked among the Basic Ecclesial Communities, helping the people of God to read and understand the Word of God. Fr. Carlos is one of the founders of the Centro Ecumenico de Estudios Biblicos and was its director from 1977 to 1989. Since 1987 he has been a member of the team that started the project Tu Palavra é Vida of the Conference of Religious in Brazil. This project assists in the biblical formation of religious. Since 1987 he has also taken part in INTERCAB, inter-Carmelite meetings in Brazil, and in 2001 he was elected General Councillor of the Carmelite Order.


Sister Maria Anastasia Cucca was born in Ravenna in 1967. In 1983 she went to California (USA) to study for one year. There she encountered the Love of God the Father. She becomes passionate in reading the Sacred Scriptures and finds there her vocation. On her return to Italy she continues to live her faith in the scout movement. She discovers the Carmelite spirituality in a meeting with the nuns of her city. In 1986 she obtains her high school certificate in linguistics and leaves for a year of study in Bonn, Germany. On 4 October 1987 she enters the Carmel of Ravenna, where, in 1995, she makes her solemn profession. She teaches herself the sacred languages and deepens her understanding of the spirituality of the Order, of the Fathers of the Church, Judaism and monastic spirituality. She lives a prayerful and silent life in the cloister together with her sisters.


Fr. Cosimo was born in San Vito dei Normanni (Italy) on 5 June 1952. He completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1976) and theology (1979) at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He obtained his Masters degree in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1984) and his doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Gregorian (2002). His thesis is on the use of the figure of Elijah in the Gospel narrative of Mark. He has published several articles in various magazines and his doctoral thesis: The figure of Elijah in Mark’s Gospel, semantic and functional aspects, Gregorian Thesis, Serie Teologica 97, Roma 2003. At present he is teaching Biblical Greek for the theological triennium and the Masters course in biblical theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in the district of S. Luigi (Naples). He also teaches Sacred Scripture at the Inter-religious Theological Institute of S. Fara (Bari) and at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in Bari. Besides teaching Sacred Scripture, Fr. Cosimo willingly gives himself to preaching and giving spiritual exercises to priests, sisters and lay people. He contributes to biblical weeks for the people and leads courses on "lectio divina" in some dioceses of Southern Italy.


Born in Anagni, Frosinone (Italy) on 15 February 1961, Sr. Maria Teresa Boschi entered Carmel in 1981 after completing high school. She made her temporary profession in 1982 and her solemn profession in 1987, the first to do so in the Carmel of S. Anna a Carpineto Romano. In 1992, together with four other nuns, she founded the Carmel of Janua Coeli in Cerreto di Sorano in the province of Grossetto, in the inland of Maremma, near a Marian Sanctuary. She completed the cycle of studies in philosophy and theology and is at present taking a course in humanities for formation consultants of monastic-contemplative life. In 2003 she took her Master’s degree in consultation psychology. At present she is Prioress of the community. Besides translating Greek patristic texts, she corrects and translates drafts in modern languages. Her monastic life allows her to live her desired infinite solitude that invokes the presence of the living God, the shadow that restores all things, and of the brothers and sisters who beat as with one only heart.


Fr. Charlò-Carmel, of the Maltese Carmelite Province, was born on 24 March 1975. He entered the Order in 1992, and did his noviciate in Pisa (Italy). On 25 July 1994 he made his simple profession and on 30 September 1997 made his solemn profession. He was ordained to the priesthood on 3 August 2001. Between 1994 and 2000 he attended the State University of Malta from where he graduated in Philosophy, History of Art and Theology. In 2002, he also obtained his Master’s degree in Pastoral theology from the same university. His thesis is entitled: Carmel: A Spirituality of Beauty. These last few years he has been master of novices and director of postulants and students in the Maltese Carmelite Province. In 2004 he obtained a Diploma in Formation Studies (CIFS) at the Pontifical Gregorian University and in 2007 obtained a Doctorate in Spiritual Theology from the same university. His Doctoral Thesis is entitled: Union with God as Transformation in Beauty. A Literary-Spiritual Analysis of the Colloquies of Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (1566 - 1607).  At present he lives at the Carmelite Priory in Balluta, Malta. He is author of various articles and books on theology and spirituality.




Fr. Tibero was born in 1950 in the province of Abruzzo (Italy) where the Carmelites have been present since the seventeenth century. He did his noviciate in 1971 and his university studies in Rome. He studied Philosophy at the Lateran University and Theology at the Gregorian University, specialising in Spirituality. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. Fr. Tiberio had gained much experience in a Centre of spirituality. He specialised in Formation during the triennium of 1980-83 at the Institute of Psychology at the Gregorian University. He then organised and led three-year courses in On-going Formation for the Federated Italian Provinces, sessions in the Congo and vocational discernment. He was also the person responsible for Caritas Carmelitana, promoted the youth movement and the new religious-lay-families collaboration of the Carmelite Family. He achieved the gradual unification of the Federated Italian Provinces, planned and led the way for the new unified Italian Province from 1991 to 1997. During those years he promoted the development of Carmel in Africa and Colombia, and opened the way for Romania in 1992. In the years 1998-2000 he studied in the Faculty of Missiology at the Gregorian University, specialising in inter-religious studies. Since 2001 he lives in Romania in the region of Moldavia, in the Monastery-Centre of Spirituality in Luncani (Bacau), a new Carmelite foundation with the scope of studying oriental spirituality and to dialogue with the Orthodox church.


Sr. Marianerina (Nerina) was born in Castellammare di Stabia (province of Naples) on 6 January 1962. She completed her scientific High School studies at the school of “F. Severi” in Naples, and at that time became very involved in the Students’ Movement of Catholic Action. She studied jurisprudence at the Frederico II University in Naples and simultaneously studied religious science at the S. Michele Institute and later at the diocesan institute of Religious Science. During that time, she was a member of the National Conference of the Students’ Movement of Catholic Action and was in charge of the Campania region. In 1982 she started theological studies at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy.
She joined the Congregation of the Suore Carmelitane Missionarie di S. Teresa del Bambino Gesù, in Santa Marinella (Rome), in June 1983 and continued her studies in theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University, Rome. She took her Bachelor’s degree in theology in 1989 and a Master’s degree in spirituality in 1991. She was, then, called to join the editing team of “Horeb”, the publication of the Carmelites in Italy, and to collaborate in the vocational apostolate and the formation of members of the Carmelite Third Order. She is the co-ordinator for on-going formation in her Province. Since 2000, she is enrolled at the “Claretianum” Institute of Theology of the Consecrated Life in Rome for her doctorate in theology.


was born in Modena, Italy, in 1967, was professed in the Carmelite Order in 1987 and was ordained priest in 1993. He holds a Ph.D. from the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and from 2001 to 2006 he lectured in biblical theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty in Sicily.



Friday, 08 January 2010 19:48

Lectio Divina: Mark 6:53-56

1) Opening prayer


watch over Your family

and keep us safe in Your care,

for all our hope is in You.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

3) Reflection

The text of today’s Gospel is the final part of the whole passage of Mark 6:45-56, which presents three different themes: a) Jesus goes to the mountain alone to pray (Mk 6:45-46); b) Immediately after, He walks on the water, goes toward the disciples who are struggling against the waves of the sea (Mk 6: 47-52); 3) Now, in today s Gospel, when they were already on the shore, the people look for Jesus so that He can cure their sick (Mk 6:53-56).

Mark 6: 53-56. The search of the people. At that time, Jesus and His disciples having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When they disembarked, the people recognized Him at once. The people were numerous. They came from all parts, bringing their sick. The enthusiasm of the people who look for Jesus, recognize Him, and follow Him is surprising. What impels people to search for Jesus is not only the desire to encounter Him, to be with Him, but rather the desire to be cured of their sicknesses. Hurrying through the countryside, they brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard He went.

And wherever He went, to village or town or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging Him to let them touch even the fringe of His cloak, and all those who touched Him were saved. The Gospel of Matthew comments and enlightens this fact quoting the figure of the Servant of Yahweh, of whom Isaiah says, “Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying.” (Is 53: 4 and Mt 8: 16-17)

To teach and to cure, to cure and to teach. Right from the beginning of His apostolic activity, Jesus goes through all the villages of Galilee, to speak to the people about the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God (Mk 1: 14-15). There, wherever He finds people to listen to Him, He speaks and transmits the Good News of God;  He accepts the sick, in all places: in the synagogues during the celebration of the Word on Saturday (Mk 1: 21; 3: 1; 6: 2); in the informal meetings in the houses of friends (Mk 2: 1,15; 7: 17; 9:28; 10:10); walking on the street with the disciples (Mk 2: 23); along the beach, sitting in a boat (Mk 4: 1); in the desert where He took refuge and where people looked for Him (Mk 1: 45; 6: 32-34); on the mountain from where He proclaimed the Beatitudes (Mt 5: 1); in the squares of the villages and of the cities, where the people took their sick (Mk 6: 55-56); in the Temple of Jerusalem, on the occasion of pilgrimages, every day without fear (Mk 14: 49)! To cure and to teach, to teach and to cure, that is what Jesus did the most (Mk 2: 13; 4: 1-2; 6: 34). This is what He used to do (Mk 10:1). The people were amazed (Mk 12: 37; 1: 22,27; 11:18) and they looked for Him, as a crowd.

The origin of this great enthusiasm of the people was, on the one hand, the person of Jesus who called and attracted and, on the other hand, the abandonment in which people lived, they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34). In Jesus, everything was revelation of what impelled Him from within! He not only spoke of God, but He also revealed Him. He communicated something of what He Himself lived and experienced. He not only announced the Good News. He Himself was a proof, a living witness of the Kingdom. In Him was manifested what happens when a human being allows God to reign in His life. What has value, what is important, is not only the words, but also, and above all,  the witness, the concrete gesture. This is the Good News which attracts!

4) Personal questions

The enthusiasm of the people for Jesus, looking for the sense of life and a solution for their ills. Where does this exist today? Does in exist in you? Does it exist in others?

What attracts is Jesus’ loving attitude toward the poor and the abandoned. And I?  How do I deal with the people excluded by society?

5) Concluding prayer

How countless are Your works, Yahweh,

all of them made so wisely!

The earth is full of Your creatures.

Bless Yahweh, my soul. (Ps 104:24,35)

Lectio Divina:
Friday, 08 January 2010 19:46

Lectio Divina: Mark 6:30-34

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

help us to love You with all our hearts

and to love all people as You love them.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 6:30-34

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

3) Reflection

The Gospel today is in great contrast with that of yesterday. On one side, the banquet of death, wanted by Herod with the great of his kingdom in the Palace of the Capital, during which John the Baptist was murdered (Mk 6: 17-29); on the other side, the banquet of life promoted by Jesus with the hungry people of Galilee in the desert (Mk 6: 30-44).The Gospel today presents only the introduction to the multiplication of the loaves and describes the teaching of Jesus.

Mark 6: 30-32. The welcome given to the disciples. At that time, the apostles rejoined Jesus and told Him all they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.”  These verses show how Jesus formed His disciples. He was not concerned only with the content of the preaching, but also with rest for the disciples. He invited them to go to a lonely place so as to be able to rest and review what they had done.

Mark 6: 33-34. The welcome given to the people. The people noticed that Jesus had gone to the other side of the lake, and they followed Him trying to go to Him by foot, to the other shore. So as He stepped ashore He saw a large crowd, and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and He began to teach them at some length.  Seeing that crowd, Jesus was sad, because they were like sheep without a shepherd . He forgets about His own rest and begins to teach them. In becoming aware that the people have no shepherd, Jesus began to be their shepherd. He begins to teach them. As the psalm says, “The Lord 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. Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for You are at my side. Your staff and Your crook are there to soothe me. You prepare a table for me in the sight of my enemies.” (Ps 23: 1:3-5). Jesus wanted to rest together with His disciples, but the desire to respond to the needs of the people impels Him to leave rest aside. Something similar happens when He meets the Samaritan woman. The disciples went to get some food. When they returned they said to Jesus, “Master, eat something!” (Jn 4: 31), but He answers, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (Jn 4: 32). The desire to respond to the needs of the Samaritan people leads Him to forget His hunger. My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and to complete His work (Jn 4: 34). The first thing is to respond to the people who look for Him. Then He can eat.

Then Jesus began to teach them many things. The Gospel of Mark tells us many things that Jesus taught. The people were impressed: A new teaching! He taught them with authority! It was unlike that of the scribes! (Mk 1: 22.27). Teaching was what Jesus did the most (Mk 2: 13; 4: 1-2; 6: 34). This is what He usually did (Mk 10: 1). For another fifteen times Mark says that Jesus taught. Was it perhaps because Mark was not interested in the content? It depends on what people understand when they speak about content! To teach is not only a question of teaching new truths in order to say something. The content which Jesus gave did not only appear in His words, but also in His gestures and in His way of relating with people. The content is never separated from the person who communicates it. Jesus was a welcoming person (Mk 6: 34). He wanted the good of the people. The goodness and the love which came from His words formed part of the content. They were His temperament. A good content without goodness and kindness would be like milk poured on the floor. Jesus’ teaching manifested itself in a thousand ways. Jesus accepts as disciples not only men, but also women. He does not only teach in the synagogue, but also in any place where there were people to listen to Him: in the synagogue, in the house, on the shore, on the mountain, on the plain, in the boat, in the desert. It was not the relationship of pupil-teacher, but of disciple to Master. The professor teaches and the pupil is with him during the time of the class. The Master gives witness and the disciple lives with Him 24 hours a day. It is more difficult to be a Master than a teacher! We are not pupils of Jesus, we are His disciples! The teaching of Jesus was a communication that came from the abundance of His heart in the most varied forms: like a conversation by which He tries to clarify the facts (Mk 9: 9-13), like a comparison or parable that invites people to think and to participate (Mk 4: 33), like an explanation of what He Himself thought and did (Mk 7: 17-23), like a discussion which does not necessarily avoid polemics (Mk 2: 6-12), like a criticism that denounces what is false and mistaken (Mk 12: 38-40). It was always a witness of what He Himself lived, an expression of His love! (Mt 11: 28-30).

4) Personal questions

What do you do when you want to teach others something about your faith and your religion? Do you imitate Jesus?

Jesus is concerned not only about the content, but also about rest. How was the religious education that you received as a child? Did the catechists imitate Jesus?

5) Concluding prayer

How can a young man keep his way spotless?

By keeping your words.

With all my heart I seek You;

do not let me stray from Your commandments. (Ps 119:9-10)

Lectio Divina:
Friday, 08 January 2010 19:45

Lectio Divina: Mark 6:1-6

1) Opening prayer

Lord our God,

help us to love You with all our hearts

and to love all people as You love them.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today speaks of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth and describes the  obstinacy of the people of Nazareth who do not want to accept Him. (Mk 6:1-6). Tomorrow the Gospel describes the openness of Jesus toward the people of Galilee, shown through the sending out of His disciples on mission (Mk 6:7-13).

• Mark 6:1-2a: Jesus returns to Nazareth. At that time Jesus went to His home town, and His disciples accompanied Him. “With the coming of the Sabbath, He began teaching in the synagogue”. It is always good to return to one’s home town and to reunite with friends. After a long absence, Jesus also returns, and as usual, on Saturday, He goes to the synagogue to participate in the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the coordinator of the community, but even though He was not, He takes the floor and begins to teach. This is a sign that people could participate and express their own opinion.

• Mark 6:2b-3: Reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. The people of Capernaum had accepted the teaching of Jesus (Mk 1: 22), but the people of Nazareth did not like the words of Jesus and were scandalized. For what reason? Jesus, the boy whom they had known since He was born, how is it that now He is so different? They do not accept God’s mystery present in Jesus, a human being and common as they are and known by all! They think that to be able to speak of God, He should be different from them! As we can see, not everything went well for Jesus. The people who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News were precisely those who had the greatest difficulty accepting it. The conflict was not only with foreigners, but  especially with His relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They refused to believe in Jesus, because they could not understand the mystery of God embracing the person of Jesus. “From where do all these things come to Him? And what wisdom is this which has been given to Him? And these miracles which are worked by Him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Jude and Simon? His sisters too, are they not here with us?” And they would not accept Him. They do not believe in Jesus!

• The brothers and the sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes  polemics among Catholics and Protestants. Based on this text and on others, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more sons! The Catholics say that Mary had no other sons. What should we think about all this? In the first place, the two positions, that of Catholics and that of the Protestants, both have arguments taken from the Bible and from the tradition of their respective communities. Therefore, it is not proper to discuss this question with arguments drawn only from reason. This is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with the faith sentiments both of Catholics and Protestants. An argument taken only from reason cannot succeed in changing the conviction of the heart! On the contrary, it irritates and draws others away! Even when I do not agree with the opinion of another, I should always respect it! We, both Catholics and Protestants, instead of discussing texts, should unite to struggle in defense of life, created by God, a life which has been so disfigured by poverty and injustice, by the lack of faith. We should remember other phrases of Jesus: “I have come in order that they may have life and life in abundance” (Jn 10:10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that You, Father, have sent Me” (Jn 17:21). “Who is not against us is for us” (Mk 10:39-40).

• Mark 6: 4-6. Jesus’ reaction before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “nobody is a prophet in his own country”. He says, “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house”. In fact, where there is no acceptance or faith, people can do nothing. The preconception prevents this. Even if Jesus wanted to do something, He cannot, and He is amazed at their lack of faith. For this reason, before the closed door of His community “He began to make a tour around the villages, teaching”. The experience of this rejection led Jesus to change His practice. He goes to the other villages and, as we shall see in tomorrow’s Gospel, He gets the disciples involved in the mission instructing them on how they have to continue the mission.

4) Personal questions

• Jesus had problems with His relatives and with His community. From the time when you began to live the Gospel better, has something changed in your relationship with your family and with your relatives? 

• Jesus cannot work many miracles in Nazareth because faith is lacking. Today, does He find faith in us, in me?
• Does the debate over Mary and Jesus' brothers and sisters precipitate a change in our behavior or how we put faith into action? Should this change how we treat the poor and marginalized?

5) Concluding prayer

How blessed are those whose offense is forgiven,

whose sin blotted out.

How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

whose spirit harbors no deceit. (Ps 32:1-2)

Lectio Divina:
Friday, 08 January 2010 19:31

Lectio Divina: Mark 6:7-13

1)Opening prayer:

Lord our God,

help us to love You with all our hearts

and to love all people as You love them.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel reading - Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

3) Reflection

Today’s Gospel continues what we have already seen in the Gospel yesterday. The passage through Nazareth was painful for Jesus. He was rejected by His own people (Mk 6: 1-5). The community, which had been His community, is no longer such. Something has changed. Beginning at that moment, as today’s Gospel says, Jesus began to go around to the villages of Galilee to announce the Good News (Mk 6: 6) and to send the Twelve on a mission. In the 70’s, the time when Mark wrote his Gospel, the Christian communities lived in a difficult situation, without any horizon. Humanly speaking, there was no future for them. In the year 64, Nero began to persecute the Christians. In the year 65, the revolt or uprising of the Jews in Palestine against Rome broke out. In the year 70, Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans. This is why the description of the sending out of the disciples, after the conflict in Nazareth, was a source of light and of courage for the Christians.

Mark 6:7. The objective of the Mission. The conflict grew and closely affected Jesus. How does He react? In two ways: 1) In the face of the mental stubbornness of the people of His community, Jesus leaves Nazareth and begins to go to the neighboring villages (Mk 6: 6). 2) He extends the mission and intensifies the announcement of the Good News, calling other people to involve them in the mission. He summons the Twelve, and begins to send them out in pairs, giving them authority over unclean spirits . The objective of the mission is simple and profound. The disciples participate in the mission of Jesus. They cannot go alone; they have to go in pairs, two by two, because two persons represent the community better than one alone and they can mutually help one another. They receive authority over unclean spirits, i.e., they are to be a help for others in suffering and, through purification, they are to open the door for direct access to God.

Mark 6: 8-11. The attitudes which they should have in the Mission. The recommendations are simple: He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money for their purses; they were to wear sandals and not to take a spare tunic. And He told them, “If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away, shake off the dust under your feet, as evidence to them.” So they set off. It is the beginning of a new stage. Now not only Jesus but the whole group will announce the Good News of God to the people. If the preaching of Jesus caused conflict, much more now, there will be conflict with the preaching of the whole group. If the mystery was already great, now it will be greater since the mission has been intensified.

Mark 6: 12-13. The result of the mission. So they set off to proclaim repentance, and they cast out many devils and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them. The proclamation of the Good News produces conversion or a change in people; it alleviates suffering in people; it cures illnesses and casts out devils.

The sending out of the disciples on Mission. At the time of Jesus there were several other movements of renewal, for example, the Essenes and the Pharisees. They also sought a new way of living in community and they had their own missionaries (cf. Mt 23:15). But these, when they went on mission, had prejudices. They took with them a bag and money to take care of their own meals, because they did not trust the food that people would give them, which was not always ritually pure. As opposed to other missionaries, the disciples of Jesus received various recommendations which helped them to understand the fundamental points of the mission which they received from Jesus and which is also our mission:

a) They should go without taking anything. They should take nothing, no bag, no money, no staff, no bread, no sandals, no spare tunic. That meant that Jesus obliged them to trust in hospitality, because one who goes without taking anything goes because he trusts people and thinks that he will be well received. With this attitude they criticized the laws of exclusion, taught by the official religion, and showed, by means of the new practice, that they in the community had other criteria.

b) They should eat what people ate or what the people gave them. They could not live separately, providing their own food, but they were to accept to sit at the same table (Lk 10: 8). This means that in contact with the people, they should not be afraid of losing purity as it was taught at that time. With this attitude they criticized the laws of purity which were in force and showed, by means of the new practice, that they had another type of access to purity, that is, intimacy with God.

c) They should remain in the first house that welcomed them. They should live together in a stable way and not go from house to house. They should work like everybody else and live off what they received in exchange, because the laborer deserves his wages (Lk 10: 7). In other words, they should participate in the life and in the work of the people, and the people would have accepted them in the community and would have shared the food with them. This means that they had to have trust in sharing.

d) They should take care of the sick, cure lepers and cast out devils (Lk 10: 9; Mk 6: 7-13; Mt 10: 8). They had to carry out the function of Defender (“go’el”) and accept within the community those who were excluded. With this attitude they criticized the situation of disintegration of the community life of the clan and they aimed at concrete ways of correcting this. These were the four fundamental points which had to give impetus to the attitude of the missionaries who announced the Good News in the name of Jesus: hospitality, communion, sharing and acceptance of the excluded (defender, “go'el”). If these four requirements were respected, they could and should cry out to the four ends of the earth: The Kingdom of God has come! (cf. Lk 10: 1-12; 9: 1-6; Mk 6: 7-13; Mt 10: 6-16). The Kingdom of God revealed by Jesus is not a doctrine, nor a catechism, nor a law. The Kingdom of God comes and becomes present when people, motivated by their faith in Jesus, decide to live in community to give witness and to manifest to all that God is Father and Mother and that, therefore, we human beings are brothers and sisters to one another. Jesus wanted the local community to be an expression of the Covenant, of the Kingdom, of the love of God the Father, who makes all of us brothers and sisters.

4) Personal questions:

Do you participate in the mission as a disciple of Jesus?

Which point of the mission of the apostles is more important for us today? Why?

5) Concluding prayer

Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise in the city of our God,

the holy mountain,

towering in beauty,

the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48:1-2)


Lectio Divina:
Friday, 08 January 2010 19:13

Lectio Divina: The Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-40

The presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple

1. Opening prayer

O God, our Creator and Father, You willed that Your Son, begotten before the dawn of the world, should become a member of the human family. Rekindle in us an appreciation for the gift of life, so that parents may participate in the fruitfulness of Your love, old people may pass on to young ones their mature wisdom, and children may grow in wisdom, piety and grace, all giving praise to Your holy name. Through Christ our Lord.

2. Reading: Luke 2:22-40

 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to Him, he took Him into his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

- that the Word of God may dwell in us and that we may allow it to enlighten our lives;

- that before we share any comments, the very light of the Word may shine and dominate with the mystery of the living presence of the Lord.

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) Why should Jesus, Son of the Most High, and His mother Mary, conceived without sin, obey the prescriptions of Moses? Was Mary perhaps not yet aware of her innocence and holiness?

b) Is there special significance in the words and attitudes of Simeon and the prophetess Anna? Do not their actions and joy perhaps recall the style of the ancient prophets?

c) How can we explain this "sword" that pierces? Is it a rending of consciences before the challenges and richness of Jesus? Or is it only the inner pains of the mother?

d) Can this scene mean anything to parents today: for the religious formation of their children; for the plan that God has for each of their children; for the fears and sufferings that parents carry in their hearts when they think of the time when their children grow up?

5. A key to the reading

for those who wish go deeper into the text.

a) As laid down in the law of Moses/of the Lord. This is a kind of refrain repeated several times. Luke mixes two prescriptions without making any distinction. The purification of the mother was foreseen in Leviticus (12:2-8) and was to take place forty days after the birth. Until then, the woman could not approach sacred places, and the ceremony was accompanied by the gift of a small animal. But the consecration of the first-born was prescribed in Exodus (13:11-16) and was considered a kind of "ransom" in memory of the saving action of God when He liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. For this also the offering was a small animal. Throughout this scene, the parents seem to be in the process of presenting/offering their son as was done with sacrifices and Levites, while through the persons of Simeon and Anna it seems rather God who offers/presents the son for the salvation of people.

b) Simeon and Anna: these are figures full of symbolic value. Their role is one of recognition, that comes from both the enlightenment and action of the Spirit and a life lived in expectation and faith. Simeon especially is defined as prodek menos, that is, one entirely absorbed in waiting, and one who goes forward to welcome. He, too, appears to be obedient to the law, the law of the Spirit, who leads him towards the child in the temple. The canticle he proclaims manifests his pro-existentia: he has lived in order to come to this moment, and now he withdraws so that others may see the light and the salvation to come for Israel and the gentiles. Anna completes the picture, by her very age (symbolic value: 84 equals 7x12, the twelve tribes of Israel; or 84 7 = 77, double perfection), but above all by her way of living (fasting and praying) and by her proclamation to all who "looked forward". She is led by the Spirit of prophecy, docile and purified in her heart. Besides, she belongs to the smallest of the tribes, that of Asher, a sign that the small and fragile are the ones more disposed to recognize Jesus, the Savior. Both of these old people, who look like an original couple, are symbols of the best of Judaism, of faithful and meek Jerusalem, that awaits and rejoices and that from now on allows the new light to shine.

c) A sword will pierce: generally these words are interpreted as meaning that Mary will suffer, a drama made visible in Our Lady of Sorrows. Rather, we need to see the Mother as a symbol of Israel. Simeon feels the drama of his people who will be deeply torn by the living and sharp word of the redeemer (cf. Lk 12:51-53). Mary represents the path: she must trust, but will go through times of pain and darkness, struggles and painful silences. The story of the suffering Messiah will be painful for all, even for the Mother. One does not follow the new light of the whole world without paying the cost, without being provoked to make risky choices, without being always born again from on high and in newness. But these images of the "sword that pierces," of the child who will "trip" and shake hearts from their lethargy, are not to be separated from the meaningful action of the two old people: the one, Simeon, takes the child in his arms to show that faith is a meeting and an embrace, not an idea or theorem; the other, Anna, takes on the role of proclaiming and en-kindles a bright light in the hearts of all who "looked forward" to Him.

d) Daily life, an epiphany of God. Finally, it is interesting to note that the whole episode emphasizes the situation of the most simple and homely: the young couple with the child in their arms; the old man who rejoices and embraces, the old woman who prays and proclaims, those listening who appear to be indirectly involved. At the end of the passage, we also get a glimpse of the village of Nazareth, of the growth of the child in a normal context, the impression of a child extraordinarily gifted with wisdom and goodness. The theme of wisdom, woven into the fabric of normal life and growth in a village context, leaves the story as if in suspense, and it will be taken up again precisely with the theme of the wisdom of the boy among the doctors in the temple. Indeed, this is the episode that follows immediately (Lk 2:41-52).

6. Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me,

"Let us go to the house of the Lord!"

Our feet have been standing within your gates,

O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together,

to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

There thrones for judgment were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

"May they prosper who love you!

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers!"

For my brethren and companions' sake I will say,

"Peace be within you!"

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

7. Final Prayer

Father, we praise You and we bless You because through Your Son, born of woman by the working of the Holy Spirit, born under the law, has ransomed us from the law and You have filled our life with light and new hope. May our families welcome and remain faithful to Your designs; may they help and sustain in their children the new dreams and enthusiasm, wrap them in tenderness when they are fragile, educate them in love for You and for all creatures. All honor and glory to You, Father. Amen.

Lectio Divina:
Page 200 of 204

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