Faith is often sorely tested by the absurdity of certain situations, events that seem to prove the absence of God, or at least his lack of interest in what is happening in the world. The psalmists dare direct him almost blasphemous accusations: “Why have you forsaken me? I invoke you and you do not answer” (Ps 22:2 ). “How long, Lord, will you forget me?” (Ps 13:2).
It is what the mystics call the “dark night” in which all certainty and even hope falter. It is the case—and I quote one example among many—of Therese of Lisieux, who, at the end of her life, heard a mocking voice inwardly repeating: “You think you can get out of the clouds that surround you. No, death will not give you what you hope for, but an even darker night, the night of nothingness.”
What does God prove in the face of our anguish, doubts, torments? Is he sensitive to our pain?
God responds to these questions with a question: Can a mother forget her child ? “Then, like realizing that not even this comparison expresses his true love and his concern for man, God said:”Can a woman forget the baby at her breast? Yet though she forget, I will never forget you.” (Is 49:15).
The maternal image is effective that is why it is resumed: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Is 66:13). The promise of Sirach is moving: “Then you will be like a son of the Most High and he will love you more than your own mother” (Sir 4:10).
Hard to believe at times, but one day we will find that it was true.
To internalize the message, we will repeat
“I am calm and serene, like a weaned child in the arms of its mother.”
“Lord I am not worthy”—we repeat before receiving communion, aware that the union with Christ in the Eucharist involves the sharing of his chosen lifestyle. For this we say with all sincerity: “I’m not worthy,” that is, I know I can’t become bread broken, blood shed without reserve like you, for the brethren. I know that I will not have the strength to let myself “be consumed” by them. I just come to beg your Spirit.”
The observance of the precepts of the Old Testament was difficult, but not impossible. The goal indicated by the Torah was beyond the reach of man. With justifiable pride, the psalmist could declare: “For I have been faithful to the Lord’s way and have not departed from my God.” (Ps 18:22-23); Zechariah and Elizabeth “blamelessly observed all the laws and ordinances of the Lord” (Lk 1:6); Ananias was “a devout man of the law” (Acts 22:12).
Unlike the Jewish moral, the Christian one instead proposes an unattainable goal: 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. Every moment the heart of man is guided by the promptings of the Spirit, which suggests how to respond to the needs of the brother.
Jesus proceeds fast (Lk 9:51) while the steps of the disciple cannot be small and uncertain. “We are still in exile, away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6.9), but predestined to be conformed to His image (Rom 8:29), to become an expression of his love that knows no boundaries of race and religion, and is offered to friends and enemies alike.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Lord, I repeat that I cannot make it to follow you. However, together with you, I can always take another step.”
They keep the commandments but do not enter the kingdom of heaven
The Jews call the first five books of the Bible the Law. A surprising way to call a collection that contains, yes, rules, precepts and commands, but is not a code of law as we know it today. It is an exciting story, a love story of Israel with its God. It begins with the creation of the world and continues with the call of Abraham, the stories of the patriarchs, the slavery in Egypt and the Exodus. A truly original Law!
In truth, the term Law does not translate exactly the Hebrew Torah that is derived from the root iarah. It indicates the act of shooting an arrow to show the direction. Even on the roads we orient ourselves by following “arrows”, signage.
The Torah traces the path that leads to life. It does not dictate cold, rigid, impersonal norms. It tells what happened to a people, Israel, the bride sometimes faithful, more often than not unfaithful to her Lord. In its joys and misadventures, successes and failures, feasts and grief, every person sees his own story reflected: the dangers to be avoided and the wise decisions to make.
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.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Show me, O Lord, the way of life, I will follow to the end”