carmelitecuria logo en

  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image

Friday, 08 January 2010 19:09

Lectio Divina: Mark 5:1-20

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, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 5: 1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" (He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!") He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

3) Reflection

• In today’s Gospel, we meditate on a long text on the expulsion of a devil which was called Legion which oppressed and tortured a person. Today there are many people who use the texts of the Gospel which speak of the expulsion of the devils or impure spirits in order to frighten others. This is a sin! Mark does the opposite. As we will see, he associates the action of power of evil to four things: a) With the cemetery, the place of the dead. Death which kills life! b) With the pork which was considered an unclean animal. The impurity which separates from God. c) With the sea, which was considered a symbol of the chaos which existed before creation, and a chaos which destroys nature . d) With the word Legion, a name given to the army of the Roman Empire - the empire which oppressed and exploited people. Jesus overcomes the power of evil in these four points. The victory of Jesus had a very great outreach for the community of the years 70’s, the time in which Mark wrote his Gospel. These communities lived under persecution by the Roman Legions, with an ideology which manipulated the popular beliefs concerning the devils in order to frighten people and to obtain their submission.

• The power of evil oppresses, ill-treats and alienates people. The initial verses describe the situation of the people before the arrival of Jesus. In the way of describing the behavior of the possessed person, Mark associates the power of evil to the cemetery and to death. It is a power without any purpose, threatening, without control, and destructive, which makes everybody afraid. It deprives the person of conscience, of self control, and of autonomy.

• In the presence of Jesus the power of evil disintegrates itself and breaks into fragments. In his description of the first contact between Jesus and the possessed man, Mark stresses the total lack of proportion that exists! The power, which at the beginning seemed to be very strong, melts and is broken. It is fragmented before Jesus. The man falls on his knees, asks not to be expelled from that district and finally says its name is Legion. With this name, Mark associates the power of evil with the political and military power of the Roman Empire which dominated the world through its Legions.

• The power of evil is impure and has neither autonomy nor consistency. The devil has no power in its movements. He only manages to enter into the pigs with the permission of Jesus! Once he had entered into the pigs, they charged down the cliff into the sea. There were 2000! According to the people the pig was a symbol of impurity, the impurity which prevented the human being from entering into relationship with God and from feeling accepted by Him. The sea was the symbol of chaos which existed before creation and which, according to the belief of the time, threatened life. This episode of the pigs which threw themselves into the sea is strange and difficult to understand, but the message is sufficiently clear: before Jesus the power of evil has no autonomy nor consistency. The one who believes in Jesus has already overcome the power of evil and should not be afraid, should have no fear!

• The reaction of the local people.  On the advice of the herdsmen who took care of the pigs, the people of the place ran to see the man who had been liberated from the power of evil, now “in his full senses”. But the Legion had entered the pigs! And for this reason they ask Jesus to leave. For them, in fact, the pigs were more important than the human person who had just returned to his normal self. Those pigs also had a large economic value to the local people. The same thing happens today: we often give very little importance to people. It frightens people to be given the choice to give up wealth for the peace of Christ.

• To announce the Good News means to announce “what the Lord has done for you!” The man who was liberated wanted to “follow Jesus,” but Jesus tells him, “Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in His mercy has done for you.” Mark addressed this phrase of Jesus to the communities and to all of us. For the majority of us “to follow Jesus” means, “Go to your house, to your people, and announce to them what the Lord has done for you!”

4) Personal questions

• Which point of this text pleased or struck you the most? Why?

• The man who was cured wanted to follow Jesus. But he should remain at home and tell everybody what Jesus has done for him. What has Jesus done for you? Do you want to share this with others?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, what quantities of good things

You have in store for those who fear You,

and bestow on those who make You their refuge,

for all humanity to see. (Ps 31:19)

Lectio Divina:

Faith in the word of Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish

The call of the first disciples

Luke 5:1-11

1. Opening prayer

Father, now Your Word has come! It has appeared like the sun after a dark night, empty and solitary. When Your Word is not present, it is always thus, I know. Grant me the soft breeze from the sea of Your Holy Spirit and may it gather me, walk with me towards Christ, Your living Word to whom I wish to listen. I shall not move from this shore, where He teaches and speaks, but I shall stay here until such time as He takes me with Him. Then I shall follow Him wherever He takes me.

2. Reading

a) Placing the passage in its context:

This passage, full of great theological intensity, comes at the center of a journey of faith and of meeting with the Lord Jesus, who leads us from deafness to being able to hear, from the most paralysing sickness to the saving healing that makes us capable of helping our brothers and sisters to be reborn with us. Jesus has begun His preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth, giving sense and light to the words in the scroll of the Torah (4:16). He has defeated sin (4:31-37) and sickness (4:38-41), driving them away from the heart of human beings and He has announced the mysterious force that sent Him to us and by which He moves, running like a giant who reaches every corner of the earth. It is at this point that we hear the answer that is the beginning of what follows, that is, the obedience of faith. It is at this point that the Church and a new people are born, those able to hear and respond with a yes.

b) To help us with the reading of the passage:

vv. 1-3: Jesus is on the shore of Lake Gennesaret and before Him is a large crowd of people, eager to listen to the Word of God. He goes into a boat and pushes off a little. As teacher and guide, He sits on the waters and teaches them, and from there He offers salvation to those who listen to and welcome the Word of God.

vv. 4-6: Jesus invites some to go fishing and Peter trusts Him, believes in the Word of the Master. In faith he launches into the deep and casts his nets. Because of his faith, the catch is over-abundant; it is miraculous.

v.7: Meeting Jesus is never a closed matter. The meeting always leads to communication and sharing. Indeed, the gift is too great and cannot be held by one person. Peter calls his friends in another boat and the gift is doubled and grows continually.

vv. 8-11: Peter kneels before Jesus, adores Him and recognizes his sinfulness, his nothingness, but Jesus calls him with the same authority that made so many seas obey Him throughout scripture: “Fear not!” God reveals Himself and becomes the companion of men and women. Peter accepts the mission of delivering men and women, his brothers and sisters, from the waters of the world and of sin, just as he was delivered. He leaves his boat, his nets, the fish and follows Jesus.

c) The text: 

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

During this time of silence and solitude accorded to me so that I can stay with Him, I go away from the shore a little way, take to the deep and, trusting in the Lord, I cast the net into the deep and I wait…

4. Some questions

a) “He sat down and taught the people from the boat”. Jesus comes down, sits and takes up His abode among us. He bends down even to touching our earth and from this smallness He offers us His teaching, His Word of salvation. Jesus offers me time, space, full availability to meet Him and know Him, but do I know how to pause, to stay, to take root in Him and before Him?

b) “He asked him to put out a little from the land”. The Lord’s request is gradual. In fact, after this first putting out from the land, He asks him to launch into the deep. “Put out into the deep!” - an invitation addressed to every man and woman. Do I have faith, trust and confidence in Him to let go of my concerns? Do I look at myself sincerely and seriously? Where do the treasures of my life lie?

c) “I will let down the nets”. Peter gives us a brilliant example of faith in the Word of Jesus. In this passage, the verb “let down” occurs twice: the first time it refers to the nets and the second to the person of Peter. The significance is clear: before the Lord we can let down our whole being. We let down, but He gathers, always and with an absolute and infallible faithfulness. Do I feel like taking my life, today, just as it is, and letting it down at the feet of Jesus, in Him, so that He, once more, may gather me, heal and save me, making of me a new person?

d) “They beckoned to their partners in the other boat”. Again Peter becomes a guide on my journey and shows me how to be open to others, to share, because it is not possible to remain isolated and closed in the Church. We are all sent: “Go to my brethren and say to them” (Jn 20:17). Am I able to bring my boat close to that of others? Am I able to share with my brothers and sisters the gifts and riches the Lord has given me to hold in trust?

5. A key to the reading

The sea and the theme of the exodus:

Jesus is standing by the seashore. He stands above the dark, menacing and unknown tides of the sea and of life. He stands before this crowd of people gathered, ready to listen to Him and ready for the journey, He who is the Good Shepherd with the staff of His Word. He wishes to take us across the seas and oceans of this world on a journey of salvation that brings us before Him, as had already happened at the Red Sea (Ex 14: 21-23) and on the banks of the Jordan (Jn 3:14-17). Even the sea of sand in the desert is overcome by the power of His Word and opens up, becoming a garden, a level and passable road (Isa 43:16-21) for those who decide to go on the return journey to God and allow themselves to be guided by Him. In these few verses of the Gospel, the Lord once more prepares for us the great miracle of the exodus, of the coming out of the darkness of death through the saving crossing to the green pastures of friendship with Him and the listening to His voice. All is ready: our name has been called with infinite love by the Good Shepherd, who knows us from all eternity and who guides us for all eternity, never allowing us to fall from His hand.

Listening in faith that leads to obedience:

This passage from Luke is the second concerning the glorious journey that the Lord Jesus presents to us. The crowd gathers closely around Jesus, driven by the intimate desire to “hear the Word of God”; this is the answer to the constant invitation of the Father, which we find throughout the scriptures: “Hear, O Israel!” (Deut 6:4) and “If only my people would hear me!” (Ps 80:14). It is as if the crowd were saying, “Yes, I will hear what God proclaims, the Lord” (Ps 85:9). But the kind of hearing that is mentioned and suggested is complete, not superficial, it is alive and life-giving, not dead; it is the hearing of faith, not of incredulity and of hardness of heart. It is the hearing that says, “Yes, Lord, at Your word I will let down my nets”. The call addressed to us just now is the call to faith, to trust in Him and in every word that comes from His lips, certain that whatever He says will come true. As God said to Abraham, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14) or to Jeremiah, “Is anything impossible to Me?” (Jer 32:27); cf. also Zech 8:6. Or as it was said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God” (Lk 1:37), and she replied, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Your word”. That is the point we must reach; like Mary, like Peter. We cannot be just hearers, otherwise we would be deceiving ourselves, as James says (1:19-25); we would continue to be deceived by forgetfulness and we would be lost. The Word must be actualized, put into practice, fulfilled. Great is the ruin of the one who hears the Word but does not put it into practice; we must dig deep and lay foundations on the rock, that is, faith in practice (cf. Lk 6:46-49).

Fishing as the mission of the Church:

Fidelity to hearing and to faith leads to mission, that is, to enter into that society that Jesus instituted for the spreading of the Kingdom. It seems that Luke, in this passage, wishes to present the Church living the post-paschal experience of the encounter with the risen Jesus. We note, in fact, the many allusions to the passage in Jn 21:1-8. Jesus chooses a boat and chooses Peter and, from the boat, He calls men and women, sons and daughters, to carry on His mission. We note that the verb “put out into the deep” is in the singular, referring to Peter who is given the task of guide, but the act of fishing is in the plural: “let down your nets”, referring to all those who wish to adhere to and participate in the mission. This one mission and common task of all is beautiful and sparkling; it is joyful! It is the apostolic mission, which begins now, in obedience to the Word of the Lord and that will reach the deep, even to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Mk 16:15; 13:10; Lk 24:45-48).

It is interesting to note the word that Luke uses to point out the mission given by Jesus to Peter, and to all of us, when He says: “Do not be afraid, henceforth you shall catch men”. Here we do not come across the term found in Mt 4:18 ff., and in Mk 1:16 or even in this passage in v.2, which is simply fishing; here we find a new word, which appears only twice in the whole of the New Testament and which derives from the verb “to capture”, in the sense of “taking alive and keeping alive”. Indeed, the fishing people of the Lord, let down their nets into the sea of the world to offer to people life, to rescue them from the abyss and make them come back to true life. Peter and the others, we and our sailing partners in this world, can continue, if we wish, wherever we are, His wonderful mission as sent by the Father “to save what was lost” (Lk 19: 10).

6. A time of prayer: Psalm 66

A hymn of praise to the Lord,

who has opened our hearts to faith.

 My strength and my song is the Lord; He has saved me!

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

sing the glory of His name;

give to Him glorious praise!

Say to God, "How awesome are Your deeds!

All the earth worships You; they sing praises to You,

sing praises to Your name.

Come and see what God has done:

He is terrible in His deeds among men.

He turned the sea into dry land;

men passed through the river on foot.

There did we rejoice in Him.

Bless our God, O peoples,

let the sound of His praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living,

and has not let our feet slip.

For You, O God, have tested us;

You have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net;

we went through fire and through water;

yet You have brought us forth to a spacious place.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,

and I will tell what He has done for me.

I cried aloud to Him,

and He was extolled with my tongue.

But truly God has listened;

He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,

because He has not rejected my prayer

or removed His steadfast love from me!

7. Closing prayer

Lord, You opened the sea and came to me; You split the night and began a new day in my life! You spoke Your Word to me and touched my heart; You made me go with You into the boat and brought me to the deep. Lord, You have done great things! I praise You, I bless You and thank You, in Your Word, in Your Son Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. Always take me into the deep with You, I in You and You in me, so that I may let down many nets of love, friendship, sharing and seeking Your face and Your kingdom here on earth. Lord, I am a sinner, I know! But for this too I thank You, because You did not come to call the just but sinners and I hear Your voice and follow You. Behold, Father, I leave everything and go with You…

Lectio Divina:
Monday, 04 January 2010 09:01

Lectio Divina: Mark 2:18-22

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Father of heaven and earth,

hear our prayers,

and show us the way to Your peace in the world.

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 2:18-22

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, "Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."

3) Reflection

• The five conflicts between Jesus and the religious authority. In Mark 2:1-12 we have seen the first conflict. It was about the forgiveness of sins. In Mark 2:13-17, the second conflict is on communion around the same table, with sinners. Today’s Gospel presents the third conflict concerning fasting. Tomorrow we have the fourth conflict concerning the observance of the Sabbath (Mk 2:13-28). The day after tomorrow is the last conflict concerning the cure on the Sabbath (Mk 3:1-6). The conflict concerning fasting has a central place. For this reason, the words on sewing a piece of new cloth on an old cloak and the new wine into fresh skins (Mk 2:21-22) should be understood in the light which also radiates clearly on the other conflicts, two before and two after.

• Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient practice, practiced by practically all religions. Jesus himself practiced it during forty days (Mt 4:2). But He does not insist with His disciples that they do the same thing. He leaves them free. This is why the disciples of John the Baptist and those of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.

• When the bridegroom is with them they do not have to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the bridegroom, that is, during the wedding feast, they do not need to fast. Jesus considers himself the bridegroom. The disciples are the friends of the bridegroom During the time in which Jesus is with the disciples, there is the wedding feast. A day will come in which the bridegroom will be absent and then, if they wish, they can fast. Jesus refers to His death. He knows and feels that if He wishes to continue on this path of freedom, the religious authority will want to kill Him.

• To sew a new piece of cloth on an old cloak, pour new wine in new skins. These two affirmations of Jesus, which Mark places here, clarify the critical attitude of Jesus before religious authority. One does not sew a piece of new cloth on an old cloak. When the cloak is washed, the new piece of cloth tears the cloak and the tear becomes bigger. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because the fermentation of the new wine will tear the old skins. New wine in new skins! The religion defended by the authority was like an old cloak, like an old skin. It is not necessary to want to change what is new and brought by Jesus, for old customs. The concepts brought by Jesus cannot be reduced to fit the measure of Judaism. Either one or the other! The wine which Jesus brings tears the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate things. Jesus is not against what is “old”. What He wants to avoid is that the old impose itself on the new, and thus, He begins to manifest it.

4) Personal questions

• Beginning with the profound experience of God which encouraged Him interiorly, Jesus had liberty concerning the norms and religious practices. Today, do we have this same liberty and the freedom of the mystics?

• A new piece of cloth on an old cloak, new wine in old skins. Does this exist in my life?

5) Concluding prayer

We have recognized for ourselves,

and put our faith in, the love God has for us. (1Jn 4:16)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:22

Lectio Divina: 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Jesus connects the Bible to life

The people of Nazareth do not like Jesus and drive Him away

Luke 4:21-30

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:

On the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Liturgy presents us with the conflict that arose between Jesus and the people of Nazareth. This happens on a Saturday during the celebration of the Word in the synagogue, after Jesus reads a text from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, presenting His plan of action, and immediately adds a very brief comment. At first, they are all amazed and happy. But when they realize the significance of Jesus’ plan concerning their lives, they rebel and want to kill Him. These kinds of conflicts exist today. We accept others as long as they act in conformity with our ideas, but when they decide to welcome into the community people whom we exclude, then we are in conflict. This is what happened in Nazareth.

This Sunday’s Gospel begins with verse 21, a brief comment made by Jesus. We take the liberty to include in the comment the preceding verses 16-20. This allows us to read the text from Isaiah quoted by Jesus and to better understand the conflict. As we read, it is good for us to note two things: “How does Jesus actualize the text of Isaiah? What reactions does this actualization of the text of Isaiah produce in the people?”

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

Luke 4:16: Jesus arrives in Nazareth and takes part in the community meeting.

Luke 4:17-19: Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah.

Luke 4:20-21: Jesus connects the Bible to life before an attentive public.

Luke 4:22: The contradictory reactions of the public.

Luke 4:23-24: Jesus criticizes the people’s reaction.

Luke 4:25-27: Jesus sheds light on the bible, quoting Elijah and Elisha.

Luke 4:28-30: The furious reaction of the people, who want to kill Jesus.

b) Text:

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

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

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What pleased or struck you most in the text? Why?

b) On what day, where, how, and through whom does Jesus present His plan?

c) What is the content of Jesus’ plan? Who are the excluded He wants to welcome?

d) How does Jesus actualize Isaiah’s text?

e) How do the people react? Why?

f) Could Jesus’ plan of action also be ours? Who are the excluded that we should welcome into our community today?

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

a) The historical context so as to locate the text:

In ancient Israel, the large family or clan, or community, was the basis of social life. It provided protection to families and people, it guaranteed possession of the land,  it was the principal vehicle of tradition, and a guardian of the people’s identity. It was a concrete way of incarnating the love of God in the love of neighbor. To defend the clan, or the community, was equivalent to defending the Covenant with God.

In Jesus’ days, a double slavery marked people’s lives and contributed to the disintegration of the community: (i) the slavery of the politics of Herod Antipas’ government (4 BC to 39 AD) and (ii) the slavery of the official religion. Because of the exploitation and repression of Herod Antipas’ politics, supported by the Roman Empire, many people had no fixed home and were excluded and unemployed (Lk 14:21; Mt 20:3,5-6). The community was weakened. Families and individuals had no help, no defense. The official religion, maintained by the religious authorities of the time, instead of strengthening the community so that it could welcome the excluded, added to this slavery. God’s Law was used to legitimize the exclusion or marginalization of many people: women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, the possessed, publicans, the sick, the mutilated, paraplegics. It was the opposite of the fraternity God wanted for all! Thus, the political and economic situation and the religious ideology all conspired to weaken the local community and prevented the manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus reacts to this situation of His people and presents a plan of action that will change it. Jesus’ experience of God as the Father of love, gives Him the ability to evaluate reality and to see what was wrong with the lives of His people.

b) A commentary on the text:

Luke 4:16: Jesus arrives in Nazareth and takes part in the community meeting.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes to Galilee and begins to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Lk 4:14). He goes to villages teaching in synagogues and finally arrives in Nazareth. He goes back to the community of His childhood for thirty years where  He had taken part in the weekly meetings. On the Saturday after His arrival, Jesus goes to the synagogue to take part in the celebration as usual and gets up to read.

Luke 4:17-19: Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah.

In those days, there were two readings during the Saturday celebrations. The first dealt with the Law of God, was taken from the Pentateuch and was fixed. The second was taken from the historical or prophetical books, and was chosen by the reader. The reader could choose. Jesus chose the text from Isaiah that presents a summary of the mission of the Servant of God, and that reflected the situation of the people of Galilee at the time. In the name of God, Jesus takes up His position in defense of the life of His people, takes on His mission as Servant of God, and, using Isaiah’s words, proclaims before all, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord" (Isa 61:1-2). He takes up an ancient tradition of the prophets and proclaims “a year of favor from the Lord”. This expression was equivalent to proclaiming a jubilee year, so Jesus invites the people of His town to begin anew, to rewrite history at its very roots (Deut 15:1-11; Lev 25:8-17).

Luke 4:20-21: Jesus connects the Bible to life before an attentive public.

When He had finished reading, Jesus gave the book back to the servant and sat down. Jesus is not yet the coordinator of the community. He is a lay person and as such takes part in the celebration like all the others. He had been away from the community for many weeks, had then joined John the Baptist’s movement and was baptized by John in the Jordan (Lk 3:21-22). Moreover, He had spent more than forty days in the desert, reflecting on His mission (Lk 4:1-2). The Saturday after His return to the community, Jesus is invited to read. All are attentive and curious: “What will He say?” Jesus’ comment is very brief indeed. He actualizes the text, connects it with the people’s lives, saying, This text is being fulfilled today even as you are listening.”

Luke 4:22: The contradictory reactions of the people.

The people’s reaction is ambivalent. At first their attitude is one of attention, wonder and acclamation. Then, immediately, there is a negative reaction. They say, “This is Joseph’s son, surely!” Why are they scandalized? Because Jesus speaks of welcoming the poor, the blind, prisoners and the oppressed. They do not accept His proposal. And so, just when Jesus presents His project to welcome the excluded, He Himself is excluded!

But there is another motive too. It is important to note the details of the quotations that Jesus uses from the Old Testament. In the commentary on Luke 3:4-6 on the second Sunday of Advent, Luke gives a longer quotation from Isaiah to show that the opening to gentiles had already been foreseen by the prophets. Here we have something like this. Jesus quotes the text from Isaiah up to the point where it says "to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord", and leaves out the rest of the sentence that says "and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn" (Is 61:2b). The people of Nazareth challenge the fact that Jesus left out the part on vindication. They wanted the day of the coming of the Kingdom to be a day of vindication against the oppressors of the people. Thus those who mourned would have regained their rights. But if that were  so, then the advent, the coming of the Kingdom, would not have changed an unjust system. Jesus rejects this way of thinking. He rejects vengeance. His experience of God, Father, helped Him better understand the exact meaning of the prophecies. His reaction, unlike that of the people of Nazareth, shows us that the old image of God as a severe and vengeful judge was stronger than the Good News of God, a loving Father who welcomes those excluded.

Luke 4:23-24: Jesus criticizes the people’s reaction. 

Jesus interprets the people’s reaction and considers it a form of envy: “Physician, heal yourself. Whatever things we have heard of as done in Capernaum, do here, also in your own country!” Jesus was well know throughout Galilee (Lk 4:14) and the people of Nazareth were not pleased that Jesus, a son of their land, worked good things in other peoples’ lands and not in His own. But there is a deeper reason for the reaction. Even if Jesus had worked in Nazareth the things He had worked in Capernaum, they would still not have believed in Him. They knew Jesus. “Who is He to teach us? Is He not Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22). “Is He not the carpenter?” (cf Mk 6:3-4) Today  this happens so often: when a lay person preaches in church, many will not accept that. They leave and say, “He or she is like us: he or she knows nothing!” They cannot believe that God can speak through the most ordinary people. Mark adds that Jesus is hurt by His people’s unbelief (Mk 6).

Luke 4:23-27: Jesus sheds light on the Bible quoting Elijah and Elisha. 

In order to confirm that His mission is really that of welcoming the excluded, Jesus uses two well known passages of the bible, the story of Elijah and that of Elisha. Both reflect the closed mentality of the people of Nazareth and criticize them. In Elijah’s time there were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent to a foreign widow from Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16). In Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but Elisha was sent to a foreigner from Syria (2 Kings 5:14). Again we see Luke’s concern to show that openness towards pagans came from Jesus Himself. Jesus faced the same difficulties that the communities in Luke’s time faced.

Luke 4:28-30: The furious reaction of the people who want to kill Jesus. 

The mention of these two passages from the Bible produces greater anger in the people. The community of Nazareth even wants to kill Jesus. He remains calm. Other people’s anger will not distract Him from His purpose. Luke shows how difficult it is to overcome a mentality of privilege and of closure towards others. The same thing happens today. Many of us Catholics grow up with a mentality that leads us to believe that we are better than others and that the others must become like us in order to be saved. Jesus never thought this way.

c) Further information:

The meaning of a jubilee year:

In 2000, Pope John Paul II invited Catholics to celebrate the jubilee. Celebrating important dates is part of life. This allows us to rediscover and revive our initial enthusiasm. In the bible, “the Jubilee Year” was an important law. At first, it was decreed that every seventh year, sold or leased lands were to return to the clan of origin. Everyone was to be able to go back to his property. This prevented the formation of stagnant funds and guaranteed a living for families. During a Jubilee Year lands were to be sold back, slaves were to be redeemed and debts cancelled (cf. Deut 15:1-18). The celebration of a Jubilee Year every seven years was not easy (cf Jeremiah 34:8-16). After the exile began the custom of celebrating every fifty years, that is, every seven times seven years (Lev 25:8-17). The purpose of a Jubilee Year was, and still is, to re-affirm the rights of the poor, welcome the excluded, and reintegrate them into society. The jubilee was a legal instrument to go back to the deep sense of the Law of God. It was an occasion to take stock of the course travelled, to discover and correct errors and to begin everything anew. Jesus begins His preaching by proclaiming a new jubilee, a “Year of favor from the Lord”.

6. Praying with Psalm 72 (71)

“He will free the poor who cry!”

God, endow the king with Your own fair judgement,

the Son of the king with Your own saving justice,

that He may rule your people with justice,

and Your poor with fair judgment.

Mountains and hills,

bring peace to the people!

With justice He will judge the poor of the people;

He will save the children of the needy and crush their oppressors.

In the sight of the sun and the moon He will endure, age after age.

He will come down like rain on mown grass,

like showers moistening the land.

In His days uprightness shall flourish,

and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.

His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,

from the river to the limits of the earth.

The Beast will cower before Him,

His enemies lick the dust;

the kings of Tarshish and the islands will pay Him tribute.

The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;

all kings will do Him homage,

all nations become His servants.

For He rescues the needy who call to Him,

and the poor who have no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,

and saves the needy from death.

From oppression and violence He redeems their lives,

their blood is precious in His sight.

Long may He live; may the gold of Sheba be given Him!

Prayer will be offered for Him constantly,

and blessings invoked on Him all day.

May wheat abound in the land,

waving on the heights of the hills,

like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best,

like the grasses of the earth.

May His name be blessed for ever,

and endure in the sight of the sun.

In Him shall be blessed every race in the world,

and all nations call Him blessed.

Blessed be Yahweh,

the God of Israel,

who alone works wonders;

blessed for ever His glorious name.

May the whole world be filled with His glory!

Amen! Amen!

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:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:21

Lectio Divina: Mark 4:35-41

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

All-powerful and ever-living God,

direct Your love that is within us,

that our efforts in the name of Your Son

may bring the human race to unity and peace.

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 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: "Let us cross to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

3) Reflection

• The Gospel describes the storm on the lake and Jesus who sleeps in the boat. Sometimes our communities feel like a small boat lost in the sea of life, without much hope of arriving at the port. Jesus seems to be sleeping in our boat, since no divine power seems to appear to save us from difficulties and persecution. In view of this desperate situation, Mark puts together several episodes which reveal how Jesus is present in the midst of the community. In these parables, the mystery of the Kingdom is revealed, which is present in the things of daily life (Mk 4:1-34). Now He begins to reveal the mystery of the Kingdom present in the power which Jesus exercises in favor of the disciples, in favor of the people, and above all, in favor of the excluded and marginalized. Jesus overcomes, dominates the sea, a symbol of chaos (Mk 4:35-41) and something man cannot control by himself. A creative power acts in Him! Jesus conquers and drives out the devil (Mk 5:1-20). The power of life acts in Him! He is the victorious Jesus! There is no reason for the communities to have fear (Mk 5:21-43). This is the reason for this passage about the storm being calmed by Jesus, which we are meditating on in today’s Gospel.

• Mark 4:35-36: The starting point: “Let us cross over to the other side”. It had been a heavy day with much work. Once the discourse on the parables was finished (Mk 4: 1-34), Jesus said, “Let us cross over to the other side!” They take Him on the boat just as He is in the boat in which He had made the discourse on the parables. Because He was extremely tired, He went to sleep in the stern with His head on a cushion. This is the first picture or image which Mark presents: a beautiful painting, but very human!

Jesus asks us to “cross to the other side” too. He asks us to separate from the crowd who is preoccupied with consumerism and gossip and earthly desires.

• Mark 4: 37-38: The desperate situation: “Do You not care? We are lost!” The Lake of Galilee is surrounded by mountains. Sometimes, through the cracks in the rocks, the wind blows on top of the lake and provokes sudden storms. The disciples were experienced fishermen. If they think that they are going to sink, then the situation is really dangerous. Jesus does not even wake up. He continues to sleep. This profound sleep is not only a sign of great fatigue, it is also the expression of a calm peaceful trust which He has in God. The contrast between the attitude of Jesus and that of the disciples is very great!

Today, mankind has a belief that it has mastered everything, and when things go wrong, people blame God for not caring. Faith provides the calm peaceful trust Jesus had rather than the anxiety that the disciples had. 

• Mark 4: 39-40: The reaction of Jesus: “Have you still no faith?” Jesus wakes up, not because of the waves, but because of the desperate cries of the disciples. First, He addresses Himself to the sea and says, “Quiet now!” And the wind dropped and there followed a great calm. Then He spoke to the disciples and said, “Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?” The impression that one has is that it is not necessary to calm down the sea, since there is no danger. It is like going to a house and seeing the dog at the side of his master, who begins to bark. One should not be afraid because the dog is with the master who controls the situation. The episode of the storm which was calmed recalls Exodus, when the people, without fear, passed through the water of the sea (Ex 14: 22). It recalls the Prophet Isaiah who told the people, “If you go across the water I will be with you!” (Is 43: 2) Jesus does the exodus again and carries out the prophecy announced by Psalm 107(106):25-30.

• Mark 4: 41: The disciples did not know. “Who can this be?” Jesus calms the sea and says, “Have you still have no faith?” The disciples do not know what to respond and they ask themselves, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him”. Jesus appears as a stranger to them! In spite of having been with Him for such a long time, they do not really know who He is. “Who can this be?”  With this question in mind, the communities follow the reading of the Gospel. Even today, the same question leads us to continue reading the Gospel. It is the desire to better know the significance of Jesus in our life.

Knowing and trusting Jesus more moves us from being like the disciples at this point. Greater faith brings greater peace in the presence of storms in our life..

• Who is Jesus? Mark begins his Gospel saying, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1). At the moment of His death, the soldier declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). At the beginning and at the end of the Gospel, Jesus is called the Son of God. Between the beginning and the end, there are many other names of Jesus which appear. The following is the list: Messiah or Christ (Mk 1:1; 8:29; 14:61; 15:32); Lord (Mk 1:3; 5:19; 11:3); Beloved Son (Mk 1:11; 9:7); the Holy One of God (Mk 1:24); Nazarene (Mk 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6); Son of Man (Mk 2:10,28; 8:31,38; 9:9,12,31; 10:33,45; 13:26; 14:21,41,62); bridegroom (Mk2: 19); Son of God (Mk 3:11); Son of the Highest God (Mk 5:7); carpenter (Mk 6:3); Son of Mary (Mk 6:3); Prophet (Mk 6:4,15; 8:28); Teacher (frequent); Son of David (Mk 10:47-48; 12:35-37); Blessed (Mk 11:9); Son (Mk 13:32); Shepherd (Mk 14:27); Son of the Blessed One (Mk 14:61); King of the Jews (Mk 15:2,9,18,26); King of Israel (Mk 15:32),

Each name, title, or attribute is an attempt to express what Jesus signifies for people. But a name, no matter how beautiful it is, never reveals the mystery of a person, much less the person of Jesus. Some of these names given to Jesus, including the more important ones and the more traditional, are questioned by Mark the Evangelist as being satisfactory. Thus, as we advance in the reading of the Gospel, Mark obliges us to revise our ideas and to ask ourselves, once again, “In last instance, who is Jesus for me and for us?” The more we advance in the reading of the Gospel of Mark, the more these titles and criteria fall. Jesus does not fit into any one of these names, or schema, or titles. He is the greatest! Little by little, the reader gives up and ceases to want to frame Jesus in a known concept or in an idea made up beforehand, and accepts Him as He is presented.

4) Personal questions

• Have the waters of the sea of life threatened you sometimes? Who saved you?

• What was the agitated sea (of the community) at the time of Jesus? What was the agitated sea (for the community) at the time when Mark wrote his Gospel? What is the agitated sea for us today?

5) Concluding prayer

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, 02 January 2010 21:20

Lectio Divina: Mark 4:26-34

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

All-powerful and ever-living God,

direct Your love that is within us,

that our efforts in the name of Your Son

may bring the human race to unity and peace.

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 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

3) Reflection

• It is always beautiful to see Jesus, who sought in life and in events new elements and images which could help people to see and experience the presence of the Kingdom. In today’s Gospel, once again, He narrates two brief stories which take place every day in the life of all of us: the story of “the seed that grows by itself” and the story of “the small mustard seed which grows into the biggest shrub”.

• The story of the seed which grows alone. The farmer who plants knows the process: seed, the green sprout, leaf, spike, grain. The farmer knows how to wait. He does not cut down the grain before it is time. But he does not know how the soil, the rain, the sun and the seed have this force or strength to make the plant grow from nothing until it bears fruit. This is how the Kingdom of God is. It is a process. There are stages and moments of growth. It takes place in time. It produces fruit at just the right moment, but nobody knows how to explain its mysterious force -  nobody, not even the landlord. Only God!

• The story of the small mustard seed which grows and becomes big. The mustard seed is small, but it grows, and at the end the birds make their nests in its branches. This is how the Kingdom is. It begins very small, it grows, and it extends its branches. The parable leaves an open question which will receive a response later on in the Gospel: Who are the birds? The text suggests that it is the pagans, who will not be able to enter the community and participate in the Kingdom.

• Because Jesus teaches by means of parables. Jesus tells many parables. All are taken from the life of the people! In this way He helped people discover the things of God in daily life, a life which becomes transparent because what is extraordinary from God is hidden in the ordinary and common things of daily life. People understood the things of life. In the parables they received the key to open them and to find the signs of God in them.

4) Personal questions

• Jesus does not explain the parables. He tells the stories and awakens in others the imagination to reflect on the discovery. What have you discovered in these two parables?

• The purpose of these words is to render life transparent. Has your life become more transparent throughout the years, or has the contrary taken place?

5) Concluding Prayer

Have mercy on me, O God, in Your faithful love,

in Your great tenderness wipe away my offenses;

wash me clean from my guilt,

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

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:20

Lectio Divina: Mark 4:21-25

Ordinary Time 

1) Opening prayer

All-powerful and ever-living God,

direct Your love that is within us,

that our efforts in the name of Your Son

may bring mankind to unity and peace.

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 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, "Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear." He also told them, "Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."  

3) Reflection

• The lamp which gives light. At that time, there was no electric light. Imagine all that follows. The family is at home. It begins to get dark. The father lifts up the small lamp, lights it and places it under the tub or under the bed. What will the others say? They will began to scream, “Father, place it on the table!” This is the story that Jesus tells. He does not explain. He only says, “Anyone who has ears to listen, should listen!” The Word of God is the lamp which should be lit in the darkness of the night. If it remains hidden in the closed book of the bible, it is like a small lamp under the tub. When it is united to the life in community, there it is placed on the table and it gives light!

• Be attentive to preconceptions. Jesus asks the disciples to become aware of the preconceptions with which they listen to the teaching He offers. We should be attentive to the ideas which we have when we look at Jesus! If the lenses over the eyes are green, everything seems to be green. If they are blue, everything will be blue! If the idea with which we look at Jesus is mistaken, everything which I think about Jesus will be subject to error. If I think that the Messiah has to be a glorious king, I will understand nothing of what the Lord teaches and I will conclude that everything is mistaken.

• Parable: a new way of teaching and speaking of Jesus. Jesus used parables, above all, to teach; this was His way. He had an enormous capacity to find very simple images to compare the things of God with the things of the life which people knew and experienced in the daily struggle to survive. This presupposes two things: to be inside, involved in the things of life, and to be inside, involved in the things of the Kingdom of God.

• Jesus’ teaching was different from the teaching of the scribes. It was  Good News for the poor, because Jesus revealed a new face of God, in which people could recognize themselves and rejoice. “I bless You, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased You to do!” (Mt 11:25-28). 

4) Personal questions

• The Word of God, a lamp which gives light. What place does the Bible have in my life? What light do I receive?

• What is the image of Jesus that I have within me? Who is Jesus for me and who am I for Jesus?

• What can I do, on a regular basis, to further learn the context of the bible and His teaching, to reduce my preconceptions, so I too won't have on colored lenses and will be able to see and act clearly? 

5) Concluding prayer

Taste and see that Yahweh is good.

How blessed are those who take refuge in Him. (Ps 34:8)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:18

Lectio Divina: Mark 4:1-20

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

All-powerful and ever-living God,

direct Your love that is within us,

that our efforts in the name of Your Son

may bring the human race to unity and peace.

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 4:1-20

 On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, "Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." He added, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear." And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, "The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven." Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

3) Reflection

• Sitting in the boat, Jesus taught the crowds. In these verses, Mark describes the way in which Jesus teaches the crowd: on the seaside, sitting in the boat, with many people around listening to Him. Jesus was not a cultured person (Jn 7:15). He had not frequented the superior school of Jerusalem. He had come from the country side, from Nazareth. He was someone who was unknown. He was a craftsman and a country man. Without asking permission from the authorities, He began to teach the people. He spoke in a very different way. People liked to listen to Him.

• Jesus helped people perceive the mysterious presence of the Kingdom in the things of life by means of parables.  A parable is a comparison. He uses the known and visible things of life to explain the invisible and unknown things of the Kingdom of God. For example, the people from Galilee understood when He spoke of seeds, soil, rain, the sun, salt, flowers, fish, harvest, etc. His parable uses these things which were known to the people to explain the mysteries of the Kingdom.

• The parable of the sower is a picture of the life of the farmer. At that time it was not easy to get a livelihood from agriculture. The land was full of stones. There were many bushes, little rain and much sun. Many times people, in order to take a shortcut,  passed through the fields and stepped on the plants. (Mk 2:23). But in spite of that, every year, the farmer sowed and planted, trusting in the force of the seed, in the generosity of nature.

• He who has ears to listen, let him listen! Jesus begins the parable saying, “Listen!” (Mk 4:3). Now, at the end, He says, “He who has ears to listen, let him listen!” The way to understand the parable is by listening and thinking, “trying to understand!” The parable does not give us everything ready made, but induces those who listen to think and discover, based on the lived experience that they have of the seed. It induces creativity and participation. It is not a doctrine that arrives ready made to be taught and decorated. The parable does not give bottled water, but rather, leads one to the fountain or source. The farmer who listens, says, “Seed in the ground, I know what that is!” But Jesus says that this has something to do with the Kingdom of God. What would this be? One can already guess the long conversations of the crowd. The parable affects the people and moves them to listen to nature and to think about life.

• Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. At home, alone with Jesus, the disciples want to know the meaning of the parable. They do not understand it. Jesus is surprised at their ignorance (Mk 4:13) and responds with a difficult and mysterious phrase. He tells His disciples, “To you is granted the secret of the Kingdom of God; but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and not perceive, listen but not understand, to avoid changing their ways and being healed!” This phrase leads people to ask themselves “then what good is the parable? To clarify or to hide?” Perhaps Jesus uses parables in order for people to continue to live in ignorance and not reach conversion? Certainly not! Because at another point Mark says that Jesus used parables “according to what they could understand” (Mk 4:33).

• The parable reveals and hides at the same time! It reveals to “those who are inside,” who accept Jesus, the Messiah, the Servant. It hides for those who insist on considering Him the glorious king. They understand the images of the parable, but they do not grasp the significance.

• The explanation of the parable in its different parts. One after another, Jesus explains the parts of the parable, seed and soil, up to the harvest time. Some scholars hold that this explanation was added later and would have been given to some communities. This is quite  possible, because in the bud of the parable there is already the flower of the explanation. Bud and flower, both have the same origin which is Jesus. For this reason, we can continue to reflect and discover other beautiful things in the parable. Once a person asked in community, “Jesus has said that we should be salt. For what does salt serve?” This was discussed and at the end more than ten different purposes for salt were discovered! These meanings were applied to the life of the community and it was discovered that to be salt is something difficult and demanding. The parable functioned! Salt not only has uses, but in Jesus' time it had high value. The Romans used it as money and in the difficult hot climate it was needed by the human body to survive. Salt was valuable and gave life! The same for the seed. Everybody has some experience of the seed.

4) Personal questions

• What experience do you have with seeds? How does this help you understand the Good News better?

• What type of soil are you?

5) Concluding prayer

Fix your gaze on Yahweh

and your face will grow bright,

you will never hang your head in shame. (Ps 34:5)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:18

Lectio Divina: Mark 3:31-35

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

All-powerful and ever-living God,

direct Your love that is within us,

that our efforts in the name of Your Son

may bring the human race to unity and peace.

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 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

3) Reflection

• The family of Jesus. The relatives reached the house where Jesus was. They have probably come from Nazareth. From there to Capernaum there is a distance of forty kilometers. His mother also comes with them. They do not enter, but they send a messenger: “Look, Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for You!” Jesus’ reaction is clear: “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And He Himself responds by turning to look toward the crowd who is there around Him: “Here are My mother and My brothers! Anyone who does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother!” To understand the meaning of this response it is necessary to look at the situation of the family at the time of Jesus.

• In old Israel, the clan (the large family, the community), was the basis of  living together. It was protection for families and people, the guarantee of possession of the land, the principle vehicle of tradition, and the defense of identity. It was the concrete way on the part of the people of that time to incarnate the love of God and the love toward neighbor. To defend the clan was the same as to defend the Covenant.

• In Galilee at the time of Jesus, because of the system established during the long periods of government of Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC) and his son Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), the clan (the community), was becoming weaker. The taxes to be paid, both to the government and to the Temple, the debts which were increasing, the individualistic mentality of Hellenism, the frequent threats of violent repression on the part of the Romans and the obligation to accept the soldiers and give them hospitality, and the ever growing problem of survival, impelled families to close themselves in on themselves and to think only of their own needs. This closing up was strengthened by the religion of the time. For example,  one who gave his inheritance to the Temple could leave his parents without any help. This weakened the fourth commandment which was the backbone of the clan (Mk 7:8-13). The observance of the norms of purity was a factor in the marginalization of many people too, such as women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed people, tax collectors or publicans, the sick, mutilated people and paraplegics.

• The concern over the problems of one’s own family prevented people from meeting in community. Now, in order that the Kingdom of God could manifest itself in community living, people had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves to the larger family, and the community. Jesus gave the example. When His own family tried to take control of Him, He reacted and extended the family: “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  And He Himself gave the answer, turning His look toward the crowd, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Anyone who does the will of God is My brother, sister and mother!” (Mk 3:33-35). He created a community.

• Jesus asked the same thing from all those who wanted to follow Him. Families should not close themselves in on themselves . The excluded and the marginalized had to be accepted in life with others and feel accepted by God (Lk 14:12-14). This was the path to attaining the objective of the Law, which said , “There must, then, be no poor among you” (Dt 15:4). Like the great prophets of the past, Jesus tries to consolidate community life in the villages of Galilee. He takes back the profound sense of the clan, the family, and the community as an expression of the incarnation of the love toward God and toward neighbor.

4) Personal questions

• What place and what influence does the community have in my way of living the faith ?

• Today, in the large city, overcrowding promotes individualism which is at odds with life in community. What am I doing to counteract this? How does one reconcile personal physical safety with community involvement in these urban areas?

5) Concluding prayer

I waited, I waited for Yahweh,

then He stooped to me

and heard my cry for help.

He put a fresh song in my mouth,

praise of our God. (Ps 40:1.3)

Lectio Divina:
Saturday, 02 January 2010 21:17

Lectio: Luke 10,1-9

Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
you are a generous Father,
who give us what is good for us
simply because you love us.
Give us grateful hearts, Lord,
that we may learn from you
to give and share without calculation
but simply with love and joy,
as Jesus did among us, your Son,
who lives with you and with us for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 10, 1-9
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself would be visiting. And he said to them, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do his harvesting. Start off now, but look, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Take no purse with you, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, let your first words be, "Peace to this house!" And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, "The kingdom of God is very near to you."
3) Reflection
• During the time of Jesus there were several movements which, like Jesus, sought a new way of living. For example, John the Baptist, the Pharisees and others. Many of them formed a community and had disciples. (Jn 1, 35; Lk 11, 1; Acts 19, 3) and they had their own missionaries (Mt 23, 25). But there was a great difference! The Pharisees, for example, when they went on mission, they went already prepared. They thought that they could not eat what the people would offer them, because the food was not always ritually “pure”. For this reason, they took with them purses and money in order to be able to take care of their own food. Thus, instead of working toward overcoming the divisions, this observances of the Law of purity weakened even more the living out of community values.
• The proposal of Jesus is different. He tries to rescue the community values which had been suffocated, and tries to renew and to reorganize the communities in such a way that they could, once again, be an expression of the Covenant, a sign of the Kingdom of God. And this is what is said to us in today’s Gospel which describes the sending out of the 72 disciples:
• Luke 10, 1: The Mission. Jesus sends the disciples to places where he himself has to go. The disciple is the spokesperson of Jesus. He is not the owner of the Good News. Jesus sends the disciples in pairs, two by two. That is useful for mutual help, because the mission is not individual, but rather communitarian. Two persons represent the community better than only one.
• Luke 10, 2-3: Co-responsibility. The first task is that of praying so that God may send workers. Every disciple - ,man and woman – has to feel responsible for the mission. And thus has to pray to the Father to send workers to continue the mission. Jesus sends his disciples as sheep among wolves. The mission is a difficult and dangerous task. Because the system in which they lived was and continues to be contrary to the reorganization of the people in a community of life. The Mission to which Jesus sends the 72 disciples tries to recover four community values:
- Luke 10, 4-6: Hospitality. Contrary to the other missionaries, the disciples of Jesus – men and women – cannot take anything with them, neither purse, nor sandals. They can and should only take peace. That means that they have to trust in the hospitality of the people. Because the disciple who goes without anything, taking only peace, shows that he/she trusts the people. The disciple thinks that he/she will be received, and the people feel respected and confirmed. Through this practice the disciple criticizes the laws of exclusion and recovers the ancient value of hospitality. Greet no one on the road, probably means, that no time should be lost in things which do not belong to the mission.
- Luke 10, 7: Sharing. The disciples should not go from house to house, but should remain in the same house. That is, they should live together with the people in a stable way, participate in their life and in the work of the people of the place and live from what they receive in exchange, because the labourer deserves his wages. This means that they have to trust in sharing. Thus, through this new practice, they recover an ancient tradition of the people, they criticize the culture of accumulation which distinguished the politics of the Roman Empire and announced a new model of living together.
- Luke 10, 8: Communion around the same table. The disciples should eat what the people offer them. They cannot live separated, eating their own food. That means that they should accept the communion and cannot be separated, eating their own food. This means that they have to accept to sit around the table with the others. In this contact with the others, they should not fear to loose the legal purity. Acting in this way, they criticize the laws of purity which were in force and they announce a new access to purity, to the intimacy with God..
- Luke 10, 9a: The Acceptance of the excluded. The disciples should cure those who are sick, cure the lepers and cast out the devils (Mt 10, 8). This means that in the community they should accept those who are excluded. This practice of solidarity criticizes society which excludes and indicates concrete solutions.
• Luke 10, 9b: The coming of the Kingdom. If all these requirements are respected, the disciples can and should cry out in the four directions: The Kingdom is here! Because the Kingdom is a new way of living and of living together with others, according to the Good News which Jesus has come to reveal to us: God is Father and because of this we are all brothers and sisters. In the first place, to educate for the Kingdom is to teach a new way of living and of living together with others, a new way of acting and of thinking.
4) Personal questions
• Why are all these different attitudes recommended by Jesus signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God?
• How can we practice today what Jesus asks: “do not take with you any purse”, do not move from house to house”, “do not greet anyone on the road”, announce the Kingdom?
5) Concluding Prayer
The Law of Yahweh is perfect,
refreshment to the soul;
the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy,
wisdom for the simple. (Ps 19,7)
Page 201 of 204

Cookie Notice

This website uses cookies to perform some required functions and to analyse our website traffic. We will only collect your information if you complete our contact or prayer request forms so that we can respond to your email or include your intentions/request in prayer. We do not use cookies to personalise content and ads. We will not share any details submitted via our contact email forms to any third party.