The skilled politician always manages relations with the religious structure with foresight. He does not fight but flatters it. He tries to make it an ally because he knows that the religious subject is more reliable and also the more devoted, if he can manage to convince him that supporting the established order is tantamount to promoting the kingdom of God. One in power is opposed to that which disrupts the balance of the society or institution. He arrives to his goal when he conveys the idea that there is an equation between what is normally thought and the gospel message, between the principles set forth by the current morals and the values preached by Christ, between the Beatitudes of the world and those of the mountain.
It is a subtle strategy in which, often in good faith, many Christians are involved, but that leads to distort the gospel. The church hierarchy and also the people adapt themselves at times, but never the prophet, who is not, constitutionally, a restless and dissatisfied person, but one who has received and assimilated the thoughts of the Lord. For this he refuses to put God’s seal on man’s plans and denounces the structures marked by sin. His words annoy, provoke irritation and the fate that awaits him cannot be but misunderstanding and rejection.
It happened to Jeremiah, threatened by his countrymen: “Do not prophesy any more in the name of the Lord and we will spare your life;” (Jer 11:21) and warned by God: “Take care, even your kinsfolk and your own family are false with you” (Jer 12:6).
It happened to Muhammad in Mecca. He wanted to shake his fellowmen from religious indifference, attachment to earthly life and social injustice.
It also happened to Jesus in Nazareth.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Only if I leave the house built by men I can meet the Lord.”
Despite the suffering it entails, humans desperately love life. Ulysses in Hades tries to comfort Achilles who replies: “Do not embellish me at death, O Odysseus! I would prefer, as a laborer, to serve on earth another man rather than rule over the dead.” The Egyptians viewed death differently. For them death was “everlasting life” in a wonderful kingdom, located to the west, lit by the sun god, from dawn until dusk, when it gets dark for us.
Among all ancient peoples the conviction of the existence of an afterlife prevailed and among the Greeks, immortality of the soul. Inexplicably, this did not happen with the Jews since they were born as a people in Egypt. They let more than a thousand years passed before they began to believe in a life beyond death.
They proclaimed, yes, the Lord “the God of life” (Nm 27:16), but always in earthly perspective. “In you is the source of life,” sang the psalmist, but for life he meant “health and blessing” (Sir 34:17), a fertile land, abundant crops, numerous descendants, and finally, to die “at a good old age” (Gn 35:29), as the ripe sheaves that are withdrawn from the field (Job 5:26). In the Hebrew Bible the word “immortality” does not even appear.
The slowness of Israel in reaching an explicit affirmation of eternal life is precious and enlightening. It makes us understand that, before believing in the resurrection and a future world, it is necessary to value and passionately love life in this world as God appreciates and loves it.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “From the Lord I have learned to love life, every expression of life.”
What word is expected from a Christian who lives personal and family dramas in chain? Epidemics, earthquakes, tornadoes that hit parts of the world already ravaged by hunger and poverty, pose serious questions to the believer. Wars, violence, injustices, betrayals, it is true, can be attributed to man, but because man is so bad, could not God make him better?
In the past, the problem of evil is solved by downloading the blame on the devil, the laws of nature or by using magic formula: God does not want, but he allows. But if God can intervene in human history, why doesn’t he?
The enigma of evil cannot be explained by reasoning, otherwise Jesus would have clarified it. One day, when the history of the world will come to fruition, we will understand its meaning. However, God’s response to accusations that entitles us to ask him, shouting, with the apostles, “Don’t you care if we drown?” is only one and is the most unexpected. He does not put himself to argue but goes into our own boat. We are buffeted by the storm, but he is also there along with us. With the poor he has experienced poverty, with the excluded, rejection and marginalization; with the disappointed he has shared incomprehension and tears; with the betrayed the bitterness of being alone and abandoned, with the oppressed he has endured injustice and with the condemned to death he experienced shock and fear.
Yet the impression that he is asleep remains. With our cry, which is prayer, we would like to wake him up and force him to intervene. But he is already awake, he just have a different vision of the danger and how to deal with it. He asks for unconditional trust. We are tossed about, yes, by the waves of the sea, but even if we do not realize it, we are accompanied by him.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “The storm rages but I’m not afraid: you are on my boat too.”