All the evangelists devote so much space to the story of the passion and death of Jesus. The facts are basically the same, though narrated in different ways and different perspectives. Each evangelist also presents his own episodes, details, underscores. These reveal his attention and interest in certain topics of catechesis, considered significant and urgent for his community. Today’s version of the passion being proposed to us is that of Matthew.
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The tomb: a womb, no longer a grave. There’s a light that never sets. “When the gods formed mankind, they attributed death to humanity and withhold life in their hands.” These are the words that—in the famous Mesopotamian epic. “Although I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you, O Lord of life, are beside me.”
There’s a light that never sets. “The true light that enlightens everyone came into the world” (Jn 1:9). Christ came to dispel our darkness, to illuminate our nights, to usher in the family of the “children of light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5).
“You are the light of the world. Whoever follows you has the light of life.”
The Third Sunday of Lent presents the long Gospel account of the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan Woman at a well. I usually have to prepare a homily based on this Gospel every year since this is the Gospel for Masses with catechumens and candidates coming into the Church in the RCIA experience. But this is such a rich Gospel that I am still finding new aspects of it that preach to me. Then again, all scripture is alive, the Living Word of God.
Our own spiritual experience can help us to understand. After having spoken at length with God, we are not willing to go back to everyday life: the problems, social conflicts and family disagreements, the dramas we must confront frighten us, yet we know that listening to the word of God is not everything. It is necessary to go out to meet and serve the brothers and sisters, to help those who suffer, to be close to anyone in need of love.
The Bible invites us to consider the temptation in an original way: as an opportunity to assess the soundness of a person’s choices, an opportunity for growth. In temptation, the risk of making mistakes is also inherent. This danger is inevitable if one wants to mature, to become “experts,” “adepts”. These terms, in fact, do not mean other than “being tempted,” subjected to a test, an “exam.”
Unlike the Jewish moral, the Christian proposes an unattainable goal: the perfection of the Father who is in heaven (Mt 5:48). On the road to life, the accurate and detailed signpost of the Torah, with its well-defined commandments, remains behind. In front it opens up the endless horizon of the perfection of the Father and the way toward him is to be invented.
The Torah revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, however, was not the final word of God. On the Mount of the Beatitudes, Jesus has recognized its validity, but, considering only one phase, he indicated a new goal, a more distant and boundless horizon: the perfection of the Father who is in heaven. The one who does not practice the new justice, vastly superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, stops halfway and does not enter into the kingdom of God.
“Today, there is no more faith. Once there was so much.” A wonderful parable of Jesus (Mt 25:31-46) reveals how God’s way of evaluating is different from ours. Instead of paying attention to religious practices, loyalty to the traditions, the scrupulous observance of rites, God is interested in concrete adhesion to his plan of love for people.
The Bible guarantees a paradox: true and lasting joy is born of commitment, renunciation, self-denial, sacrifice and accompanied by pain. “Now I am glad to suffer for you,” says Paul to the Colossians (Col 1:24). To persecuted Christians, James recommends: “My brethren, consider it as the greatest happiness to have to endure various trials” (Jas 1:2). And Peter recognizes: “You … rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Pet 1:8).
The dream of God came true when a star appears in Israel, Christ the Lord, as the Lord has promised (Nm 24:17). His light drives away the darkness created by ancestral hates and convokes all the people in one family. This is the message of hope of the Epiphany, the feast of light.
Today's solemnity, Mary Mother of God, puts a deep theological focus on the Christmas celebration. Going back to our dogmatic theology, the study of the truths of the faith, we focus in on whom this Jesus is. By asking the who question, as distinguished from the what question, we are looking to the person of the Lord.
Merry Christmas, everyone. This is a beautiful time of the year. It is a time to celebrate family and friends, it is a time of warmth, a time of peace. Like most of you, I like driving at night through the subdivisions looking at Christmas lights. Although many people are trying to eliminate the religious significance of Christmas, the very existence of all the lights points to Jesus Christ. He is the Light of the World.
In the expression of John, “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14) the term flesh indicates not only the corporeality but the whole human being understood in its appearance of weakness, fragility, and limits imposed by the fact of being a creature.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (Jn 1:6). He was destined to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah. “Repent—he said—because the kingdom of the heaven is now at hand” (Mt 3:2).
A great Christmas present, an experience of God. You and I need to do this, because we have the blessing of being called into the Kingdom of God. Not by appearances does the Lord judge, but by justice, and kindness, and the determination to let the presence of God prepare others to enter His Kingdom. This is justice. And this justice will transform the world. That is our Advent Hope.
Stay Awake and Hope. This week we begin the Church year with a call to stay awake. Paul tells us in Romans 13, our second reading, that we must wake from our sleep because our salvation is nearer now then when we first believed.
Starting as a small seed, the kingdom is destined to grow and become a tree (Mt 1:31-32). It is gifted with an irresistible force and will provoke a radical transformation of the world and of the people. The kingship of Jesus is difficult to understand. It has sent Pilate’s head in a tilt (Jn 18:33-38). It’s too different from those of this world. It has been misunderstood many times over the centuries!
By Patient Endurance You Will Live. That phrase, "patient endurance" is the New Testament catch word for martyrdom. By patient endurance we will be saved. By becoming martyrs we will be saved. We Christians are called to martyrdom. That is the challenging part of today's Gospel. We must become witnesses to Jesus Christ, martyrs, to be saved.