In today’s Gospel Matthew describes John the Baptist as an austere man (v. 4). His food was simple like that of the inhabitants of the desert. His dress was rough, a leather belt around his waist that distinguished Elijah (2 Kg 1:8), and a fur cloak—a uniform of the prophets (Zec 13:4). The whole person of John the Baptist was a condemnation and denunciation of the opulent society—then as now.
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To keep watch means being able to discern, to be able to grasp this judgment that comes on time, although in the most unexpected ways and times.“Make me follow, O Lord, your judgments”
Jesus begins to travel through towns and villages announcing everywhere: The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is imminent (Mk 1:15). At times he says: The kingdom of God is already in your midst (Lk 17:21). The kingdom is the center of the preaching of Jesus: in fact, the New Testament mentions the theme of the kingdom of God 122 times and Jesus says it as many as 90 times himself.
Using apocalyptic language and images, Jesus wants to remove the veil that prevents us from seeing the world through the eyes of God. When he seems to announce the end of the cosmos, he is not referring to the end of the world, but helping us to understand the end of the world. Apocalypse does not mean catastrophe, but revelation, unveiling.
Men of all ages have been confronted with the distressing enigma of death and have tried in every way to overcome or at least to exorcise it. God gave an answer to these questions: “The Christian hope—said Tertullian, the famous father of the Church of the second century—is the resurrection of the dead; all that we are, we are because we believe in the resurrection.”
The passage starts presenting the Master who enters Jericho and crosses the city accompanied by the crowd and the disciples (v. 1). At the entrance of the city, he has just cured a blind man who begged him: “Lord, that I may see” (Lk 18:35-43). The combination of these two facts is not random. The healing of the blind man and the “recovery” of Zacchaeus reflect and illuminate each other.
The word “saint” indicates the presence in the persons of a divine and beneficial force that allows one to stand out, to distance oneself from what is imperfect, weak, ephemeral. Among the people who appeared in this world, only Christ has possessed the fullness of this force of goodness and only he can be declared saint, as we sing in the Gloria: “You alone are holy.” But we, too, can rise up to him and become partakers of his holiness.
The listeners are “some who presumed of being righteous and despised the others.” They are not the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, but the Christians of Luke’s communities.The parable is directed to the Christians of all times because the idea of “meriting” before God is profoundly rooted in the person. No one is completely immune to this “leaven” which pollutes and corrupts the life of the community.
Prayer must not be a way to force God to do our will. Why are we invited to turn to him with insistence? What is the meaning of prayer? To these questions, Jesus responds today with a parable (vv. 1-5) and with application to the life of the community (vv. 6-8). The parable starts with the presentation of personages.
A new light brightened only in the mind and heart of the Samaritan: he understood that Jesus was more than a healer. In his act of salvation, the leper captured the message of God. He, the heretic who did not believe in the prophets, had surprisingly intuited that God has sent him, whom the prophets announced: He opens the eyes of the blind, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life and the lepers are made clean (Lk 7:22).
Increase our faith. The experience of an uncertain and vacillating faith happens everyday. We believe in Jesus, but we do not trust him totally. We don’t have the courage to accomplish certain passes, to untie ourselves from certain habits, to make certain renouncements. Here we have a faith that needs to strengthen itself.
Jesus considers both greeds of goods of this world and honestly earned wealth as almost insurmountable obstacles to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The deceitfulness of wealth chokes the seed of the Word (Mt 13:22); it tends to gradually conquer the whole human heart and leave no space for God nor for the neighbor.
People are not owners but administrators of God’s goods. This is an often insistently repeated affirmation of the church’s fathers. We recall one, Basil. “Aren’t you a thief when you consider your own the riches of this world; riches are given to you only to administer?”
In Jesus, God has experienced failure several times. Jerusalem has not corresponded to his love: “How often have I tried to bring together your children as a bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused” (Lk 13:34). In Nazareth he could not perform any miracle (Mk 6:5-6); the rich young man responds with a refusal (Mt 19:16-22).
The cross is the symbol of which Christians show their faith. Yet, for three centuries, they intentionally did not use the cross as a symbol of their faith. They were recognized in other symbols—the anchor, the fish, the loaves, the dove, the shepherd—but they were reluctant to depict the cross.
Until the end of the 3rd century, the Christian symbols were the anchor, the fisherman, the fish but never the cross. It will only be from the 4th century, with the famous discovery of the instrument of execution of Jesus by St. Helena, that the cross will become the symbol of victory, not on the enemies of Constantine at the Milvio Bridge but on death and all those that cause death. To choose the cross is to choose life.
The poor, even an enemy, must be loved because he is lovable, not out of compassion or assuming an attitude of haughty superiority (perhaps even only spiritual). Human eyes would never be able to see something lovable in these people if the word of the Lord does not purify the looks, does not cure our blindness. It is Jesus who makes us understand that if God loves every person, it means that in him there is always something wonderful.
The time of narrow nationalism is over; new, limitless horizons are wide open. The city must prepare to welcome all people who will come to her because all, not just Israel, are heirs of the blessings promised to Abraham. The image used by the prophet is delightful; it makes us almost visibly contemplate the whole humanity on the way to the hill on which Jerusalem is located. There the Lord has prepared “a feast of rich food and choice wines, fine wine strained” (Is 25:6).
“If the world hates you, remember that the world hated me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world because the world loves its own” (Jn 15:18-19). He calmed their perplexed and vacillating spirits recalling that a dramatic destiny puts together, for always, all the just ones. “Remember, that is how the ancestors of this people treated the prophets. Alas for you when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of these people treated the false prophets” (Lk 6:23,26).
The believers’ reflection on the fate of Mary after death continued to grow over the centuries. It led to the belief in her assumption and, on 1 November 1950, to the papal definition: “The Immaculate Conception Mother of God ever Virgin, finished the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”