The loved one experiences an irrepressible need to be at the side of the man she loves. In the silence of the night, she thinks of him. She says his name and dreams his caresses: “His left hand is under my head and his right hand embraces me” (Song 8:3). She is desolate unless she receives a message from him. When she hears his voice she is seized by a tremor. She runs to open, turns the lock and unlocks the door. But the loved one is not there anymore. He turns, goes, and disappears and my soul goes after him (Song 5:5-6).
“They have taken away my Lord,”—Mary Magdalen exclaims through her tears. The two disciples of Emmaus walk sadly. The women bow their faces to the ground, looking for him who is alive at the tomb (Lk 24:5). They are the living portrait of the community that does not notice any longer “the beloved of her heart.” With him every night was transformed into light, the sunset a prelude to dawn, the pain in the announcement of a birth, tears in the blossoming of a smile.
“Stay with us”—the bride begs—when the Lord appears to act “as if he were going farther.” He promised to stay with her, every day, until the end of the world (Mt 28:20). Why does he leave her alone? But it is not he who turns away, she is the one incapable of recognizing him.
As soon as he begins to explain the Scriptures, her heart starts to burn. As the beloved in the Song of Songs, she recognizes the voice of her beloved, and at the breaking of the bread, her eyes light up and recognize him. He had not left her, and will never leave her.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Make us hear your voice in the Scriptures, and that we recognize you in the breaking of the bread.”
The pharaoh questions them about their occupations. Joseph’s brothers say, “Your servants are shepherds as were our fathers before us” (Gen 47:3). The patriarchs were shepherds. Moses was the keeper of flocks and David was taken from the pastures while following the sheep (1 Chr 17:7).
Throughout the ancient Middle East, the ruler who takes care of his people is imagined as a shepherd. In the Mesopotamian inscriptions “to pasture” is commonly used in the sense of “govern”. The pharaoh was called the “the shepherd of all nations,” “shepherd who watches over his subjects” and, as a symbol of his power, he was holding the crook.
In Israel, this image is applied to military and political leaders, and also to God. The invocation “Listen, O shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock” (Ps 80:2) is moving. The famous song “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1) communicates a delicious sensation of security.
Surprisingly, no text of the Old Testament says that the reigning king is designated as a “shepherd.” This title is reserved for a single king, the future Messiah, a descendant of David. After having uttered harsh words of condemnation against the rulers who have led the people to ruin, the Lord promises to personally assume the office of shepherd, to gather the scattered flock, to lead it to the pasture and announces: “Over them I will put one shepherd, my servant David who will tend them and be a true shepherd among them” (Ez 34:23-24).
The prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “We were going astray like sheep, we now have a shepherd who guides us.”
One of the characteristics of the primitive community described in the Acts of the Apostles is the absence of classes, titles, honorifics, greater prestige or recognized dignity of some eminent member.
All believers are considered on a level of equality. No one would be called rabbi because there was only one Master and they were only disciples. They felt themselves brothers and no one claimed the title of father. They knew the fact of having one Father in heaven (Mt 23:8-10).
They neither knew degrees in terms of holiness. “Saints” was the collective title which they were fond of calling themselves. Paul addresses his letter “to the saints in Philippi…” (Phil 1:1), “to the saints in Ephesus” (Eph 1:1) “to all of you, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy” (Rom 1:7).
Yet a difference was recognized and held in high esteem: that of the ministry of service that each was called to play in favor of the brothers and sisters.
The only Spirit—Paul reminds the Corinthians—enriches the community with diverse and complementary gifts: “to one he gives the language of science, to another that of wisdom, to another faith, to another the gift of healing. Another works miracles, another speaks in tongues and still, another interprets “all for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7-11).
Peter recommended to “serve one another with the gifts each of you received thus becoming good managers of the varied graces of God” (1 Pt 4:10).
With this ministerial church, “whose cornerstone is Christ and whose foundations are the apostles” (Eph 2:20), our current communities are called to confront themselves.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Let not the gifts that you have given swell us with pride, but the will to serve the brethren.”
We usually imagine the Spirit as something invisible, intangible, quite the opposite of what is material. This way of understanding it is not biblical. The Spirit is very real, is a breath, a strong breath. God is Spirit inasmuch as there is in him an overwhelming and uncontrollable force, similar to the strong wind. The dream of man is to be made partaker of this Spirit.
The rabbis taught that in man there are two tendencies: a bad one born at the time of conception and a good one that is manifested only at the age of thirteen. The evil inclination exercises its power ever since man is in the embryo and can dominate him until the seventies and even eighties. How to resist them?
The rabbis gave these tips: “God created the evil inclination and the Torah, the Law, as an antidote to it. If you engaged yourself with the Torah you will not fall into its power.” “If a despicable temptation comes to you, drag it to the house where the Torah is studied.” “When you engage yourself with the Torah, your evil inclination is given to your power and not you in the power of evil.”
If you were wrong then the Torah is like a signposting: it indicates the right direction, but it does not move the car. This needs a driving force that leads it to the destination.
Jesus has not taught only “the way”. He communicated his Spirit, his force to reach the goal.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Create in us, O Lord, a new heart, infuse in us your Holy Spirit.”