In Egypt, there has never been a code of laws. The very word “law” was unknown because the pharaoh, incarnation of the god Ra, established, by his word, what was just and right. He—the Egyptian texts recalled—“takes advice from his heart, dictates to the scribe excellent provisions” and orders the courts to enforce “his words.”
Nothing like this happened in Israel, where the law was not of the king, but of God. The king had only the executive and judicial power. His task was to establish peace and justice in the country (Ps 72:1-2), ensuring that all observe the law of the Lord to which he himself was subjected. On the day of his coronation, he was given a copy of the Torah to meditate upon every day of his life (Deut 17:18-20), resisting the temptation to introduce changes or additions dictated by political opportunism and human cunning, so different from the wisdom of God.
He who, like the Pharaoh, illudes himself of being “wise like God” (Gen 3:5) and decides to manage his life with the wisdom of this world is condemned to failure. To him, though intelligent and cultured, the Bible denies the title of “wise” (Ps 14:1), because “true wisdom” manifests itself only where there is the “fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7). The “religion of the lips” is a discovery of human wisdom, is a ploy to mask the unfaithfulness to the Lord; only “that of the heart” is genuine, because it comes from the word of God and is expressed in love.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to help the orphans and widows, and keep oneself free from the things of this world.”
The results of histological examination, the response of an ultrasound, the results of amniocentesis, the diagnosis of a doctor can disrupt a person’s life. They can disrupt plans and dreams of a couple, placed in front of dramatic choices and the alternative is always between the wisdom of this world and that of Christ.
Making a gift of one’s own life is not easy or comfortable. It requires sacrifice, renunciation, asceticism. Accepting the will of God is willingness to follow “the true light that enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9), even when all would be led to consider it illogical and inconclusive.
It’s hard to listen to the promptings of the Spirit, to rise to God and to focus on the life that lives forever. Smoother, but still disappointing, is to enter through the wide gate and to choose the spacious path (Mt 7:13), to fall back on the material prospects, forgetting that “the order of this world is vanishing” (1 Cor 7:31) and that man profits nothing to gain the whole world (Mt 16:26). Making choices “in the flesh” seems reasonable although, in one’s inner self, one realizes that “all flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field” (Is 40:6).
The disciple who has “tasted the beauty of the Word of God and the wonders of the supernatural world” (Heb 6:5) remains subject to the temptation of turning away from Christ and being “in love with this present world” (2 Tim 4:9).
The Eucharist is a proposal. Who decides to receive it says yes to the light and rejects the darkness. This is the choice which qualifies the Christian.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “When all the reasons were on one side and Christ on the other, I would choose Christ.”
Caress is a way of saying to the other: you are my confidant and I’m glad you trust me. But if the other draws back, you feel rejected or misunderstood. The handshake, the flowers, the lighted lamp to the patron saint express feelings, emotions and moods that no words can tell. The blowing out of candles, followed by the friends’ applause and song of greetings mark the climax of the birthday party.
Gestures alone are seemingly illogical. The ritual, even if different from the positivist reasoning, is loaded with meanings and messages.
How can friends manifest their joy at our birth, if they were not there when we gave out the first cry? That day, long gone, cannot be reached, but it is possible to replay it … through the ritual. The wind that blows out the candles cancels our years, brings us back to the time of birth, replays our first breath and offers the opportunity to celebrate our coming into the world. It would not make sense to just eat the birthday cake.
A human being is of the earth, is closely related to other living beings and material creatures with which he is called to build a growing harmony and feels a deep need to make the invisible and divine things concrete, perceptible by the senses.
The sacraments are God’s answer to this need.
At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the rite with which to make present his supreme act of love, the total gift of life. The Word of God, bread from heaven, now can really be assimilated, not only with the mind and heart, but also through the sacrament. Even with this visible sign we, as long as we are pilgrims in this world, will always be hungry.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “One does not live on bread alone, but also of the Word made bread.”