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Gospel for Sunday, September 3: Matthew 16: 21-28

XXII Sunday A

21From then on, Jesus began to openly tell his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and be resurrected on the third day. 22But Peter took him aside and began to protest, saying: “God forbid, Lord; this will never happen to you”. 23But he, turning, said to Peter: “Get away from me, Satan! You are a scandal to me, because you do not think according to God, but according to men!”. 24Then Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. 25Because whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For what advantage will it have to man if he gains the whole world, and then loses his own soul? Or what can man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man will come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and will repay everyone according to his deeds. 28Truly I say to you: there are some standing here who will not die until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Mt 16: 21-28

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.

We often think that being disciples of Jesus, the one who overcame suffering, illness and death, means being preserved from every trial and every pain. And we are surprised if illness or even death affects our loved ones or ourselves. Sometimes we believe that trying to faithfully follow God’s will and his commandments should protect us from the suffering of other men. But Jesus instead tells us that pain and suffering are part of our creaturely limit, and that even the disciples must agree to carry their cross behind him, as he himself carried it.

The cross Word of God

Lucian of Samosata mocked the Christians who “venerate the man who was crucified in Palestine”, and “worship that crucified sophist” who persuaded them that they are all brothers (Per. mort. 11-13). Justin stated that the pagans “believe in this that they demonstrate our folly, saying that we give second place, after the immutable and eternal God, creator of all things, to a man placed on a cross” (Apol. 1,13 ,4). Justin again has the Jew Tryphon say: “He whom you call Christ was without honor or glory, so much so that he incurred the extreme curses foreseen by the law: he was in fact crucified” (Dial. 32,1). We are the only religion that has as its emblem a condemned man, a tortured person, a crucifix!

“The foolishness of the Christian announcement lies precisely in the claim that a casual event, the crucifixion of Christ, takes on an absolute and definitive value. The wisdom of God is manifested in this foolishness: in the death on the cross of Christ and in the announcement of this event made with unwise language” (M. Brunini).

Paul even speaks of the “word of the Cross” (1 Cor 1:18). “The «word of the cross», «ho lógos toû stauroû», is an exclusive phrase of Paul… The logos of the cross is the announcement of Christ crucified, the densest and most appropriate concentration of the gospel” (M. Brunini).

It is the “kerygma”, that is, the preaching of Christ, who redeemed us through the power of his passion and death. The word of the cross is, therefore, the gospel of the cross. The Jews ask for powerful signs, the pagans ask for wisdom. Only the Cross is true power and true wisdom (1 Cor 1.22).

God reveals himself in weakness

Thus, it is in our weakness, in our carrying of our cross that the power of God is revealed. Paul exclaims: “Jesus was crucified through his weakness, but he lives by the power of God. And we too, who are weak in him , we will be alive with him by the power of God towards you” (2 Cor 13,4).

This is God’s particular line of conduct: “Has not God shown the wisdom of this world to be foolish…? It pleased God to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor 1:20-21). God does not reveal himself and act where there is wisdom, power, nobility, human greatness, but he is encountered in senselessness, weakness, baseness, smallness (see Dt 7,7-8).

In praise of “asthenia”

In Christ Jesus there is a continuous passage from God’s weakness to our weakness. So that, if God’s weakness is power, our weakness is also power, and if God’s foolishness is wisdom, even our folly participates in divine wisdom.

“The term «astheneia», «weakness», in the Pauline epistolary is associated with the human precariousness of the Apostle which involves illnesses, fatigue, deprivations and inconveniences of various kinds (see 4,11-12; 2 Cor 11,23-30 ; 12,9-10)… It refers to the antithesis between «weak/strong» which manifests itself in the paradoxical action of God (1 Cor 1,25.27)” (R. Fabris).

“God considers the terrain of «asthenia» as the privileged place to make the power of divine grace shine” (G. Ravasi). This is why Paul exclaims: “I will therefore gladly boast of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in the insults, in the necessities, in the persecutions, in the anguish suffered for Christ: when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12,9-10). “Against a utilitarian and efficiencyist vision, such as the one in which we are immersed, Paul’s words resonate with all the provocative force that they also had in the Greek world, where it was the perfect form that was a sign of fullness, of authenticity, of divinity. Christianity, which has its vital center in the “foolishness” and “scandal” of the cross – to use a famous Pauline phrase – rehabilitates and exalts the sufferer” (G. Ravasi). This is already the position of Jesus, who when faced with the Pharisees who asked him whether the man born blind was like this because of his own fault or that of his parents, replied: “Neither he nor his parents sinned, but it is so so that they would manifest themselves in him the works of God” (Jn 9:3). “Illness not as a sign of rejection but of election, not as a place of curse but of blessing, not as a satanic place but as a theophanic horizon: «The works of God are manifested in him»” (G. Ravasi).

“Our «nothingness» is assumed by God to make us humble witnesses and foolish heralds of the logos of the cross… In this astonishing horizon it is possible to recognize, with new eyes, our wounds to adhere, with faith and humility, to the revelation of the Triune God which, in the cross of Christ, reveals itself in its weakness… In the company of Christ crucified my weaknesses, my impotence, my passions, my instincts, my needs and desires, my nothingness can become the path that leads to God. It could be the fatigue of illness, which puts one in contact with the precariousness of the body; opens up dependence on others; it takes away the little or much power we thought we had and exercised. It could be apathy. That certain depressed tone, which makes you dissatisfied and drags you along with no prospects for the future. Even the past, with the wounds of the origin not always healed, can fuel the painful sensation of incomprehension, of little consideration, of non-welcome and above all of little love from others. Finally, the wounds linked to personal, spiritual, professional or family failures” (M. Brunini).

Marcello Brunini states that we must begin to “consider wounds as part of ourselves, to reconcile with them by accepting this simple truth: the wound that inhabits me is part of me. It is the place where impotence envelops me, where pain shows itself and makes itself felt; the place where sadness attacks me”; it is therefore necessary to “make room for pain, often suffocated and considered unbearable and even useless… In this way the wound transforms into a slit… Even when resurrected, Christ left his wounds as “ornament”. Something like this can happen to us too if, wrapped in his love, we welcome as loopholes the wounds which, from condemnation, open up to become an opportunity for a radical change in existence”.

Each of our suffering situations can become a place of maturation, of spiritual deepening, of conversion, of salvation, of greater capacity for understanding and sharing with brothers who are in difficulty. Truly, every one of our “wounds” can transform into a “slit” that opens us to a privileged experience with the Lord.

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

Spazio Spadoni

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