Be ready: be poor

Lectio Divina: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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1)    Providence: God’s loyalty that always supports us.

     The central idea of today’s Roman Liturgy is faith[1]as confidence in God’s loyalty.

     In the first reading we are told that in “the night of the liberation from slavery God gave to his people a column of fire as guide for the unknown journey” (Wis. 18,6).  Showing in daylight a column of clouds and at night a column of fire God never abandons his people. The memory of God’s gifts and of His actions to liberate and guide the chosen people invites us to have faith in the Lord who guides his people from slavery to freedom.  

      In the second reading the author of the Letter to the Hebrews shows us that faith is inside the history of a people that has strongly believed in God. Abraham is such a great example that he is called “our Father in faith”. He believed not because he had seen God but because he has listened to Him and started a journey towards an unexpected future. We too are called to live the same faith that has pushed Abraham to live on earth as a pilgrim. The history of salvation, that has in Abraham a stronghold, is like a pilgrimage that gradually is fulfilled revealing more promises towards the full communion with God: from earth to progeny  to live in God’s home.

      Like Abraham we believers are always “on the road”, eternal pilgrims towards a homeland that is not a place but a state: it is not to live with God but to be in Him like the shoots “into” the grapevine. Paraphrasing a bit the Letter to Diognetus (II, 5, 1-16) we can say that we Christian

Inhabit a country but we are there as pilgrims: every foreign land is homeland for us, every homeland is a foreign land. We live our life on earth but we are citizen of Heaven (Heb 13-14)

    We find a true testimony of this situation in the consecrated Virgins who live in the world but are not of the world. With their consecration they have given their heart to the Spouse for whom they wait intensely to welcome him with devotion, to love him in chastity and to serve him continually (see Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins, 25: “Receive the veil and the ring that are the insignia of your consecration. Keep unstained your fidelity to your Bridegroom, and never forget that you are bound to the service of Christ and of his body, the Church”). Consecrated life shows the truth of the experience of giving oneself to God. In the continuous conversion to the Lord the person finds a solid road that makes him/her free.

2)    The watch: our loyalty to Christ always

In the third reading, a text from the Evangelist Luke (12; 32-48), Jesus beside the invitation to have faith in providence speaks also of the importance of the watch while waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus.

      The subject to whom Jesus turns to is the” little flock”: a flock loved by God, chosen and intended for the Kingdom, but a little flock. This small number could raise doubt and discouragement in the heart of many. It is a discouragement to push away: the history of salvation is ruled by the law of the “remainders of Israel” that is the small group of true believers in whom the Kingdom is realized for the benefit of all.

      The small flock is invited not to be afraid.” Do not be afraid” means watch, readiness and commitment, all in a spirit of great faith. The Kingdom is donated ( the Father” was pleased to give us the Kingdom”) and rests on his love not on our performances. We must not be afraid.

     The small flock is invited also to give away its assets. “Sell all that you have and give the money to charity” This is the richness that never fails compared to the “have more” we find in the parable of the unwise rich man. This is the orientation for our heart”Where your treasure is, there is your heart”.

3)    Blind to evil to see Good.

   The evangelical story carries on with a language full of imagery (verses 35-40) whose meaning is however very clear. “Be ready, gird your loins and light your lamps”. The image of the lamps reminds us of the parable of the wise and unwise virgins. The belt recalls the way the laborers lifted and rolled their garments at their waist so to be free in their movements and the way the travelers lifted their garments to walk faster. It is advisable to have the wandering and vigil attitude that doesn’t allow being inactive. Too many things can obstruct the spirit and make us inactive at the expenses of hope. (Hope is not only waiting for the afterlife but also the ability to transform things on this earth keeping in mind that we need to convert first otherwise. Tolstoy would be right when he wrote “Everybody thinks about changing the world but nobody thinks about  changing himself”).

After the short parable of the Owner that comes back from the wedding and the one of the Lord that comes suddenly like a robber, there is the one of the loyal administrator (verses 41-48). In this way the theme of the watch is enriched by a new attitude, the loyalty in the administration of the owner’s assets and the sense of responsibility. What are the owner’s assets to be administered with loyalty and responsibility? The text doesn’t say it clearly but we can think at the use of all the goods (wealth, relationships, all) that God gave us and that we must administrate and not kept for us only.

     Loyalty and the sense of responsibility are requested in proportion with the knowledge that everyone has of the owner. The bigger is the knowledge the bigger is the responsibility. Loyalty and responsibility are above all requested to the believers to do the true work in the God’s wine yard, the Church.

      The important thing is to grow in faith to “see” that God is Father and that he can be called owner because he is omnipotent. In Jesus the Father puts omnipotence to the service of his charity making it good and lovable by everyone. In Jesus faith makes us “blind” to evil and prophets to Good, to Charity, to Sainthood and to Eternal Life. Acting in this way we can guide our brothers in Christ to Peace and to the Father.

       Let’s not be tired of looking at Christ on the Cross. The more we put our eyes on Him and the more we’ll see the light through his chest open to love, the more we will believe because faith is born from the light of love.

        Let’s become poor in spirit making all assets servant of Justice and using them with the justice that consumes in charity and reveals itself in mercy (see Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 7 and 13).

                                                       Faith is the light of love

In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God. (LF 7)

Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call.

(1)    [1] Faith is the interior attitude of the believer. The words of the Bible that are translated with “faith” or “loyalty’ (in Hebrew emunah, emet) and with “believe” come from the same root (‘mn); in Greek pistis “faith’ e pisteuein “to b
The basic idea, in Hebrew, is that one of resoluteness; in Greek is the one of persuading. See Jean- Yves Lacoste, “Dictionnaire critique de théologie”, Paris 2007.

Roman Rite

XIX Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C- August 11, 2013

Wis 18:6-9; Ps 33; Heb 1:1-2.8-9; Lk 12:32-48

Ambrosian Rite

XII Sunday of Pentecost

2 Kings 25:1-17; Ps77; Rm2:1-10; Mt 23, 37-24, 2

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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