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.
After this original introduction, Matthew, like Mark and Luke, describes the next scene with three images: the opening of the heavens, the dove, and the voice from heaven. He is not recalling remarkable facts he personally witnessed. He uses images well known to his readers, and the meaning is not difficult for us to grasp.
«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?
Forsome, today’s family is on its way to destruction because it has lost the traditional ideal of «Christian family». For others, any novelty is progress toward a new society. But how is a family open to the humanizing project of God? What features could we identify?
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.
The liturgy for today, the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent, is characterized by the theme of closeness, God’s closeness to humanity. The Gospel passage (cf. Mt 1:18-24) shows us two people, the two people who, more than anyone else, were involved in this mystery of love.
The Baptist is the figure of a true believer. He flounders in many perplexities, asks questions, but does not deny the Messiah because he does not match his own criteria. He calls into question his own beliefs.
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.
The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes for a good journey. The season of Advent, which we begin again today, restores this horizon of hope, a hope which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Word.
We try in every way to conform the image of Christ the King to that of the kings of this world. We do not want to believe that he wins in the moment in which he loses, in the moment he gives his life. This ruler who reigns from a cross disturbs us because he requires a radical change of the choices in our lives.
Luke wrote his Gospel around the year 85 A.D. In the fifty years that passed since the death and resurrection of Jesus, tremendous events occurred. There were wars, political revolutions, catastrophes and the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. Christians became victims of injustices and persecutions. How to explain these dramatic events?
The feature that is most disturbing about our age is the crisis of hope. We have lost sight of the horizon of a final Future, and the small hopes of this life end up not consoling us. This vacuum of hope is generating the loss of trust in this life for all too many people. Nothing is worth it.
Unlike what he did with the rich young man (Lk 18:18-23), Jesus did not ask Zacchaeus to “sell everything and to distribute his assets to the poor.” He did not reprimand him nor put any condition. He only asked to be welcomed.
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 parable of the Pharisee and the Publican usually awakens in many Christians a big rejection of the Pharisee who comes before God as someone arrogant and self-assured, along with a spontaneous sympathy for the Publican. Paradoxically, the story could awaken in us this sentiment: «I give you thanks, my God, that I’m not like this Pharisee».
The Lord alerts the community against this danger represented by discouragement and resignation of the thought that the Spouse is not coming any more to render justice. He will surely come, but will he find his chosen ones ready to welcome him? To someone, his slowness could cause a loss of faith!
It was said in the time of Jesus: “Four categories of persons are treated as dead: the poor, the leper, the blind, and the childless.” The lepers felt rejected by all: by people and by God.
The major trouble provoked by the religion of merits is to reduce God to an accountant in charge of maintaining the account books in order and signing accurately the debits and credits of each one. The parable wants to destroy this image of God.
Commenting on this parable, St. Ambrose said: “When you give something to the poor, you don’t offer him what is yours, you give back what is his because the earth and the goods of this world are of all people, not of the rich.”
The administrator was shrewd—says the Lord—because he understood on which to bet on: not on goods, products that he was entitled to, that could rot or be stolen, but on friends. He knew how to renounce the first in order to conquer for himself the second. This is the point.
Will we get on the road to God our Father? Many would do that if they would know that God who, according to Jesus’ parable, «ran to his son, clasped him in his arms and kissed him over and over». Those embraces and those kisses speak of God’s love better than every theology book written.
The Gospel reading for today is one of those that we would be tempted to smooth out and sweeten because it seems too hard for men of today: “If anyone follows me without hating his father, his mother.”
It is the eternal problem of the Church: everyone should serve, but, in practice, there is always someone who aspires for honorary titles, wants to excel, swells with pride and comes to transform even the Eucharist, an occasion for self-celebration. Here’s the cancer that destroys our communities!
Jesus did not want to scare with the threat of hell. His condemnation is directed against tepid, inconsistent, hypocritical life led today by many who consider themselves his disciples. Yet even in the face of his disturbing words, there are Christians who do not allow themselves to be touched by doubt that one day he will tell them: “I know you not.”
The message of Jesus is a fire and—logically—who has the goods to be protected, buildings to be preserved is not keen to see the arsonists. The Gospel is a burning torch that wants to reduce to an immense fire all the unjust structures, the inhuman situations, discrimination, greed of money, the frenzy of power.
Mary—the “handmaid of the Lord”—is presented today to all believers not as a privileged one, but as the most excellent model, as the sign of destiny that awaits every person who believes “that the Lord’s word would come true” (Lk 1:45).
A heart full of desire. We all have desires. The poor ones are those who have no desire, no desire to go forward, toward the horizon; and for us Christians this horizon is the encounter with Jesus, the very encounter with him, who is our life, our joy, our happiness.
Greed is not limited to wealth. It can take the form of the accumulation of anything unnecessary. For example, greed for power is almost as common as greed for wealth, and people can also be greedy for things like social connections or experiences. In each case, the thing desired becomes a counterfeit of life itself.
For Christians, God is the Father, by whom they have been thought of and loved “before being formed in secret, woven in the depths of the earth” (Ps 109:15). When they turn to him—standing (not kneeling)—they call him Father.
The passage ends with the words of Jesus to Martha (vv. 41-42), but it seems unfinished. The dialogue between the two should be continued, but Luke does not report it. He seems to want to draw the attention of his readers to another detail which can go unnoticed: the silence of Mary.
Incense, chants, endless prayers with which one tries to replace the concrete commitment in favor of the orphan, the widow, the oppressed are repugnant to God (Is 1:11-17). Jesus mentions several times the phrase of the prophet Hosea: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13; 12:7).
The purpose of the missioning: to prepare the city and the villages for the coming of the Lord. Jesus arrives after his messengers, not before. The task given to each apostle is not to represent himself, but to dispose the minds and hearts of the people to accept Christ in their lives.
Luke introduces the resolute decision of Jesus to go to Jerusalem, saying that he “sets his face hard.” It is a strong expression, taken from the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah puts it on the lips of the Servant of the Lord who declares his determination to fulfill his mission: “Like a flint I set my face” (Is 50:7).
Jesus did not leave us a statue, a photograph, a relic. He wanted to continue to be present among his disciples as nourishment. The food is not placed on the table to be contemplated but to be consumed.
It is the fifth time that, in John’s the Gospel, Jesus promises to send the Spirit, and says it will be the Spirit to carry out the project of the Father. Without his work people could never be able to accept salvation.
Now Jesus promises another Paraclete, who has not the task of replacing him, but to accomplish his very own mission. The Spirit is the Paraclete because comes to the rescue of the disciples in their struggle against the world, that is, against the forces of evil (Jn 16:7-11).
The certainty of the Ascension reverses our human perspective. While the years pass, the Christian is satisfied because he sees the days of the definitive encounter with Christ coming soon. He is happy to have lived, does not envy the young ones but looks at them with tenderness.
A hasty reading of today’s Gospel can give the impression of finding ourselves facing a series of unrelated sentences and the problems of our lives. The passage, however, is not at all confusing or abstract; it is only very dense. Let’s put it in simple terms.