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Gospel for Sunday, December 11: Matthew 11: 2-11

III Sunday of Advent A

2John meanwhile, who was in prison, having heard of the works of Christ, sent word to him through his disciples: 3“Are you the one who is to come or should we wait for another?” 4Jesus answered: “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind recover their sight, the crippled walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf regain their hearing, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor, 6And blessed is he who is not scandalized by me.” 7As these were leaving, Jesus went on to tell the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed flapping in the wind? 8What then did you go to see? A man wrapped in soft robes? Those who wear soft robes stand in the palaces of kings! 9So what did you go to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, even more than a prophet. 10He is the one, of whom it is written, Behold, I send before you my messenger who will prepare your way before you. 11Verily I tell you: among those born of women there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Mt 11: 2-11

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

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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The Messiah of the excluded

There is no poor or sinner who is not reached by the Gospel of Jesus. The excluded, the last, are the privileged recipients of his message. At the birth of Jesus, the angels proclaim, “Do not be afraid; behold, I proclaim to you great joy, which will be to all the people: today there has been born to you in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). And they announce this not to priests or scribes, in the sanctity of the Temple, but to poor shepherds (Lk 2:8-20), who are considered unclean, because of their cohabitation with animals, and considered dishonest, because of their constant violations of territorial boundaries in search of pasture for their livestock.

In his public life, Jesus is the “friend of publicans and sinners” (Mt 11:19), and he is not afraid to upset the well-wishers by even sitting at the table of these outcasts (Lk 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-2; 19:1-10): and eating together was for Jews a sign of utmost intimacy (Rev 3:20). The Pharisee scribes were therefore scandalized and “said to his disciples, ‘How is it that he eats and drinks in the company of publicans and sinners?’ Having heard this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” (Mk. 2:16-17).

The Law mandated, “If anyone commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death” (Lev 20:10). Instead, Jesus welcomes the adulteress by forgiving her and sending her back in peace (Jn 8:1-11).

It is written in the Bible that one was not to have dealings with the Samaritans (Ez 4:3), who were considered outside the fellowship of Israel because they were racially hybrid and had an often syncretistic cult that combined worship to the God of Israel with worship to other deities (2 Kings 17:34-41).

But Jesus also goes to Samaria to announce the Kingdom of God, although he is rejected by the Samaritans because he is going to Jerusalem, while they worship God on Mount Garizim (Lk 9:52-55). And another time he stops to talk to a Samaritan woman to announce the Kingdom of God to her at Jacob’s well (Jn. 4:1-43).

The sick and the pagans were not allowed to enter the Temple: “‘As for the blind and the lame, they are in hatred of David. Therefore they say, ‘The blind and the lame shall not enter the house'” (2 Sam 5:8). At the end of the episode of the expulsion of the sellers from the temple, Matthew notes, “The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Mt 21:14): in Jesus, no one is marginalized anymore: all are now admitted into the house of God.

Jesus allows himself to be touched by “a woman, who had been suffering from hemorrhage for twelve years” (Mk 5:25-34), even though the Law forbade it (Lv 15:19-27), not rejecting a sinner’s gestures of affection, arousing the indignation of well-wishers (Mk 14:3-9), touching lepers to heal them (Mk 1:40-45), breaking the legal segregation to which they were forced (Lv 13:45-46), raising them from their social death… His mercy reaches everyone!

Jesus is touched

In the face of every infirmity or need, Jesus “is moved,” “feels compassion.” These are very strong terms that we find in the Gospels to express the Lord’s feelings when faced with the leper: “Moved with compassion (splanchnisthèis), he stretched out his hand” (Mk. 1:41); to the leaderless and hungry crowds: “He saw much crowds and was moved (esplanchnìsthe) by them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34); “I feel compassion (splanchnìzomai) for this crowd, because . they have no food” (Mk 8:2); to people who can’t take it anymore: “Seeing the crowds he felt compassion (esplanchnìsthe) for them because they were weary and exhausted” (Mt 9:36); to the sick: “He felt compassion (esplanchnìsthe) for them and healed their sick” (Mt 14:14); to the widow of Naim: “The Lord had compassion (esplanchnìsthe) on her and said to her, “Do not weep” (Lk 7:13)… The verb splanchnìzomai is always used, indicating visceral emotion, reminiscent of the mother’s womb: it is the trembling of a mother for her children, it is a most intense emotion.

Pope John Paul II wrote: “Above all, by his lifestyle and actions, Jesus revealed how love is present in the world in which we live, love at work, love that reaches out to man and embraces all that forms his humanity. Such love is particularly noticeable in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty, with the whole historical human condition, which in various ways manifests man’s limitedness and frailty, both physical and moral. Precisely this manifestation of divine love is called, in biblical language, mercy. Christ, thus, reveals God who is Father, who is love, who is rich in mercy, as expressed by St. John and St. Paul in their letters.”

A life of mercy

This is how Pope Francis summarizes Jesus’ life: “What moved Jesus in all circumstances was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of his interlocutors and responded to their truest need… After freeing the possessed man of Jerash, he entrusted him with this mission: ‘Proclaim what the Lord has done to you and the mercy he has had for you’ (Mk. 5:19). Matthew’s vocation is also placed within the horizon of mercy. Passing before the tax booth, Jesus’ eyes fixed on Matthew’s. It was a mercy-laden gaze that forgave the man’s sins and, overcoming the resistance of the other disciples, chose him, the sinner and publican, to become one of the Twelve (Mt 9:9). St. Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel scene, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo. I have always been so impressed by this expression that it has become my motto.”

Let our life, like Jesus’, be only mercy for the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the excluded!

Happy Mercy to all!

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

Source

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