Various symbols are used in the Bible to describe God’s love for his people. He is the liberator, ally, King, pastor … The prophet Hosea introduces another image—the most expressive of all—that of matrimony: the Lord is the bridegroom, his bride is Israel. The Israelites took a bit of time to apply it to their God (and the same happened to the image of “father”)
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Today’s Gospel opens with a significant finding, “the people were in expectation.” It is easy to imagine what they are waiting for: the slave expected freedom, the poor a new condition of life, the exploited laborer hoped for justice, the sick healing, and the humiliated and raped woman the recovery of dignity. All aspired a new world; they hoped that among people abuses, distortions, mistreatment would disappear and rapports of peace installed.
Matthew writes in the A.D. 80s and what does he verify? He notes that the heathens entered en masse in the church. They recognized and adored the star, while the Jews, who were waiting for so many centuries, refused him. The story of the magi is, therefore, a “parable” of what was happening in the Christian community at the end of the first century. The pagans who sought the truth with honesty and perseverance have received from God the light to find it.
The readings reflect a variety of themes: the blessing to begin well the New Year (First Reading); Mary, model of every mother and disciple (Gospel); peace (First Reading and the Gospel); the divine sonship (Second Reading); amazement before God’s love (Gospel); the name with which God wishes to be identified and invoked (First Reading and the Gospel).
The family is the privileged place for training and education, but not the only one. There is a community in which the child is integrated into so that in it he grows, matures, meets brothers and sisters, and learns acceptance, free availability, collaboration, tolerance, and forgiveness. The family wanted by God is open, is a step towards the ultimate goal. It is a springboard from which to project oneself into the family of the heavenly Father.
At Christmas, God reveals the immensity of His unconditional love. This is his justice. All people are invited to contemplate with wonder and let themselves be free from fear because "there is no fear in love. Perfect love drives away fear, for fear has to do with punishment: those who fear do not know perfect love"(1 Jn 4:18).
Today’s readings present us with a series of situations and insignificant characters in which God has done wonders. They are an invitation to recognize—as Mary did—our poverty and to dispose ourselves to receive the work of salvation which the Lord comes to realize.
Last Sunday the Baptist invited us to review our relationship with God if we want to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He called for a change in thinking and acting for the forgiveness of sins (Lk 1:3). Today he focuses on the new relationship that must be established with the neighbor. Love, solidarity, sharing, removal of inequities and abuses of power are the key words of his speech.
The transformation of mourning into joy—says Baruch—will be visible to all. God will make manifest the glory of Jerusalem renewed “to every creature under heaven” and this will be the sign that nothing is impossible for his love. Hosea—the prophet who first used the image of Israel as the bride of the Lord—alluded to another prodigy.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception—defined by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854—has been formulated with a language linked to the philosophical and theological categories of time, a difficult to understand language for the twenty-first century man and woman. If the dogma wants to have something to say to us today, we must re-read it in the light of biblical revelation.
Today’s Gospel invites everyone “to lift up the head.” There’s no chaos from which God cannot obtain a new and wonderful world. This world is born the instant we allow God to fulfill his Advent in our lives. In the face of evil forces that seem to always get the better, in addition to discouragement there is the danger of escape, the search for palliatives, bogus solutions (vv. 34-35).
Jesus is there, at the top, for all to contemplate, lit by the sun shining in all its glory; he is silent, does not add a word because he has already explained everything. He waits for everyone to rule and make their choice. One can bet on the greatness, the majesty of this world, or follow him, giving up all goods and preferring defeat for love. The success or failure of a life depends on this choice.
Even one who is poor, like the widow in today’s Gospel, is called to give everything. There is no one so poor that they don’t have something to offer, and no one so rich that they don’t need to receive from others. God has lavished gifts on his children, following the example of the Father who is in heaven, they do not retain them for themselves but put them at the disposal of others.
Only after realizing this everlasting and free love, Israel felt the need to respond to it and understood that a God who loves so unconditionally, has the right to control even the heart and also to demand what seems humanly impossible, “If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink” (Pro25:21).
In the past, the Saints have enjoyed a tremendous popularity: the churches were full of their statues and recourse to them was perhaps more than to God. The saints—Mary too—are rightly regarded as sisters and brothers who, with their lives indicate a path to follow Christ and invite us to pray all the time, along with them, to the one Father.
Homer could see, but is depicted blind. He was the symbol of inspired men, of those who, to penetrate deep truths, hidden from ordinary mortals, must close their eyes to the reality of this world. In ancient Greece, even the wise men, soothsayers, the rhapsodes were believed to be blind. They had to take themselves away from the deceptive appearances, ignoring the earthly flashes, to catch the light and the thoughts of the gods.
James and John explicitly claim to be high up to the sky, to be able to command also there. This is the most blatant and most blind of the arrogances, showing where the will to command, inherent in the human heart, can lead.
In Mark, the story bitterly ends: the rich young man chooses to stay with his goods. He dares not trust the proposal of Jesus, not bringing himself to take risks, afraid of losing everything, and sadly, he walks away. He was afflicted because he could not break away from the goods. He does not realize that the human heart is made for infinite love and as long as one is the slave of things he cannot but be disappointed and unhappy.
The love between man and woman, contracted “in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39), is “indissoluble” (v. 24). This is not a law because the use of precepts is always the declaration of a loss of love, but the discovery of the intimate and profound reality of love which, by its nature, cannot die. It is “a divine flame no flood can extinguish,” is a participation in the love of God, love that is able to withstand any test, immovable as a solid rock that “no river can submerge it” (Song 8:7).
The conflicts, divisions, schisms in the Church are always derived from pride, lust for power and the desire to dominate others. The scandal, that even today, takes away the “small” from the Church, remains the same: the unedifying spectacle of competition and intrigues to fill the top positions and gain privileges.