Facts and words: they seem contrary to modern man. Word was instead the materialization of thought for the ancient people. It was no wind, but a crystallization of feelings and emotions. It does not only transmit ideas and information, but communicates a creative or destructive charge of the person who utters it. The idols could not cause neither good nor bad, because—it was said—“They have mouths that cannot speak” (Ps 115:5), while the Lord, with his word creates the heavens, “for he spoke and so it was” (Ps 33:6, 9).
The word of God, which has given shape to the universe and preserves the earth and the heavens (2 P 3:5-7) has come into the world, “and was made flesh” (Jn 1:14) and gave sight to the blind, made the dumb speak, the lame on his feet, offered food to the hungry, liberty to the captives and joy to the broken-hearted. He turned the sinner into a disciple, the dishonest tax collector into an apostle, the chief tax collector into a son of Abraham and a bandit into the first of the guests at the heavenly banquet.
Priests, parents and Christian educators often say they are disappointed. They complain because their gospel-inspired exhortations seem to fall on deaf ears or have a very weak impact. The word of the Lord—they ask—has perhaps lost its efficacy? If it does not change hearts and minds, if it does not make a new world sprout, then it is not the word of God, but of people. It is easy to misunderstand: one preaches about oneself and one’s own convictions, believing of proclaiming the gospel. The good exhortations, warnings dictated by common sense, the wisdom of this world often show themselves useful, but they never worked wonders. Miracles happen only if the announced word is that of the Master.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “We do not preach ourselves, but the word of Christ the Lord.”
Christians believe that the Messiah has already come. The Jews claim that he is yet to come. Who is right?
No doubt, the Jews. We too tacitly admit to the fact that each year we dedicate four weeks to prepare ourselves for his coming.
We anxiously wait for the Messiah, because we are told that “justice will flower in his days and peace abounds till the moon be no more. He delivers the needy who call on him, the afficted with no one to help them. May grain abound throughout the land” (Ps 72:7.12.16). We have not yet seen these prophecies realized, so we keep waiting.
The Messiah is yet to come, but when he arrives, everyone, including the Jews, will recognize him: it is Jesus. His birth into the world is a slow and gradual; the new times, the last, have already started, but have not come to fruition.
One day they reported to Jesus that his mother and brothers were looking for him; he “looking around at those who sat there, said: Here are my mother and my brothers!” (Mk 3:34). Yes, the community of those who listen to his word, trust him and follow him. It is his mother, she is the one who in pain gives birth to him every day, until God’s plan is fully realized: “To unite all in Christ everything in heaven and on earth” (Eph 1:10).
Immediacy, generosity, decision in detachment from what is old and incompatible with the future world, characterize the response of those who, answering to the call of Jesus, commit themselves to God’s plans.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Show me, O Lord, your ways and give me the strength to follow you.”
Among the titles which the Bible attributes to God, there is also: he who calls. With his right hand he stretches out the heavens, calls them and “they all stand forth together” (Is 48:13), listen to his orders and fulfill their vocation, whirling in the universe and singing his praises: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the work of his hands the expanse proclaims” (Ps 19:2). Nothing and no one is anonymous before the Lord who “counts the number of stars and calls each one by name” (Ps 147:4).
The name that God gives to every person corresponds to an identity, a vocation, a mission.
Nothing intimate, nothing external to the person, nothing that looks like an election prize for a previous loyalty. Vocation is but the discovery of that for which we were created, the place we are called to fill in creation and in God’s plan. It is not revealed through dreams and visions, but it is found by looking inside ourselves, listening to the word of the Lord that is heard, not seen, which is manifested in the events and speaks through the angels who stand beside us: the brothers in charge of interpreting to us his thoughts and his will.
To correspond to the vocation does not mean to get involved in a cumbersome undertaking, externally imposed but to realize ourselves, to be faithful to our identity and, therefore, to achieve interior balance and joy.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Lord, reveal to me the name with which you have called me, before I was conceived in my mother’s womb.”
The biblical sites are often tied to a theological significance. The sea, the mountain, the desert, the Galilee of the Gentiles, Samaria, the Jordan river, the land beyond the lake of Genezareth are much more than simple geographical indications (often not entirely accurate).
Luke does not specify the place where the baptism of Jesus took place, but John alludes to it: “It happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing” (Jn 1:28). The tradition has correctly located the episode in Bethabara, the ford where the people of Israel, guided by Joshua, crossed the river and entered the Promised Land.
The gestures of Jesus present explicit references to the passage from slavery to freedom and to the beginning of a new exodus to the true Promised Land. Bethabara has also another recall, less obvious, but equally significant: the geologists ensure that this is the lowest point on earth (400m below sea level).
The decision to start from there the public life cannot be random. Jesus came from the heights of heaven to free people. He went down into a deeper abyss to show that he desires the salvation of every person. He wants to save even the most derelict, the one dragged by guilt and sin in an abyss no one imagines the possibility of getting out. God does not forget and does not abandon any of his children.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “And the grace of God appears, bringing salvation to all people.”