Searching for the Kingdom of God in the Humility of the Wait

Lectio Divina: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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1)     The question is to understand what to do now, not to know what will happen at the end

      Reading the text of today’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-19) it is easy to think almost exclusively at the events of the end of the world that will also be the end of human history: the end of the world, the victory of the Lord and the last judgment. However the aim of Jesus’ speech is not to satisfy the curiosity of the ones who want to know how the “otherworld” will be, but to enlighten the present one. Listening to these words allows the disciple to “see” the ephemeral worldas a “sign” of a reality that lasts forever. Jesus, his person and his word, are the key to interpret this reality and history. He is the Son of God who became man, He is the incarnate Word, he is the passing fragility and the everlasting life, “He is the new Temple[2], in a new place where we encounter God” (Benedict XVI), and He is the Love that on the Cross is revealed as passion and compassion.

    Thanks to Christ the Cross is no longer a sad instrument of death but a splendid throne irradiating Love. The Cross of Jesus is the most intense moment of the revelation of the meaning of all that exists. It is the most dramatic point of obscurity, of fragility and of nonsense, but it is also the moment of the most intense light and fulfillment of the life that is resurrected and that wins over death. The cross of Jesus is the revelation that the final meaning of everything is Love, the love that humiliates himself, that dies to become true love and that empties himself to become the greatest gift.

    Love is the truest meaning of this world that passes and dies to be able to enter into the infinity of the Love that never ends. We don’t know how the “otherworld” will be, but we know that it will be the fullness of love that is already the life in the “earthly” world.

     Jesus invites his disciples (that is us) not to be attached to what passes , not to have illusions, not to have idols, but to live intensely the “daily life” by beginning to taste the love that will never end and that will become always bigger. To live love, to free and to expand the field of love, is the message of Jesus through his eschatological[3] speech: only Love lasts forever.

      This is the reason for which the Redeemer invites to “walk in charity” (expression used to indicate the Spiritual Exercises written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola and recalled by Pope Francis).

      Let’s not forget that charity is not just  being charitable to the poor by giving them money or other material help. Charity is also to grow in the Christian hope, in the link of fraternal love and in steady faith. (1 John 2:14). The via amoris dolorosa (the path of love in the complete donation of oneself) that is the Via Crucis, is for the Christian the way that takes him to the complete identification with Christ. To this regard Saint Clare of Assisi said of Saint Francis who was in love with Christ: “He loves him to the point of resembling even physically to Him” and asked to herself “Will I be able to do the same?”

The life of this Saint Nun shows that it is possible to reassemble to Christ if one puts himself at His school of charity and walks always behind the for-so-long-waited Loved One. Here, I mean to use the “to wait” in the original meaning of “to reach to”, “to search for.”

      In conclusion we “wait for” the Lord:

–        Looking for him. Regarding the search for God it is clear an apothegm [4] of the Fathers of the desert that says: “A man in search of God asked a Christian “How can I find God?” The Christian replied “I’ll show you”. He took him on the sea shore and plunged his face three times in the water. Then he asked him “What did you wanted most when your face was in the water?” “Air” “When you’ll desire God as much as you have desired air, you’ll find Him” said the Christian.

–        Persevering in His love.  “As love is strong in the great difficulties so it is perseverant in the dull daily life. One thing is necessary to please God: to do even the small things for love” ( Mother Faustina Kowalska)

–        Testifying His truth and not fantasizing about the end of the world

    We found an example of this testimony in the Consecrated Virgins. The virginal consecration grows in them an attitude of trust in the world and in humanity and a way of listening to history and to the human problems uniting them, through their way of working and living, to every man and woman.  These Virgins become companions in the journey, instruments of communion and witnesses of love.

      These consecrated women participate to the creative doing of God through their work that allows them to provide for their living and to be open to sharing.

       With their life they give voice to the invocation of the Spirit and of the Church, “‘Maranatha’, come Lord Jesus” ( Wis 22:20) keeping alive a vigilant and prophetic waiting.[5]

       The consecrated Virgins recall the desire of God to the men and the women of their time and show how God today is present and redeems history.

Roman Rite

XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – November 17, 2013

Mal 3:19-20; Ps 98; 2The 3:7-12; Lk21:5-19

Ambrosian Rite

I Sunday of Advent[1] – Year A

Is 51:4-8; Ps 49; 2Tes 2:1-14; Mt 24:1-31

Patristic Reading

St Augustine of Hyppo

               Exposition on Psalm 121

1. …Let them «lift up their eyes to the hills whence comes their help» (ver. 1).

What means, The hills have been lightened? The San of righteousness has already

risen, the Gospel has been already preached by the Apostles, the Scriptures have

been preached, all the mysteries have been laid open, the veil has been rent, the

secret place of the temple has been revealed: let them now at length lift their eyes

up to the hills, whence their help cometh…»Of His fulness have all we received,»

John 1:16 he says. Your help therefore is from Him, of whose fulness the hills

received, not from the hills; towards which, nevertheless, save thou lift your eyes

through the Scriptures, you will not approach, so as to be lighted by Him.

2. Sing therefore what follows; if thou wish to hear how you may most securely

set your feet on the steps, so that you may not be fatigued in that ascent, nor

stumble and fall: pray in these words: «Suffer not my foot to be moved!» (ver. 3).

Whereby are feet moved; whereby was the foot of him who was in Paradise

moved? But first consider whereby the feet of him who was among the Angels

were moved: who when his feet were moved fell, and from an Angel became a

devil: for when his feet were moved he fell. Seek whereby he fell: he fell through

pride. Nothing then moves the feet, save pride: nothing moves the feet to a fall,

save pride. Charity moves them to walk and to improve and to ascend; pride

moves them to fall … Rightly therefore the Psalmist, hearing how he may ascend

and may not fall, prays unto God that he may profit from the vale of misery, and

may not fail in the swelling of pride, in these words, «Suffer not my feet to be

moved!» And He replies unto him, «Let him that keeps you not sleep.» Attend, my

beloved. It is as if one thought were expressed in two sentences; the man while

ascending and singing «the song of degrees,» says, «Suffer not my foot to be

moved:» and it is as if God answered, You say unto Me, Let not my feet be

moved: say also, «Let Him that keeps you not sleep,» and you
r foot shall not be


3. Choose for yourself Him, who will neither sleep nor slumber, and your foot

shall not be moved. God is never asleep: if thou dost wish to have a keeper who

never sleeps, choose God for your keeper. «Suffer not my feet to be moved,» you

say, well, very well: but He also says unto you, «Let not him that keeps you

slumber.» Thou perhaps wast about to turn yourself unto men as your keepers, and

to say, whom shall I find who will not sleep? what man will not slumber? whom

do I find? whither shall I go? whither shall I return? The Psalmist tells you: «He

that keeps Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep» (ver. 4). Do you wish to have a

keeper who neither slumbers nor sleeps? Behold, «He that keeps Israel shall

neither slumber nor sleep:» for Christ keeps Israel. Be thou then Israel. What

means Israel? It is interpreted, Seeing God. And how is God seen? First by faith:

afterwards by sight. If you can not as yet see Him by sight, see Him by

faith… Who is there, who will neither slumber nor sleep? when you seek among

men, you are deceived; you will never find one. Trust not then in any man: every

man slumbers, and will sleep. When does he slumber? When he bears the flesh of

weakness. When will he sleep? When he is dead. Trust not then in man. A mortal

may slumber, he sleeps in death. Seek not a keeper among men.

[1] The Ambrosian Advent starts after the vespers of the Sunday following the 11th of November, feast of Saint Martin. It is for this reason that in the Ambrosian tradition is it known also as Saint Martin’s Lent. It doesn’t consist of 4 weeks like in the Roman Rite, but of six weeks. It ends with the feriae de Exceptato (feast of the Welcomed) that is the Christmas’ novena.  The Sunday before Christmas is called Sunday of the Incarnation and the priest wears robes that are white instead of purple. In the Ambrosian dioceses the benediction of the houses is done during this time while in the Roman dioceses it is done during the Pascal time.

[2] The word “TEMPLE” comes from the Latin “TEMPLUM” which derives from an ancient Indo-European word “TEM-LO” that means “to cut”. ”TEM-LO” is similar to the Greek word “TEMNO” that has the same meaning and from which comes “TEMENOS”= “sacred fenced area.” Then the word”TEMPLE” indicates an area, a space in the world fenced and destined to host a super-human presence, a place consecrated to the worship of God.

The Temple is the house of God. Living among his people, God is present among the believers. In the Biblical world the temple was the center of the religious and national life and had a strong symbolic meaning. The destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, the place of God and the principle of life, is the symbol of the end of the world.

The Temple for the Christian men and women is the Body of Christ and the Church, the assembly of the believers. The word “church” comes from the antique English cirice, from the German “kirik”and from the Greek word “kuriake’”that means “belonging to God” (It is the possessive form of kurios). The noun is found in the most recent part of the Bible, called of the Seventy ( it is the Greek version of the bible) to translate the Hebrew words qahal and edah meaning ofmeeting “of the Jewish people, at the same time a religious and political meeting. It is in the Bible of the Seventy that this term starts having a “cultural and juridical” meaning. The writers of the New Testament have taken this term not from its Greek use but from the Biblical text of the Seventy.

[3] Eschatology and eschatological means speech (logos) on the last things (escathon), that is on death and on the eternal life. Regarding the eschatological dimension of the Church we could say that the Church contains the seed of what through the passage of men and of the universe, will reach complete and everlasting maturity in the eternal life. The beatific vision of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will be the prize for the one who in his daily life, often full of suffering, has tried to welcome and to live the word of God.

In the catechistical tradition of the Church the word “novissima” ( from the Latin) = “the last things”  indicate  4 key words of man’s final destiny:

Death: the last thing that happens in this world. Thanks to Christ, the Christian death has a positive meaning “For me life is Christ and death is gain” ( Phil 1:21) “ I don’t die, I enter into life” ( Saint Theresa of the Baby Jesus)God’s judgment: the last judgment to which everyone will be submittedHell: the “situation of a definitive auto-exclusion from the communion with God and the Blessed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1031)Paradise: the highest reward  for “the ones who die in grace and in God’s friendship and that are purified” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1023) 

[4] The ancient Greek word apothegm comes from the verbs apophthenghesthai = to enunciate a verdict and apophtheggomai = to enunciate a final answer. The word then has the connotation of “quote,” “verdict,” and “motto” and it is used for a sentence that has a profound and at the same time binding truth. The apothegm has something in common with the anecdote, the motto, and the proverb even if it is not anything of the above.

[5] See the article of Maryvonne Gasse “La fame en ligne de front. Un combat eschatologique” pages 395-398 of the book “Orde des Vierges’- Une vocation ancienne et nouvelle- Don du seigeur a son Eglise”. Saint Josephe Published 2013, page 463

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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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