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I once experienced an unpleasant thing. Unwillingly, I had to listen to a conversation between two young people hiding their evil deeds. Although he had strong words full of bold ideas, she was afraid. And finally, it ended with her triumph when she said in a firm voice, “Everything will come out one day, and then you will be sorry!”
In the Gospel, we heard similar words: “For nothing is hidden that should not be revealed, nor concealed that should not be made public” (Mk 4:22). With this simile, Jesus wants to tell his listeners, and us too, to reflect on the thoughtlessness and wisdom of doing certain things. Many people can think about material things, but less about spiritual things.
It would indeed be unreasonable for someone to light a candle and not put it on a candlestick but hide it under the bed. Why light a candle at all, then, if it serves no purpose? A candle should be lit when it is dark and placed on a candlestick, for even a small child knows how to do that. It often happens that people will also say like this: “I just thought of that, and it is not a sin. Nobody knows that I thought about it…” Man is made in the image of God, and at his conception, he was given something that must shine, something that provides value to his body – a soul.
The soul of man is to bear witness that fills the life with man. From the human heart comes all evil and good. Out of human life comes both riches and chaff. In the suddenness of the heart, either light or darkness is born. But whichever of the two it is, there will come a day, a moment, that will bring forth a harvest – it will be light or darkness.
We can compare it to the disciples. One is not doing his duty; he is not studying, he is not writing his assignments, he is always busy with everything, everything else interests him but school – and the result? When the time comes, the report card and the same thing show up in bad grades. And the other pupil, although he has no talent, learns, tries, overcomes himself, again and again, the teacher sees it in the end and rewards his effort, his hidden effort, with a good mark.
Or do we think that a man becomes terrible instantly? For example, a thief? A murderer? A rapist? No. Just as a good person is not a saint from birth, but gradually works on himself, protects himself from sin, does not read a book that can harm his soul, but instead puts it down. He doesn’t see a bad movie because he wants to give all his love and a healthy body to his future spouse at the altar one day. Daily he often has to beware of himself, of the danger of sin. So, he tries to build up a treasure in himself and acquire the most vital and most beautiful good qualities: honesty, truthfulness, justice, respect for strangers, and persons, respect for his own body. It is a constant struggle within himself in secret, but at the same time, it fills him with a sense of a job well done.
On the other hand, no sin will satisfy a man. At first, it is small neglect of good, disobedience, but later on, one gets used to even such minor transgressions, then once in secret, one offends God. He will be very sorry, very embarrassed, but he will get used to it. Just as a smoker does not smoke thirty cigarettes a day, but starts with one, and in a week, he smokes three… First, he begins with a puff of cheers on his name day or other celebrations, and then he cannot say to himself: ‘Enough!’
In secret, many things don’t stick. First, they are noticed by those more experienced or those who live with them. And then everyone.
The Lord Jesus says to all: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mk 4:23). We have all been given a clean slate. We all have two ears. How do we listen? Jesus added, “Pay attention to what you hear!” (Mk 4:24). For often, the words of the Slovak proverb come true: “Tell me who you are friends with, and I will tell you what you are like.”
Parents, do you know what kind of friends your children have and what they talk about with each other? I feel bad for kids who walk around with a key around their necks. The Lord Jesus says: “As ye measure, so shall it be measured unto you, and shall be added unto you.” (Mk. 4:24) – profound words. Not only parents, but all those who are entrusted with pure and uncorrupted hearts, must be aware of them. It depends on whether they will shine or become darkness that will consume them. God has placed in your hearts, parents, a duty which no one has the right to take away from you, namely: to raise your children to be good, believing people. Every neglect of good, overlooking a bad trait, and failing to notice a hidden affection, may mark the beginning of a wrong end. For how many misfortunes would have been prevented if the parents had noticed that the boy was beginning to lie, or that a single crown was missing from his wallet without asking, or that the girl was not coming home on time, and even pleading that she already had an identity card.
We think to ourselves. Am I still a candle? Am I not swallowed by the darkness? What predatory fear will grip us when the true Judge of all deeds appears before our eyes. Even the saints are filled with awe when they stand for him… spake Sibyl and David in the hymn of the last day.
If not now, surely then all will see all that we have done in secret, and let us remember this significant moment in our moments of decision.
It is sadly said of our time that there is much and useless talking and little or poor listening. Let us remember how much damage we have done to ourselves by not paying attention, not paying proper attention to something, and the message being important to us. The pupils would not have to learn so much if they paid more attention to the teacher’s explanation.
Knowing how to listen can also tell us how much we respect and obey a person. This is not only true in ordinary life but also about God’s Word.
The Gospel explains in detail the relationship of man to the heard word of God. The parable of the sower is one of the best known. The sower is Jesus Christ; the seed is his word, the soil is the hearers who receive his words differently. The emphasis is on the harvest from the grain that has fallen into the good earth. Jesus means the success of his mission. He touches even those who take a dismissive, indifferent, or superficial attitude. When asked about the meaning of the parables, Jesus uses a quotation from Isaiah the prophet, “… that they may look and not see, that they may listen and not understand, that they may be converted and not forgiven.” (Isa. 6:9).
These words point to the fate of hardened people. They will listen and not understand the meaning, they will not be converted, and therefore they will not be forgiven since they will not stand for it either, thus forfeiting their salvation. We see that the Lord Jesus Himself explained the parable. His word – the grain is sound; it can grow and bring forth a harvest. The Sower – Jesus Christ, who taught the apostles for three years, continues to proclaim the Gospel through the Church.
Therefore, we believe that the Church cannot be mistaken because she has received a guarantee from Christ: whoever listens to you listens to me… The sower and the seed are fine, but the harvest will be abundant, depending on us.
Let us examine how we are prepared to listen to God’s Word, put it into practice in our lives, and allow it to grow in our daily lives. Let us reflect on the number of sermons the reflections we have heard. How many lessons and warnings have we heard in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and other sacraments. Can we say that all these words have fallen on good ground? Did they bring the harvest that was foreseen? Have they been reflected in our lives as they should have been? No one can say that the harvest got a hundredfold benefit. We must not be discouraged by this fact, quite the contrary. The parable of the sower is meant to stir us up to take up the role of the excellent soil again and more seriously.
It is a beautiful thing when we decide to do everything in our power and ability to take God’s Word responsibly and seriously. Let us also take the Sunday readings, sermons, and interpretations seriously. Let us deepen our knowledge of Sacred Scripture. In this way, God sows great riches into our hearts. Let us cherish every word that seeks the salvation of our immortal soul.
Today, let’s start with a question: When are the best commands fulfilled? I can say – I think – when we take the will of the one who commands us to do something like our own when we unite in love.
A superficial following of today’s Gospel text would only lead us to surprise. The Lord Jesus leaves his mother standing outside, and instead of going to her, he says to those present: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He looked around at those sitting around him and said: “Behold my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God the same is my brother and my sister, and my mother.” (Mk 3:33-35).
We know that kinship plays a vital role in society. Jesus distances himself from his blood relations. Really? No! What Jesus means by his attitude is that a different community age is dawning where bloodlines and kinship are losing their value. And in this new family, new principles apply and are immediately proclaimed: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.” (Mk 3:35). That is: whoever receives God’s word and does it.
We know of the Virgin Mary that she not only knew this word of God but also fulfilled it, and so she continues to be the mother of Jesus. With these words, the Lord Jesus does not take away anything from the greatness of His mother; on the contrary, He gives her to us as an example, for He is taking her with His body and soul to heaven one day. These words teach us that if we do the will of God, we will all become His brothers and sisters and will be able to call the Heavenly Father indeed “Our Father.”
But this is such a serious matter that even in the prayer that Jesus taught us, He includes one of the seven petitions that we are to recall daily in prayer: Not our will, my will, is to be done in my life, but, Thy will be done, Lord. What does this mean? We need to realize that the strength of our connection with God, our closeness to God, that is, our kinship with God, depends on how we do his holy will.
And what is God’s will? It is all that God has revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, which the Church has the authority to interpret, to explain to us. Thus we can say that the will of God is that we should fulfill the commandments of God and the Church. Therefore, if we meet and keep them, we are doing the will of God. On the other hand, let us remind ourselves that if we transgress them, whether God’s commandments or the Church’s commandments, we rebel against God and the Church. Let us realize that our salvation also depends on fulfilling these commandments. Therefore, we need to stop often and reflect on how we are doing the will of God.
This is what the Church calls us to do: to reflect more regularly, not only before the Sacrament of Reconciliation but every day, at least for a few seconds, on this doing of God’s will. We call it: the examination of conscience. The practice will lead us to come away from that brief encounter with a concrete conviction that we can enrich our lives the next day.
If we regularly examine our consciences each night, we may find that we often put our own will before the will of God. We prefer convenience to participation in Mass, prayer, and the sacraments. Preference for self over the love of God and neighbor. Let us be careful not to harden our hearts but listen to God’s voice and do God’s will. Jesus, Himself, can be our example in times of trouble. Let us remember what he said when he was sweating blood: “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42). We will then carry out the commands perfectly and to our advantage when we love God above all else in our lives.
There is no victory like victory. To triumph over the weak and defenseless is considered an abomination. To win over the stronger deserves recognition and honors. But let us speak today of a victory that is not written about in the newspapers, not broadcast on the radio and television, not written about, and will not be written about in history. Let’s talk about the victory over our sin.
Jesus speaks solemn words in the Gospel: “Truly I tell you: All sins shall be forgiven to men, and the blasphemies wherewith they blaspheme. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven eternally, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:28-29).
It was a grave indictment of the Lord Jesus when He was suspected of collaborating with the powers of evil and the devil. To understand this text, it is not enough to read it superficially. We sense that the Lord Jesus is all about power. The fact is that there is a struggle between good and evil in the world. This struggle had its roots when the devil triumphed over our grandparents and desired to triumph over us.
But the Lord Jesus teaches us that He wants to conquer evil, sin, with us, for that is why He came among us, to become like us in all things, except sin. We see that the Pharisees want to compromise Jesus. They couldn’t stand his popularity among the people. They make up an excuse that he uses Beelzebub to cast out devils. They were blackening him. This is the main idea of today’s Gospel: that Jesus works with the devil and his power from him.
But Jesus tries to explain this wrong attitude of theirs. He affirms that an evil spirit exists. We see that evil exists in various events and forms. In paradise, the devil appears as a serpent to seduce a man to sin. We do not know in what form the devil tempted the Lord Jesus during the 40-day fast. One thing is sure; he wanted to induce him to pride. The Lord Jesus radically instructs us, “Depart Satan… Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Mt. 4:10). The devil does not cease in his activity.
In his letter, the Apostle Peter writes: “Be sober and watch! Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). These and other words lead us to think that we cannot approach temptation lightly and superficially. We know that even the devil has some power, albeit limited, and can use different means and people. We know that he is consistent and persistent. If we drive him away, he comes back a thousand times and does everything to take his victim, to achieve his victory. And the result? Sin never enriches us.
Today the Lord Jesus especially warns us about sins against the Holy Spirit. There are six of them:
1. To presumptuously rely on the mercy of God. It is a sin against hope.
2. To doubt God’s mercy and give way to despair is to sin against hope for those who do not trust God to forgive them.
3. To resist the known truth.
4. To be envious of the grace of God to one’s neighbor.
5. To harden one’s heart against saving admonition.
6. To persevere stubbornly in impenitence.
These sins close the way of the graces of the Holy Spirit to the soul. Can any of these sins make a person happy? When we think about them just a little, we want to say: no! Where can such corruption possibly lead us? One gets confused; one goes mad because one finds no peace anywhere, and there is no escape from remorse. Relying on the Lord God to forgive me anyway does not lead to fighting against weaknesses; on the contrary, one succumbs to them repeatedly, and one becomes a wreck, a ruined existence. To stand openly against the truth is an insult of coarse grain. Not to admit one’s mistake, one’s error, is also an anti-social act. They are thus severe and warning sins for us.
Let us rejoice that, with all our shortcomings, faults, and lapses; we want to struggle, again and again, we want to avoid sin, to abandon and forsake every opportunity to sin. But when we fall, again and again, we also want to get up again.
We are reminded of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is a bright and beautiful prospect to a fruitful life here on earth, and one day, indeed, to a blessed reward in the kingdom of God. We see that there is no victory like victory. However, tremendous success is overcoming ourselves and our sin.
Therefore, let us ask our patrons guardian angels and ask the Virgin Mary to help us overcome temptation.
In the first line, the biblical revelation states the central idea of creation, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). The Holy Scriptures begin with these solemn words (cf. CCC, 279). In those first words of Scripture, it is asserted that God gave origin to everything that exists outside of him. He alone is the creator. Everything that exists (expressed by the formula “heaven and earth”) depends on Him who gives it being. The theme above of creation appears often and again in prophetic and sapiential literature (Prov, Sir, Ecc, Mud), in Paul’s letters, and the Gospels. Finally, in the last book of the Bible, we find a hymn to the glory of the Creator: “Worthy art thou, O Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou hast created things: by thy will they were created, and are created.” (Rev 4:11).
From the beginning, the Church has confessed that God created all things. The belief in the God who created all things, celebrated in this hymn, is already expressed in the first article of the Nicene Creed (DS, 125). At the same time, as the tradition of the Church developed, revelation became clearer. The first lines of this Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of the world visible and invisible…” are at once a prayer, praise, and a confession of one of the central beliefs of the Church. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed represents a heritage cherished by Christians of both East and West. Although not all Christian churches explicitly affirm this creed, belief in God as Creator is the starting point of faith for many Christians.
This truth of creation was formulated at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the First Vatican Council (1869-1870). The revealed truth is that God created the whole world and that it was created “out of nothing.” According to the expression of the Teaching Office of the Church, based on the sayings of Sacred Scripture and Tradition, the words “heaven and earth” signify the sum and totality of all things existing apart from God, that is, all created things. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this expression means, “All that exists, the whole creation. It also points to the continuity which within creation both unites and distinguishes heaven and earth…” (CCC, 326).
The article of faith, then, is that out of nothing, God created all things universally: small and great, spiritual and material, earthly and super-earthly. The article above is one of the most important truths, for it depends on the proper relation between the world and God, and thus the appropriate conception of both the world and God. Sacred Scripture and Tradition continually teach and magnify this fundamental truth: The world was created for the glory of God (cf. CCC, 293). God did not make the world out of anything because he needed our praise to increase his credit, but he gave us the splendor of his eternal happiness out of pure goodness. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it: “The glory of God consists in the fact that God manifests and bestows his goodness. For this reason, the world was created…” (CCC, 294).
The world is not the product of simple chance but the expression of freely giving wisdom and love. “How manifold are your works, O Lord! Thou hast wisely made all things. The earth is full of your creation” (Ps. 104:24). We assume the content of the psalmist’s confession all the time. We believe that the world is governed by laws that we can examine. Our overall naturalistic picture of the world is built on this assumption. The order we can explore, but no chance. This is a manifestation of ordering reason. Creation testifies to the wisdom of the Creator (cf. CCC, 295).
If someone were to come from Sirius or some other star and see our earth, so green, blooming, inhabited by billions of living beings, he would say, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me see all this!” Even without having come from a distant starlet, we get used to one thing: to continually say to God, “Thank you” (A. Luciani: I believe). On the dome of the Vatican Observatory, which rises on the terrace of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, one can read with emotion the inscription: Deum Crematorium, Venite Adoremus – Let us bow down to God the Creator. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Germany’s greatest poet, said: “That something vast, personified, comes to meet us as God, the Creator and Sustainer, to whom we are to bow and whom we are to glorify.” “Seek God in all things,” advised St. Ignatius of Loyola as early as the 16th century. And whoever obeys his advice finds it easy to love the Creator.
It is no coincidence that the saints had an extraordinary relationship with creation. The most famous is St. Francis of Assisi. Only he who frees himself from himself begins to truly perceive design (cf. CCC, 299). The Creator begins to speak to him in the language of his plan, and the praise of the Creator rises in the heart. Constrained by pain, almost blind, he prays the Song of Brother Sun at San Damiano (cf. CCC, 344). Suffering and the cross so refined him that he saw the speech of God’s love in all creation. We, too, can rejoice with him and throughout our lives – as long as we live – praise him (cf. Ps.104:33).
The Gospel speaks of Jesus’ relationship to Scripture. “According to his custom, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read. They handed him the book of the prophet Isaiah.” (Luke 4:16-17).
God longs to meet people. Encountering God is real. It only takes so little. Scripture is a book whose first author is God. God instructed the scribes what to write. The Bible, the Holy Scriptures, is the word of God. God desires to meet a man as much as man is available to Him. It is a particular mystery. John, by the word “Word,” represents Jesus. The eternal Word or Jesus, the Second Divine Person, is a “light in the darkness” for man; He wants us to know and live under the influence and in the power of the Word that Jesus speaks to us. Jesus came that we might believe through him, receive him, become children of God, that man might realize that God is so near.
The Gospel describes how Jesus manifested himself as the God-man. He proved that he was the predicted and expected Messiah through his teachings, miracles, and signs. He redeemed and saved us by His suffering, death, and resurrection, reconciling us to his Father. If Jesus had not done this, we would never have known with our human reason what Jesus has revealed to us. Jesus said: “I will not leave you as orphans” (Jn. 14:18). And He gave us the assurance, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20). These are the last words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel.
With today’s Gospel passage, St. Luke reveals what led him to write the Gospel. He shows that others have already narrated the events as they happened around Jesus. They are the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Luke was a companion of St. Paul, listening to he preach about Jesus, especially among the Gentiles. The addressee of the Gospel is “the noble Theophilus.” He may be an unknown person, but it may be a term referring to all who desire to know God. “Theophilos” means “friend of God” or “loving God.” The word, for Luke, is the words of those who have seen Jesus with their own eyes, listened to him, encountered him. All of this, after careful examination, he wants to offer as a source for believing that Jesus was the Son of God.
Luke describes the event as Jesus coming to Nazareth, where he grew up. Jesus is already known. His parents had already heard of him. Jesus has already performed several miracles, and his speeches in the synagogues surprise the Jews. On the Sabbath in a temple he knew intimately, and among those who knew him well, he takes up his role as an adult Jew to read and explain the text of Scripture. Unrolling the scroll he is handed, he reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah to the Messiah. After reading the text, he unrolled the scroll, and the eyes of those present are fixed on Jesus. What Jesus says about the passage surprises the natives. They feel offended by Jesus’ words, “Today this scripture you have just heard has been fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21). The Evangelist St. Luke bears witness to Jesus being the Messiah. The parents would still have accepted Jesus as a prophet, but not the Messiah.
Theology teaches both the presence of Christ in the Church and that Jesus is truly present in His Word whenever the Holy Scriptures are read, that is, when He speaks.
The Arabs call both Jews and Christians “people of the Book.” The name is nice, but not entirely true. The Church is never a community gathered around a dead, inanimate book. At the heart of the Christian community is the living Jesus, the Word of God. Christ stands amid his people as the living Word. St. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, defines, “The living Word is the Word of God, more effective and sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates to the separation of the soul from spirit, and of the joints from the point, and divides the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).
If the Holy Scriptures become the word of life, they must be known and meditated upon constantly. By frequent reading of the Scriptures, one can come to the knowledge that “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:8). Then we agree with the words of St. Hieronymus: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
To read the Holy Scriptures is different from reading the daily press. In reading Scripture, one is confronted with the Word of God. One is in dialogue with God. One realizes and responds to whom one considers the Son of Man. The response is not a one-time response, only a sacramental one, because the reaction is the bread of life. Daily life is a response to the Word of God. In dialogue with God’s word, a man stands face to face with God. It is necessary to understand God’s word correctly, understand it, and live by it.
There was a shepherd who whistled different melodies to his flock according to the state of his inner being. Every day he found time to whistle but also to think. This led him to think of something more beautiful, significant, and perfect. The silence and the songs, the melodies, developed this in him more and more. One day he saw a beautiful, brightly colored bird. “This is what I long for,” said the shepherd to himself and decided to catch the bird. When he had it in his grasp, the bird flew away and landed on a branch of a tall fir tree. The shepherd climbed up after it. But as he got closer, the bird flew away. He saw a cat that wanted to catch the blackbird as he was coming down. He saved its life. Then he saw a colorful bird sitting on the shore of the lake. As he was about to catch it, it flew away. The shepherd saw a little fish in the net. He freed it from the trap and let it go. He noticed that the bird was sitting on a branch opposite.
Again the shepherd hurried after the colored bird. He did not catch it now. He noticed that the flower was drying up by the bush. He watered it but did not catch the bird. The bird took to the heights and seemed to invite him on with its song. The shepherd thought to himself, “Are you making fun of me?” He returned to the sheep. As he slept that night, he dreamed that the blackbird he had saved from the cat was singing to him. Looking at the surface of the river, he was comforted by the sight of the fish he had rescued from the net, and by the bush, he was comforted by the presence of the flower that had not withered away. When the shepherd awoke, he understood the meaning of his happiness.
Reading the Scriptures, meditating on them, even if one does not at once understand the meaning of his life, one comes to know values that far surpass all that one ordinarily regards as one’s happiness. The time, the strength devoted to reading and meditating on the Scriptures, very quickly becomes an enrichment and a source of joy. This has been understood and experienced by many.
Many priests, not only priests, have come to know the inspiration of a beautiful life with the Holy Scriptures. The proverb says that “a book is a man’s friend,” and whoever gets to know the Book of Books – the Holy Scriptures, gets to know the greatest friend, Jesus, the Son of God.
The way to God can be fraught with difficulties. The way to God is not only my knowledge but also by faith. And faith is the ability to endure our insecurities. Faith is a matter of the whole man, mind, heart, and mind. Faith is not the result of evidence. Evidence only prepares the way. Faith is more. It is devotion and love. That is why it can be said whoever seeks God has already found him in some way. W. James theoretically considered himself an unbeliever, and yet he writes that he often felt the presence of God. For today’s man, the way to God is made difficult by many obstacles, doubts, and objections. But who carefully observes how one complaint has gradually refuted another, how the hasty assertions of the naturalists have steadily lost their meaning, and how life itself has denied all theories of life without God. Whoever pays attention to all this, he seems that today’s man has more true faith than the generations before. More and more, we realize that faith is not something foreign to us. All our relationships with people are built on faith and trust. I only become close to another person by believing his word and trusting him. That is what relationships are built on. Building trust between people is the foundation of society. We trust doctors chauffeurs. To live is a chain of acts of faith and trust. The truth of nature. All human life is built on this faith and trust from childhood to the grave. Most of us also believe in science. In life, we cannot verify everything. We have to trust. Faith in God is not outside the baseline of man. Non-believers believe and believers, often thinking, even more, refuse to label it faith. Faith does not condemn a person’s life but gives it meaning. Faith is not a substitute for knowledge. Believing is not believing. Faith means, above all, the relationship it expresses. I believe in you; I have faith in you. Faith is meeting another in trust. God has placed within us the capacity to be open to infinite knowledge. The Greeks realized that there must be one source of all that exists, and that source is God. Israel came to faith in God uniquely in which the personal and living God Himself spoke to them. Christianity also comes to God not by way of reason but through Jesus. In doing so, however, sense brings us to the existence of God. Our daily life points to mystery. This mystery is explained to us by Jesus Christ. Whoever wants to know God must first think. He must reason things out to the end to find that the world bears witness to God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says. His invisible being can be discerned and known from created things so that no one can make excuses. Rom 1:19-
You have probably heard all kinds of nonsense in your life, twisted truths about Jesus Christ. This is not just a matter of today’s enemies of Jesus Christ making up untruths, questioning the teachings of Jesus, confusing people of faith who have neglected their duty to educate themselves in the faith and often settle for what they learned as children in religion class or heard in church long ago. True, those who want to confuse, mislead, and challenge their faith will not settle for something superficial. Typically, they think they do not spare time or effort to make the action successful. It was so in the past, and it is so today.
Let us reflect on one of the shortest Gospels the Church reads through the year; the two heard verses of St. Mark. Jesus went into a particular house with his disciples again. A crowd gathered there, not even to eat. When his relatives heard this, they went out to take him away, saying, “He has been anointed.” (Mk 3:20).
The public ministry of the Lord Jesus was not easy because of the various situations that developed from different causes and with other consequences. Jesus always had before His eyes the will of God, which He wanted to do faithfully in all circumstances. He could no longer have a fixed daily schedule as in Nazareth; he had to change it all the time, eating irregularly and resting according to how many people sought him out, how many sick people sought his help.
We read that some hospitable people invited Jesus and his disciples to food in the Gospel. They didn’t even eat correctly when the crowds demanded to see Jesus. Then some began to stir up the rumor that Jesus was confused. Alarmists and doubters are always found when big and severe things are involved. To these people, it is undoubtedly foolishness to talk about the cross, denial, renunciation for the poor, forgiving and loving enemies, and the like. Indeed, even Jesus, though He was God, yet resembled us men; He had a body, and indeed from these actions, when He had no time even for food and rest, He lost weight. The sleepless nights in prayer, the exhausting preaching, and teaching of the multitudes left even the marks of exhaustion on his face. Relatives had to intercede for him, lest intrusive people attack him. Fanaticism makes people blinded and aggressive.
So, it is today. Many people are seized with chills, hatred, anger at the name of Jesus and at the utterance of a word at all that has anything to do with Jesus and his doctrine. Why? There are several answers. One’s conscience echoes, and he can’t get it right because years have passed since his intimate encounter with Jesus, and much has happened over the years that makes it impossible to sleep peacefully. For another, it has been a disappointment when he thought he had made do with his childlike faith and shipwrecked himself. Another told himself that without Jesus, he would be able to live contentedly. After all, others have lived without him and have it all; they are better off, have been able to enjoy the world more, and have made it higher. It often happens, too, that when a man tastes such bread of life, he feels bitterness, aversion, and foulness in his mouth, and he cannot find a way out of it.
Even then, Jesus acts like a “father.” He forgives, brings his son, and forgets all that was wrong. Jesus did not take revenge on anyone. He did not insult anyone, betray anyone, deny anyone. Jesus forgives even when those closest to him have forsaken him when he bids farewell to life and yet speaks to the repentant thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:43).
Would a confused man say such profound and beautiful words at such a painful moment of his life? Did anyone love more than Jesus, dying the most stupid death for us, for traitors, mockers, deceivers?
This short reading from the Gospel infuses strength into our veins, fills our hearts with peace, and gives us back a life we may no longer have believed in. Two millennia are sufficient to guarantee that Christ was not a confused man, a dreamer, a fanatic, but a man in whom God, the second divine person, dwelt. This reality, this fact, entitles us not to be afraid for the existence, for the life of faith in us, our surroundings, and our world.
Recently, I read a great thought that a teacher and priest said to King Charles IV of Bohemia: “If you want to dominate the world, first dominate your empire. If you want to rule your empire, rule yourself first.” Conquer yourself first! Prove that you are strong against yourself, that there will be no disunity within you, no sin…
We will quickly recognize a deceived man. Such a person has no backbone. Today he says and claims this, tomorrow he says and claims the opposite. We cannot say this about Jesus. Jesus declared about himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (Jn. 14:6). The pagan Cicero said of the person of Jesus: “Veritas una est et mirabilis” – “Truth is but one and unchangeable.” And that truth is Christ.
Let us pray for the unity of the world, for the unity of Christians in the world. Let us ask Jesus, who declared that he is the shepherd and that he knows his sheep who listen to his voice, that his words may be fulfilled as soon as possible, that there may be one fold and one shepherd.
Indeed, all of us have encountered people of a different faith. They believe in God, but they do not, for example, recognize, as we do, the Virgin Mary, whom they say was like every other woman. But you’ve also met people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ; they believe in the Old Testament and possibly whatever suits them in their lives. And so lately, there have been a lot of little churches, minor sects that have been springing up, luring people in under various pretexts, promising them paradise here on earth, wealth, and people are being taken in by sweet talk. Then often comes disappointment tears. Many people end this difficult and desperate condition tragically.
As many people crave the achievements of science and technology, so many people also crave attractions in spiritual life. Many ask. Why is it that such a reasonable man is so tempted to sell out his faith that he abandons even his family, children, wife and goes after a society that from the very beginning preaches dubious views, subverting the social order? What leads people to betray their faith?
The Evangelist Mark describes in the Gospel how Jesus called the twelve to him to teach them, make them aware of his teachings, of the heavenly Father, of life with God, so he sent them out to do what he was doing. To teach as Jesus taught and make people happy. The Evangelist also gives the names of the Twelve. First, he mentions Simon, whom he later appointed as the visible head on earth, whom we also call the first pope, whose name he changed to Peter-Kephas-Scala. As if to say that only on a firm foundation, on the teachings of Jesus Christ and in solid unity, is there strength. He called his brothers Andrew, James, and John – the sons of Zebedee – when they were on their father Zebedee’s ship and hired laborers. Because of their explosive nature, when they would not accept Jesus and his disciples in one Samaritan settlement, they tell Jesus to send a plague from heaven upon them, calling them “Sons of Thunder” – “Boanerges.” Next, he called Philip and Bartholomew, fishers, the tax collector Levi, another name for Matthew, who all the people of Capernaum hated because of his occupation as a tax collector. Then the unbelieving Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon, who came from the region where the forefather James had formerly lived as an exile, and Judas Iscariot, who knew several languages, and was the most learned of the apostles, being neither a fisherman nor a craftsman. He was a man who did not know what he wanted, as was later shown when he was able to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver and finally return them, saying, “I have sinned, because I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). He goes and hangs himself.
This is the motley company Jesus chose for his disciples. He decided to build His Church on the different natures that the apostles had. He entrusted many things to them: heal, raise the dead, and cast out evil spirits. He gave them what no prophet in the Old Testament ever gave to his disciples. The people were amazed to see the apostles doing their work in Jesus’ name. Even John the Baptist, whom they had previously thought of as the Messiah, did no miracle like Jesus, much less could he give this power to his disciples. For John’s disciples included Andrew and Philip, who, after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, go away from John, who sends them after Jesus when he speaks to them: “Behold the Lamb of God. I am not worthy to untie his shoe straps.” (Jn 1:36).
These formed the foundation of the first Church. They become priests at the Last Supper when Jesus gives them the power to change the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood by saying, “… this do in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:24). To these same apostles, except Judas, who was no longer among the apostles, He gave them the power to forgive sins after His resurrection, saying, “Whose sins you forgive will be forgiven, and whose sins you retain will be retained” (Jn. 20:23). Thus we know exactly the names of the apostles who became the foundation and received the power from Christ to make the people of the whole world happy and to help them to live their lives in such a way that when it is over, they will enter into an eternal communion where everyone will see God face to face as He is.
Let us pray for the unification of believers in the world. Let us pray for unity in faith. So also for the Jews, the Protestant churches, the Mohammedans, the Shintoists, and the many straying communities, there may be one fold, as Christ also said, There shall be one fold and one shepherd.
When the Holy Father was visiting England, I watched on television a live broadcast of these unrepeatable celebrations, when the former Canterbury Cathedral, which belonged to the early Roman Catholic Church, from which Henry VIII broke away because he did not want the Pope to declare his valid marriage null and void, so that he could then marry a second time. It was in this cathedral that John Paul II and his entourage, which included cardinals, bishops, archbishops, met with the Anglican Primate – as if by their Pope, with an Anglican, a Methodist, an Adventist, a Pentecostal standing next to a Catholic in the church… and they were all praying together with the O t h e n an s s prayer – the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and that all believers pray. It was a significant step towards unity.