To all the brothers and sisters of the Oases – Realities of
Koinonia John the Baptist
Christ is risen!
“Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 10,25).
This is the question that a teacher of the law asks Jesus wanting to put Him to the test. The intention of the heart of this expert of the law is not right. However the question addressed to Jesus is fundamental and is a good one to ask ourselves, especially during Lent.
The use of the expression ‘do to’ in the question demonstrates the teacher’s typically Jewish mentality indicating that we cannot be good and holy without doing something that provokes or shows our goodness. In other words, it is not enough not to do evil, or to simply remain indifferent to the needs and requests that surround us, but we must also participate and do our part, keeping in mind the free gift of salvation in Jesus.
Returning to the question, the Master replies with another question: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”. And the expert, for his part, shows that he really knows the essence of the old covenant by quoting the Shemà Israel: “you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Dt 6,5).
This is how our action is made concrete with the verb to love and above all to love God.
“With your whole heart” means placing the Lord at the centre of our life and our actions. It is easy to say it, but in everyday life we experience the fragility of our heart and therefore of our decisions regarding love. Unfortunately, we frequently witness brothers and sisters who, without much resistance, fail to remain faithful to the free and voluntary decision taken to love the Lord in virginity or in marriage. This means that the heart, slowly but surely, has gone cold and has cultivated feelings that are different and contrary to the initial choice. We are experts in the use of cell phones and computers, we are fascinated by technology, but we do not know how to manage the feelings that arise in our inner being. We do not realize that, if brooded on and fed, they can take us away from the community, from the wife or the husband and finally from the Lord.
Fidelity, the virtue that characterises love, when betrayed generates discouragement, insecurity, fear, disappointment and many other situations of unease in community, and can sometimes even lead to despair. We must therefore guard our hearts and, if necessary, be ready to sacrifice what distracts us from our commitment.
“With all your soul” means being willing to love God to the point of giving him your blood, which is life in the Bible (Lv 17,14). It is the love practiced by martyrs, willing to die in order not to betray the Beloved. There is no doubt that sooner or later authentic love knocks on our door and asks us for an account: how much are you willing to sacrifice? How far does your love go?
“With all your strength” according to an ancient Jewish interpretation, it means with all our money, putting our material goods on the line.
The call to love therefore involves our entire existence. In Matthew’s gospel (chapter 6) Jesus clearly tells us how to love, starting from the three dimensions of the Shemà Israel:
- “With all your heart”: praying, not to show off, but with your heart turned to Him and ready to do what He asks of you. And if prayer has become for you a synonym of intercession, now is the time to stand before Him and to allow Him to speak. He is the Master and wants to encourage you and, if necessary, correct you.
- “With all your soul”: fasting, but not with a pale and suffering face. Together we find the strength to fast, with the awareness that fasting means loving, and love always pays.
- “With all your strength”: giving alms, without being afraid of exaggerating in generosity and trusting in the Lord who “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9,7).
Dear sister and dear brother, Lent is an opportunity that Jesus gives us in order to verify the quality of our love and, like any opportunity, depends on us whether we seize it or not. My invitation to you this Lent is to add quantity and quality to your prayer, to give up alcohol (like a good John the Baptist) and to be generous.
May the Lord bless us this Easter and grant us the grace of renouncing selfishness and of putting our brother, who is our neighbour and sacrament of Christ, at the centre of our hearts.
Happy Easter to you all.
Tiberias, 22nd February 2020
Fr. Giuseppe De Nardi