There are unexpected and unintended tribulations, but there are others that are the result of choices made. The price to pay for those who agree to carry out the difficult and unrewarding mission of the prophet is persecution. Even the nicest people, when they are interpreters of the message of Heaven, though it may seem strange, can become irritating, annoying, unbearable and be marginalized. The prophet is never praised for long by the crowds and still less by those in power, both political and religious. At first he can also be appreciated for his preparation, intelligence, moral integrity, but soon he is looked upon with suspicion, opposed and persecuted.
Jesus has not deceived his followers; he did not promise an easy life. He did not guarantee the approval and consent of people. He insistently reiterated that adhering to him would entail persecution: “A student is not above his teacher, not a slave above his master. If the head of the family has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of the family” (Mt 10:24-25). “Still more—he added—the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will claim to be serving God” (Jn 16:2).
Regretfully recalling his past, Paul will acknowledge: “I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor 15:9). However he will also declare to have done it, “moved with zeal” (Phil 3:6), convinced to defend God and the true religion. It could happen again today.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “You, Lord, are my hope, my trust from my youth.”
The God of Israel speaks, and it is done (Ps 33:9). The idols of the pagans instead have mouths, but do not speak (Ps 115:5). For this they are unable to help, to protect, to perform miracles. The word of man may be far-fetched (Job16:3); that of God is instead always living and effective (Heb 4:12). It is like the rain and the snow that come down from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bring forth and sprout (Is 55:10).
It does not act in a magical way, however, it is equipped with an irresistible energy and, when it falls on fertile ground, when it is accepted with faith, it produces extraordinary effects. Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it as well (Lk 11:28). The privileged place for this hearing is the community meeting.
In the “day of the Lord”, the Risen One addresses his word to the assembled community. The Christian who does not feel the inner need to join with the brothers and sisters to listen to the voice of the Master can be certain: something has cracked in his relationship with Christ.
Already in the early centuries the reminder was repeated insistently: “Do not let the need of your temporal life precede the word of God, but on Sunday, putting aside everything, hurry to the church. Indeed, what justification can be submitted to God by one who does not go on this day in the meeting to hear the word of salvation?” (Caption, II, 59.2-3).
If among the faithful indifference, disaffection, listlessness in attendance at the Sunday assembly have infiltrated, this should not be attributed only to the laity. Some improvised, low in spiritual content, tedious and sometimes even depressing homilies also have their share of responsibility. Today’s readings invite all to reflect and review their own relationship with the word of God.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Lamp to my feet your word and a light to my path.”
One of the features of the pagan religion was the fear of the gods, a fear they try to drive out by keeping meticulous and obsessive practice, of taboos, of purification rites. This resulted in a distorted and distressing relationship with God. Paul calls this time “prison,” a epoch when people were slaves of the “elements of the world” and relied on “miserable and ineffective rudiments” (Gal 4:3.9). This religion structured according to the parameters of human psychological misery reappeared in Judaism, the religion of duties which are made concrete in the tangle of rules and obligations, observances, prohibitions, atonement, “human precepts and worthless teachings” (Col 2:22-23). It ended the joyful dialogue with God, father and husband, preached by the prophets and marked the beginning of the wedding party without wine, without joy, without outbursts of love, without spontaneity and freedom. The danger was not averted definitively even by the call of Jesus to break free from this oppressive and unbearable yoke (Mt 11:28).
We find this wrong relationship with God every time that the religion of precepts, legalism, merits and threats reappears. It is a religion that takes away the smile, generates anxiety, anguish and scruples, also transforms the feast into a legal obligation. The holy day of obligation associates the joy of finding ourselves with our brothers in the “Lord’s Day” with the idea of obligation and the fear of committing mortal sin. Can feeling loved for fear inspired by his punishments make God rejoice? It is urgent to re-establish with him a spousal love rapport and accept the water that Christ offers us (his Spirit that makes us free), water that turns into wine, a source of joy.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so for us the Lord will rejoice.”