This was the manifestation of the Lord to the disciples gathered on Easter night. Thomas was missing. Eight days later, therefore, on the Lord's day, Sunday, When the community gathered, Thomas was also there. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’”
On this Good Friday, the liturgy brings us to reflect on the passion of Jesus, as narrated by the evangelist John. We are going to comment on an episode that only this evangelist narrates. The dialogue between Jesus and Pilate on royalty. Who was Pilate? A character that today nobody remembers but the name, were it not for that Friday, April 7, year 30, On the vigil of the Passover, he met Jesus and had to pronounce a sentence, that was his condemnation to death.
The synoptic Gospels devote few verses to the telling of the Last Supper. The Evangelist John dedicates to the Last Supper 5 chapters, almost a quarter of his work. And these five chapters contain a long discourse that Jesus makes to his disciples. It is important to understand the literary genre of this discourse.
Today we will approach the account that we find in Mark, which preserves practically to the letter that primitive account so loved by the first community. And, for that reason, I would say that it is with an attitude full of emotion that we approach this page and we can even imagine listening to it, standing, among Christians of the first community of Jerusalem. We will dwell on just a few details that are present only in Mark's account.
An angel appeared "to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; the virgin's name was Mary." Twice it is insisted on this condition of Mary. Biological virginity is out of the question. The virgin birth of the Son of God is out of the question. The Church has always believed in this sign, in this creative gesture of God who wanted to give the signal that the only begotten Son of the Most High, of the Father of heaven has entered into the world.
We don't know through whom, but this group of Greeks heard about Jesus and they felt an impulse to go to the sanctuary that led them to go to him and in fact we see them walking away from that handrail and going in search of Jesus. They don't know that, but it is the Spirit that leads them to the new and true sanctuary where they can really meet the Lord.
Joseph, the husband of Mary, detached from himself and from their projects, he is available at all times, as the patriarchs, to accept the will of the Lord. This is why God made him partaker of his dreams. He had no visions; he heard only words. In reflection and prayer, he discovered the heavenly dreams about his family. He understood of being called to serve a sublime mission: to convey to Mary and the child of God who took his first steps in this world, the will of the Father who is in heaven.
Nicodemus is not one who wastes time with useless conversations. It also happens today that sometimes questions are addressed to the priest on theological subtleties or marginal subjects, questions that are sometimes asked only to avoid entering into the deeper and truer problems of our existence, those on which the gospel insists.
The Gospel passage of this third Sunday of Lent confronts us with a rather embarrassing scene, especially for the most devout people who are used to imagine Jesus always tender, sweet, affectionate, and today instead they find him angry, with a whip in his hand that drives away the sellers and buyers from the temple.
Every year on the second Sunday of Lent, we are offered the subject of Jesus’ Transfiguration. The message of this passage is not immediately clear or easy to grasp because it is transmitted in symbolic language and with images that require an explanation. The scene is set in a secluded place, on a high mountain where Jesus led three of his disciples (v. 2). They will be the same witnesses of his agony in Gethsemane (Mk 14:33). Mark stresses the fact that they were alone.
Recently I received a letter from a woman whose life, in effect, had imploded. Within the course of a few months, her husband divorced her, she lost her job, was forced to move from the house she had lived in for many years, was locked down in her new place by Covid restrictions, and was diagnosed with a cancer which might be untreatable. It was all too much.
It is the serene image of God's response to people's sin: not a frowning face, but a band of light as sweet as a caress; not a menacing voice, but a welcoming smile, for those who, having forsaken the Lord, have tragically harmed themselves. The ambivalence of the arc, or the bow, expresses a paradox: the wrath of God is nothing but his smile and his severity coincides with tenderness.
Lent is a privileged time to return to ourselves, to nourish and to let the divine grow within us. It is a time to listen to God’s Word. It is not a superficial, distracted listening, almost fearful that the message will penetrate too deeply into the mind and heart, causing a disturbance, but a deeper listening that requires radical changes of direction in our lives.
The spiritual leaders of Israel have categorized people into clean and unclean, just and sinners. But does God accept this discrimination? And when it is done, on which side is God? The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ encounters with the lepers go far beyond this narrative.
Why is man destined to suffer? The traditional response of Israel to this puzzle is the doctrine of retribution that Eliphaz, the friend of Job, sums up: “Have you seen a guiltless man perish, or an upright man done away with? Those who plow evil or those who sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8).
Forty days have passed since Christmas and it may be that the Star of Bethlehem that “we have seen in its rising,” has been a bit blurred. It does not fascinate us more as then or is no longer the only one to get our attention. Perhaps we’ve let ourselves be enchanted by other more striking and concrete stars, by other stars that better reflect our dreams and our expectations. That’s why the church makes us meet again that Child: she invites us to welcome him in our arms.
In the possessed person who stayed good up to the clash with Christ, we can grasp the ability not only of the scribes, but also of many Christians, to appease the protagonist of evil. They compromise with power, yield to the spirit of the world and hypocrisy, and reduce religion to rituals observed at the expense of the substance of the gospel. As long as they persist in the Christian community and in the church, the evil one is silent and lets things continue.
The story of the call of James and John seems to be a repetition of the previous one. Why does Mark tell it to us? Because it is an important message for us. Jesus meets with all kinds of people and therefore, with us too, in the condition in which we find ourselves, with the profession we are carrying out and it is not that it makes us change our profession, he makes us live our life in a radically different way.
Today's gospel passage begins with a time indication "The next day." Spontaneously we wonder what happened the day before. The Baptist was still on stage and it seems that he was alone, there doesn't seem to have anyone at his side. "Seeing Jesus pass by, he says: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He was not addressing anyone in particular because it seems that only he and Jesus were present.