We can see some things; others elude us. The scientific knowledge that allows us to examine, monitor, quantify everything that is material is growing at breakneck pace. They make us curious, thrilled and feel proud to the point of inducing some to believe that only what can be seen with the eyes, observed with the senses, checked with the laboratory instrument is true.
But the presumption of having the control over all reality stems from a lack of vision, from blurring the interior and spiritual sight that allows us to glimpse into the mysteries of God, the meaning of life and death, and the ultimate fate of human history.
There is also another kind of blindness, that of those who are convinced that they have the light and ability to give the right value to everything: money, success, career, sexuality, health and sickness, youth and old age, family, children… but draw their confidence from the scale of values of this world. They have deducted—perhaps without realizing it—by instincts and emotions of the moment, the calculations involved, ideologies and economic systems contaminated by sin, from the gossip room: false lights, unreliable sparkles, wisps and misleading glows.
“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).
To internalize the message, we repeat: “You are the light of the world. Whoever follows you has the light of life.”
“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—the tavern-keeper Siduri addressed to Gilgamesh who is in desperate search of the tree of life. Dejected, the hero realizes that he has to resign himself: to die is to leave for the “land of no return.” Darkness, silence, oblivion wrap the abode of the dead according to the Jewish conception. It is hard to find in the Old Testament some hints of the soul’s immortality and the resurrection of the dead. Those few texts, of course, were not written before the second century B.C.
Job said: “There is hope for a tree: if cut down it will sprout again; its new shoots will still appear. But when man is cut down, he comes undone: he breathes his last—where will he be? The waters of the sea may disappear, rivers drain away, but the one who lies down will not rise again; the heavens will vanish before he wakes, before he rises from his sleep” (Job 14:7-12). This dejection flowed in an elegy on the mouth of the Psalmist: “You allow me to live but short span; before you, all my years are nothing. Human existence is a mere whiff of breath. Turn from me a while, that I may find relief, before I depart and be no more” (Ps 39:6,14).
So the more enlightened spirit of antiquity expressed their bewilderment, anguish, and loss in front of the transience of life. The Bible has preserved the memory of their disorientation and concerns to remind us how dense were the darkness of the tomb, before the light of Easter shine on the world.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Although I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you, O Lord of life, are beside me.”
Jesus is at table with the Twelve and, while they are having dinner, he turns to them, saying, “One of you will betray me.” Then they, deeply saddened, begin to ask him, one by one, “Surely not I, Lord?” Judas, the traitor, says, “Is it I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it” (Mt 26:20-25).
One should know if he is a traitor or not; what need is there to ask Christ? Judas is hypocritical until the end but why do the others ask, “Is it I?”
If things had gone just in this way, the response of Jesus that unmasks the traitor would have been followed by the immediate reaction of the eleven and the settling of accounts with the culprit. Instead, dinner quietly resumes.
One pastoral concern moves Matthew to place the question on the lips of everyone present. He wants every Christian to continue to ask the question: Am I a traitor?
Judas is the symbol of the anti-disciple, one who cultivates projects opposite to those of Jesus. He is one who is willing to betray his faith for the sake of money. He is ready to place himself at the head of those who struggle against the forces of good.
The true disciple does not illude himself to be immuned from this danger. He knows his own frailty; he knows that can easily become self-deluded and, perhaps in good faith transforms himself a traitor, siding against the Master, playing the game of the enemies of life.
Only the constant comparison with the word of God and the supreme gesture of his love can prevent naive, arrogant certainties and tragic illusions.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Only those who respond to hatred with love introduces in the world a novelty and a principle of life.”