This Sunday is extremely rich, enabling us to discover hidden nuances of past celebrations and glimpse the end and purpose of Jesus’ mission. Just in case we are frightened by Lenten penance, Jesus’ shining face will provide us with a bit of solace
I have not checked the entire list, but I am sure this is the Sunday with the shortest Gospel in the whole Lectionary, just four verses. And although it is traditionally known as the “Sunday of Jesus’ Temptations,” the subject is dealt with in just two verses! T
Mark’s chapter 1 and the first section of Ordinary time each end with another sign of Jesus’ authority over sickness and the power of evil. To be more precise, the cleansing of the leper is the last of a series of Jesus’ transgressions.
In last Sunday’s Gospel Mark announced, right at the beginning of his Gospel, what would be two of the important aspects of Jesus’ activity: healing and preaching of the Good News. Today, he mentions them again, but add another ingredient of Jesus’ life: his long hours in prayer.
This struggle is the rebellion of the forces of evil, demons that are in a person, in society, in the ideologies, even religious and civil institutions. They dominate and when they are harassed, they rebel. Preaching that does not cast out demons, leaving things as they are, that does not change the person and the world, is not the word of Jesus.
he passage opens with a brief introduction wherein Jesus goes in the villages of the Galilean mountains and preaches the gospel. “The time is fulfilled—he said—and the kingdom of God has come; Repent and believe the gospel” (vv. 14-15).
This is the first sentence he says and it is the synthesis of all his message.
Before taking up readings from the Gospel of Mark for Year B, the Lectionary lingers for one more Sunday on the introduction to Jesus’ public life. The First Reading and the Gospel find a certain unity around the idea of “vocation”.
One day, Jesus also appeared among the sinners. He came from Galilee, the region inhabited by Israelites believed to be semi-pagans by the religious aristocracy of Jerusalem. He went down into the water along with the sinners to show his desire to share their condition. He was beside them accompanying them in their exodus from slavery to freedom.
«The Word of God became flesh». God isn’t mute. God hasn’t stayed silent, enclosed forever in Mystery. God has desired to communicate Self with us. God wants to speak with us, tell us of God’s love, explain God’s project. Jesus is simply the Project of God made flesh.
The council taught us to look upon Mary as a “figure” of the Church, that is, as the Church’s perfect exemplar, as the first fruits of the Church. But can Mary be a model of the Church even as “Mother of God,” the title with which she is honored this day? Can we become mothers of Christ?
There would have been tears, I think. If Simeon had waited all those years for the Lord, if Anna were a widow and so advanced in age, they would have shed tears when the saw the Infant King, certainly when they were allowed to hold him.
An ancient custom for the feast of Christmas foresees three Masses, called respectively “at night,” “at dawn,” “during the day.” In each Mass, through readings that vary, a different aspect of the mystery is presented, in such a way that we get, so to speak, a three-dimensional vision.
With her “fiat” (yes), Mary conceived Jesus under her heart. With our fiat we conceive Him in our hearts. Mary teaches us to say the great word “Yes, fiat, O Lord, thy will be done.”
Opening the Word: Rejoice always.
We cannot yet see the Lord, but we celebrate the fact that union with him is our eternal destiny
Mary made her life beautiful. Not appearances, not what is fleeting, but the heart directed toward God makes life beautiful. Today let us look joyfully at her, full of grace. Let us ask her to help us to remain youthful, by saying ‘no’ to sin, and to live a beautiful life, by saying ‘yes’ to God.
We wait for him, yet we go out into the wilderness to find him. We wait for him but we prepare the way for him. We can do nothing to force him to come, yet we must do everything to make ready for him.
To be alert and to keep watch are the keywords of this passage from the Gospel of St Mark. They are repeated with an almost excessive insistence: “Be alert and watch!” (v. 33), “he orders the doorkeeper to stay awake” (v. 34), “so stay awake” (v. 35), “I say to all: stay awake!” (v. 37).
Shortly before His Passion Jesus exclaimed with joy, “In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world!” (Jn 6. 33). This is the language well-suited to a King reassuring His followers that He’s so confident that already He has triumphed!
Matthew wants to encourage his community to a test. He invited them to ask themselves first if they are aware of the treasure they have in hand, to check if all the “talents” are used for the best or if any gift is hidden underground, if there are neglected aspects of the ecclesial life
In the new version—the one adapted by Matthew for his community—the ten virgins do not indicate Israel any longer, but the Church that awaits the return of her Lord, her Bridegroom.
Let us ask ourselves which side we are on: that of heaven or that of earth? Do we live for the Lord or for ourselves, for eternal happiness or for some immediate gratification? Let us ask ourselves: do we truly want holiness? Or are we content with being Christians without infamy and without praise?
The rabbis of Jesus’ time, in studying the Bible, had come to discover 613 commandments, 365 (such as days of the year) of which were negative, i.e., forbidden actions, and 248 (like the limbs of the human body) were positive, namely, works to be done.
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.
This sentence is one of the most famous, but also the most enigmatic. It is not easy to establish the meaning, so it is not always mentioned apropos.
“In the afterlife, the Holy One, may He be blessed, will have a dance for the righteous in Gan Eden and will sit in their midst, and each will point to him saying: behold, he is our God, as we expected him, we will enjoy his salvation.”
The happy news which concludes the Gospel (v. 43) is that, despite all the refusals of people, in the end, God always finds the way to achieve his purpose and to obtain the good fruit he wants.
The third child exists, but we are not that child. Only “the Son of God, Jesus Christ—Paul writes—was not ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ but with him, it was simply ‘yes.’ In him, all the promises of God have come to be a ‘yes’”. He is the one who always said: “Yes, Father, this was your gracious will”.
The parable is the clearest and provocative denouncement that can be imagined of the religion of merits taught by the spiritual guides of Israel (and supported by many even today).
The obligation to forgive was restricted to the members of the people of Israel and was limited. No more than three times—the rabbis affirmatively agreed—on the fourth, one had to resort to legal remedies.
The truth that does not produce love, but causes anxiety, creates dissension, hatred, and resentment is a lie. The truth that kills is evil; it comes from the evil one, “who has been a murderer from the beginning. He is a liar and the father of lies”
Three imperatives characterize the radicality of a choice that does not admit delays nor second thoughts:“Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me.” Three imperatives characterize the radicality of a choice that does not admit delays nor second thoughts:“Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me.”
Even God is “jealous” because no one more than him is enamored of the human being. A disciple is one who has understood that he is unique, as unique as the person to whom one falls in love, to whom one trusts and for whom one is willing to do anything.
The evangelist relates the dialogue between Jesus and the woman. He sounds almost delighted to emphasize the increasingly harsh tone of the Master’s responses. In front of the woman’s request for help, he takes a dismissive attitude: not worthy of a look, not addressing her even a word (v. 23). Then the apostles, a little annoyed, intervene…
“Come to me now—the Risen Lord repeats to every disciple. Do not be afraid of losing your life. If you hesitate, death will make you afraid. If you trust my word, the waters of death will not scare you, and you will cross over and catch up with me in the resurrection.”
Jesus asks the disciples to give him what he has, even if it seems little to him. Five loaves and two fish—seven pieces of food—are the symbol of totality. Nothing is held back; the generosity should have no limits.
There is but a behavior to assume in front of this gift. Whoever finds it out should not hesitate, be perplexed or doubt. If one hesitates, he loses precious time, a favorable opportunity may escape and not return. The decision must be taken urgently; the choice cannot be delayed. One cannot miss the appointment with the Lord.
With three other parables, Jesus gradually reveals the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. The first—that of the wheat and the tares (vv. 24-30)—gets an explanation. This is a preacher’s sermon at the time of Matthew. The two other parables—that of the mustard seed and the leaven (vv. 31-33)—are told to emphasize the irresistible force of good.
Jesus tells this parable in a difficult moment of his life. In Nazareth, he is cast out, in Capernaum, he is taken as mad, the Pharisees want to kill him, and the disciples abandon him. It just seems that all his preaching has fallen in vain. The conditions are too unfavorable; his word seems destined to die
Jesus is presented as meek and humble of heart. These are the terms that we find in the Beatitudes. They do not indicate the timid, the meek, the quiet, but those who are poor and oppressed, those who, while suffering injustice, do not resort to violence.
The second of the five discourses of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew develops the themes related to sending of the disciples to a mission. Today we are offered the concluding passage.
This Sunday’s Gospel contains a number of ideas but they all can be summarized in this apparently contradictory phrase: “Have fear but do not be afraid.” Jesus says: “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear rather him who has the power to make both the soul and the body perish in Gehenna.”
Today, to each of us, the word of God says, Remember! Remembrance of the Lord’s deeds guided and strengthened his people’s journey through the desert; remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation. Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost”(v. 16). It can be considered the summit reached by the biblical revelation on the meaning of creation, life and human destiny.
The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church and every Christian. He animates us and gifts us with the charisms for the good of the society. He helps us relate to one another as sisters and brothers of Christ, thus uniting us into one body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the union and understanding among peoples.
Unlike Luke and John, he places the encounter with the Risen not in Jerusalem but in Galilee. This geographical setting has a theological value: the evangelist wants to say that the mission of the apostles begins where their Master had begun.
Even today’s Gospel, like last Sunday’s, is taken from the first of three farewell speeches given by Jesus at the Last Supper. The disciples have understood that Jesus is leaving them. They are sad and they ask themselves how they could continue to be united and to love him if he is gone.
The passage in today’s Gospel is taken from the first of three farewell speeches pronounced by Jesus at the Last Supper after Judas went out to implement his intention of treason. They are called so because in them Jesus seems to dictate his last will, before facing his passion and death.
To say—as Luke does in the story of the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:8)—that those who stood guard “watched” is not entirely accurate. In fact, armed with a stick, he was positioned at the entrance of the fold—that had no door. He squatted and, in that position, blocking the access, he himself became “the door.”
Why couldn’t they recognize Jesus in the traveler? What sense has a miracle of this kind: is it used to create suspense? One notices that the text does not say that Jesus was hidden under a false guise, but that their eyes were kept from recognizing him … and it will be important to establish the reason for this blindness.
Today’s passage is divided into two parts corresponding to the appearances of the Risen One. In the first (vv. 19-23), Jesus communicates his Spirit to his disciples. With that, he gives them the power to overcome the forces of evil. In the second (vv. 24-31), the famous episode of Thomas is told.
What does the Church tell us today before so many tragedies? Simply this: the discarded stone is not really discarded. The pebbles which believe and stick to that stone are not discarded. They have meaning and it is with this sentiment that the Church repeats from the bottom of Her heart: “Christ is Risen”.
All the evangelists devote much space to the story of the passion and death of Jesus. The facts are basically the same, though narrated in different ways and with different perspectives. Each evangelist presents his own episodes and details of choice, underscoring different aspects.
It is painful to be left by a friend, but it is selfish to want to hold on to him. It would be like preventing a child to be born. “Untie, let him go”—Jesus sweetly repeats today to every disciple who does not resign himself to the death of a brother or a sister.
We need believers of the truth, attentive to life and sensitive to the problems people have, seekers of God who are capable of listening and accompanying respectfully the great number of men and women who are suffering, who seek and don’t find a way to live that is more human and more believing.
The Bible tells many of these meetings at the well. The one read in today’s Gospel has Jesus and a Samaritan woman as protagonists. The well mentioned still exists. It is located along the road that leads from Judea to Galilee. It is more than three thousand years, is very deep (32 m) and still gives good and fresh water, as in the time of Jesus.
Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain where we meet many brothers weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual.
And please, do not forget — do not forget! — what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone. Think about this: the Bible always with us, close to us!
Some sages of antiquity have proposed high morals: “Behave in such a way as to turn your enemies into friends” (Diogenes). “It is proper to man to love also those who persecute him” (Marcus Aurelius), but the imperative “Love your enemies” is an invention of Jesus.
In truth, the term “Law” does not translate exactly the Hebrew word “Torah” that is derived from the root word iarah. It indicates the act of shooting an arrow to show the direction. Even on the roads, we orient ourselves by following “arrows,” signage.
Calling his disciples “light of the world” Jesus declares that the mission entrusted by God to Israel was destined to continue through them. It would have appeared in all its glory in their works of concrete, verifiable love. These are works that Jesus recommends to “show.”
Mary and Joseph take him in the temple and consecrate him to the Lord: they recognize that he is the Lord’s. They will never withhold him for themselves; they will prepare him to deliver him as a gift to the world—in the time appointed by God.
Today’s Gospel is made up of three parts. First of all, with a quotation from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus’ activity in Galilee is introduced (vv. 12-17). Then there is the vocation story of the first four disciples (vv. 18-22). Finally, the activity of Jesus is summed up in one sentence (v. 23).
There’s something that comes first and is more decisive: tell the story of the person Jesus in the communities, help believers to put themselves in direct contact with the Gospel, teach how to know and love Jesus, learn together to live his way of life and his spirit.