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Gospel for Friday, January 1: Luke 2: 16-21

Mary Most Holy Mother of God

16They went, without delay, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, lying in the manger.
17And after seeing him, they reported what they had been told about the child. 18All who heard were amazed at the things the shepherds said to them. 19Mary, for her part, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as they had been told. 21When the eight days prescribed for circumcision were completed, he was given the name Jesus, as he had been called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2: 16-21

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

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See: C. MIGLIETTA, SHARE FOR LOVE. The call of Christians to poverty, Gribaudi, Milan, 2003, with preface by Arturo Paoli


Jesus’ lifestyle was certainly not “neutral”, but his whole life was marked by poverty.

The environmental context of Jesus

To frame the context in which Jesus lives we must remember the effects of the “pax Romana” imposed by Pompey in 67 BC. C.. It had meant heavy taxation, collected through local kings, such as Herod the Great (37-4 BC) or Herod Antipas (4 BC-39 AD). Covered in debt to pay taxes, small farmers, especially in Galilee, began to sell their fields to large landowners who often lived abroad, as told in the parable of the murderous winemakers (Mt 21.33-41). Thus large estates were formed and small properties gradually disappeared. The phenomenon of “diaspora” was therefore determined, that is, a strong emigration abroad in search of better living conditions: at the time of Jesus, the Jews in Palestine were 500-750,000, those in other countries around 4,500,000 . In Jerusalem things were a little better, because the Temple was not only a source of great earnings for the priestly classes, but also created a thriving industry. In the Galilee of Jesus the economic situation was very precarious, and the population was largely composed of the so-called “rural proletariat” (S. Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, USA, 1980), including day laborers (yes think of the parable in Mt 20.1-16) and the debt slaves, forced to do heavy work on the large estates. The social situation in Israel was aggravated by the religious distinction between “pure” and “impure”: the Galileans, who lived in a land bordering the idolatrous world, were often in contact with pagans, and therefore “impure”.

The childhood of Jesus

From birth, Jesus placed himself among the last, among the marginalized. The angels proclaimed his poverty as a messianic sign: “Today there has been born to you… a savior, who is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Lk 2, 11-12). We immediately notice how Luke uses “crude” terms: “brèphos” (Lk 2,12.16), which indicates the fetus to be given birth or just given birth, and “gennòmenon” (Lk 1,35), which designates the fetus in the mother’s womb. A God who becomes a fetus: what poverty could be greater? But we also underline that this manger of which the angels speak is so important, which is later called with the definite article: “the” manger: “So they went without delay and found Mary and Joseph and the child, who was lying in the manger ” (Luke 2:16). The manger is the sign that is given to confirm the supernatural announcement of the birth of the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11), just as the sign of silence was given to the news of his imminent fatherhood to Zechariah (Lk 1,11-20), and the proclamation to Mary of her divine maternity is given the sign of the pregnancy of the old Elizabeth (Lk 1,26-38). The Gospel, “making the manger the paradoxical sign from which to recognize the Savior, Christ the Lord, refers to a future which, in fact, can only be that of the cross, supreme manifestation of the weakness and misery of the one who has become, resurrecting , the author of our salvation (see Acts 4.12; 5.31)” (J. Dupont).

Jesus was born into a family so poor that, when presenting him at the temple, they did not even have the possibility of offering a lamb for him, but only “a pair of turtle doves or young pigeons” (Lk 2:24), the sacrifice of those who “did not has means” (Lev 12,8; 5,7).

Poverty is immediately associated with persecution: Herod attacks the life of Jesus, and the Holy Family must flee to Egypt, called to a reverse Exodus, from the Promised Land to the land of slavery and oppression (Mt 2.13-18) : we imagine them in the difficulties of emigrants, in poverty, in the search for a job with a boss, for a house…

After Herod’s death, Joseph goes with his family “to live in a city called Nazareth, so that what had been said by the prophets might be fulfilled: <<He will be called a Nazarene>>” (Mt 2.23). It seems that Joseph, who received the mandate from the angel to give the Son of Mary the name of Jesus (Mt 1.21), personally works to ensure that the other names foreseen by the Scriptures are also fulfilled for the Savior: he has now understood that the Messiah will be poor and humble, and fully accepts the mystery of his hiding in that lowest place of which the wise Nathanael will exclaim: “Can anything good ever come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1.46). Nazareth is never mentioned in the entire Old Testament: it is not even among the four hundred or more places that Flavius Josephus mentions in his works. Archaeologists tell us that, at the time of Jesus, it was a small village of thirty-forty families, who lived in “cave” like the one that they still show us, in Nazareth, as “Mary’s house”… A God who he becomes… “caveman”, in an unknown village…

Pope Francis wrote: “Jesus, «meek and humble of heart» (Mt 11.29), was born poor, he led a simple life to teach us to grasp the essential and live by it. From the nativity scene the clear message emerges that we cannot be deluded by wealth and by many ephemeral offers of happiness. Herod’s palace is in the background, closed, deaf to the announcement of joy. By being born in the nativity scene, God himself begins the only true revolution that gives hope and dignity to the disinherited, the marginalized: the revolution of love, the revolution of tenderness. From the nativity scene, Jesus proclaims, with gentle power, the appeal to share with the least as a path towards a more human and fraternal world, where no one is excluded and marginalised” (Admirabile signum, nn. 5-6).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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