We can see some things; others elude us. The scientific knowledge that allows us to examine, monitor, quantify everything that is material is growing at breakneck pace. They make us curious, thrilled and feel proud to the point of inducing some to believe that only what can be seen with the eyes, observed with the senses, checked with the laboratory instrument is true.
But the presumption of having the control over all reality stems from a lack of vision, from blurring the interior and spiritual sight that allows us to glimpse into the mysteries of God, the meaning of life and death, and the ultimate fate of human history.
There is also another kind of blindness, that of those who are convinced that they have the light and ability to give the right value to everything: money, success, career, sexuality, health and sickness, youth and old age, family, children… but draw their confidence from the scale of values of this world. They have deducted—perhaps without realizing it—by instincts and emotions of the moment, the calculations involved, ideologies and economic systems contaminated by sin, from the gossip room: false lights, unreliable sparkles, wisps and misleading glows.
“The true light that enlightens everyone came into the world” (Jn 1:9). Christ came to dispel our darkness, to illuminate our nights, to usher in the family of the “children of light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5).
To internalize the message, we repeat: “You are the light of the world. Whoever follows you has the light of life.”
“When the gods formed mankind, they attributed death to humanity and withhold life in their hands.” These are the words that—in the famous Mesopotamian epic—the tavern-keeper Siduri addressed to Gilgamesh who is in desperate search of the tree of life. Dejected, the hero realizes that he has to resign himself: to die is to leave for the “land of no return.” Darkness, silence, oblivion wrap the abode of the dead according to the Jewish conception. It is hard to find in the Old Testament some hints of the soul’s immortality and the resurrection of the dead. Those few texts, of course, were not written before the second century B.C.
Job said: “There is hope for a tree: if cut down it will sprout again; its new shoots will still appear. But when man is cut down, he comes undone: he breathes his last—where will he be? The waters of the sea may disappear, rivers drain away, but the one who lies down will not rise again; the heavens will vanish before he wakes, before he rises from his sleep” (Job 14:7-12). This dejection flowed in an elegy on the mouth of the Psalmist: “You allow me to live but short span; before you, all my years are nothing. Human existence is a mere whiff of breath. Turn from me a while, that I may find relief, before I depart and be no more” (Ps 39:6,14).
So the more enlightened spirit of antiquity expressed their bewilderment, anguish, and loss in front of the transience of life. The Bible has preserved the memory of their disorientation and concerns to remind us how dense were the darkness of the tomb, before the light of Easter shine on the world.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Although I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you, O Lord of life, are beside me.”
For many years the Jews in the Sinai experienced thirst and mirages. They dug wells and dreamed of a land where water falls from the sky in the form of rains and dews, where springs gush out and flow through the valleys.
Nomads in a desolate wilderness associated the sunny and arid lands to death and water to life, beauty and God’s blessings. They thought of the Lord as “he who summons the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the earth” (Am 5:8).
In the Bible, the image of water occurs in the most varied contexts. The lover contemplates his beloved: “Fountains that bedew the gardens, a well of living waters, gushing streams from Lebanon” (Song 4:15). God assures the deportees a prosperous and happy future with promises related to water: “For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water” (Is 35:6-7; 41:18). Moving away from the Lord means making choices of death. It is equivalent to remaining without water: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water” (Jer 2:13).
The heartfelt words of the prophet who calls his people to conversion—“Come here all of you who are thirsty, come to the water!” (Is 55:1)—prelude to those spoken by Jesus in the Temple Mount: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink” (Jn 7:38). He is the source of pure water that quenches all thirst.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Quench us with your water, Lord, do not allow us to approach other wells.”
“The Lord has chosen you—Moses says to Israel—from among all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his very own people” (Dt 14:2). “It was on your fathers that the Lord set his heart. He loved them and after them, he chose their descendants—you—preferring you to all the peoples” (Dt 10:15-16).
Even Christians are “a chosen people” (1 P 2:9). “We remember brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called” declares Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 1:4).
“Truly I realize that God—as Peter says—does not show partiality” (Acts 10:34), so what is the point of talking about election?
The choices of God do not follow human criteria. They do not presuppose any merit but are dictated by gratuitous love. God is linked to Israel, not because it was the most numerous of the people—it was indeed the smallest—but simply for love (Dt 7:5-8). To the Christians of his community, James recalls the behavior of God: “God did not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith and to inherit the kingdom” (Jas 2:5).
When God calls a person or chooses a people, He entrusts them with a task, a mission, to make them carriers of his blessings intended for all.
So Abraham has to become “a blessing to all the families of the earth.” Israel, the servant of the Lord, is charged to “bring justice to the nations” (Is 42:1), and Paul is a “chosen instrument to carry the name of Christ before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
The vocations of God does not confer any privilege. They do not offer any reason to feel superior or better than others. They are a request for availability to serve, to become mediators of salvation.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Let us understand, Lord, how great and challenging is the mission to which you have called us.”