Apri la tua bocca alla parola di Dio

Dal «Commento sui salmi» di sant’Ambrogio, vescovo

(Sal 36, 65-66; CSEL 64, 123-125)
Apri la tua bocca alla parola di Dio

    Sia sempre nel nostro cuore e sulla nostra bocca la meditazione della sapienza e la nostra lingua esprima la giustizia. La legge del nostro Dio sia nel nostro cuore (cfr. Sal 36, 30). Per questo la Scrittura ci dice: «Parlerai di queste cose quando sarai seduto in casa tua, quando camminerai per via, quando ti coricherai e quando ti alzerai» (Dt 6, 7). Parliamo dunque del Signore Gesù, perché egli è la Sapienza, egli è la Parola, è la Parola di Dio. Infatti è stato scritto anche questo: Apri la tua bocca alla parola di Dio.
    Chi riecheggia i suoi discorsi e medita le sue parole la diffonde. Parliamo sempre di lui. Quando parliamo della sapienza, è lui colui di cui parliamo, così quando parliamo della virtù, quando parliamo della giustizia, quando parliamo della pace, quando parliamo della verità, della vita, della redenzione, è di lui che parliamo.
    Apri la tua bocca alla parola di Dio, sta scritto. Tu la apri, egli parla. Per questo Davide ha detto: Ascolterò che cosa dice in me il Signore (cfr. Sal 84, 9) e lo stesso Figlio di Dio dice: «Apri la tua bocca, la voglio riempire» (Sal 80, 11). Ma non tutti possono ricevere la perfezione della sapienza come Salomone e come Daniele. A tutti però viene infuso lo spirito della sapienza secondo la capacità di ciascuno, perché tutti abbiano la fede. Se credi, hai lo spirito di sapienza.
    Perciò medita sempre, parla sempre delle cose di Dio, «quando sarai seduto in casa tua» (Dt 6, 7). Per casa possiamo intendere la chiesa, possiamo intendere il nostro intimo, per parlare all’interno di noi stessi. Parla con saggezza per sfuggire al peccato e per non cadere con il troppo parlare. Quando stai seduto parla con te stesso, quasi come dovessi giudicarti. Parla per strada, per non essere mai ozioso. Tu parli per strada se parli secondo Cristo, perché Cristo è la via. In cammino parla a te stesso, parla a Cristo. Senti come devi parlargli: «Voglio, dice, che gli uomini preghino dovunque si trovino, alzando al cielo mani pure senza ira e senza contese» (1 Tm 2, 8). Parla, o uomo, quando ti corichi affinché non ti sorprenda il sonno di morte. Senti come potrai parlare sul punto di addormentarti: «Non concederò sonno ai miei occhi né riposo alle mie palpebre, finché non trovi una sede per il Signore, una dimora per il Potente di Giacobbe» (Sal 131, 4-5).
    Quando ti alzi, parlagli per eseguire ciò che ti è comandato. Senti come Cristo ti sveglia. La tua anima dice: «Un rumore! È il mio diletto che bussa» (Ct 5, 2) e Cristo dice: «Aprimi, sorella mia, mia amica» (Ivi). Senti come tu devi svegliare Cristo. L’anima dice: «Io vi scongiuro, figlie di Gerusalemme, svegliate, ridestate l’amore» (Ct 3, 5). L’amore è Cristo.

RESPONSORIO        Cfr. 1 Cor 1, 30-31; Gv 1, 16

 Cristo Gesù è diventato per noi sapienza e giustizia, santificazione e redenzione. Come sta scritto: * Chi si vanta, si vanti nel Signore.
 Dalla sua pienezza noi tutti abbiamo ricevuto grazia su grazia.
 Chi si vanta, si vanti nel Signore.

Friday (February 22): The keys of the kingdom of heaven

Daily Reading & Meditation

Friday (February 22): The keys of the kingdom of heaven

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-19  (alternate reading: Mark 8:34 – 9:1)

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth  shall be loosed in heaven.”

Meditation: At an opportune time Jesus tests his disciples with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am? He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  No mortal being could have revealed this to Peter, but only God.

Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD), an early church father comments on Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus:

Peter did not say “you are a Christ” or “a son of God” but “the Christ, the Son of God.” For there are many christs [meaning anointed ones] by grace, who have attained the rank of adoption [as sons], but [there is] only one who is by nature the Son of God. Thus, using the definite article, he said, the Christ, the Son of God. And in calling him Son of the living God, Peter indicates that Christ himself is life and that death has no authority over him. And even if the flesh, for a short while, was weak and died, nevertheless it rose again, since the Word, who indwelled it, could not be held under the bonds of death. (FRAGMENT 190)

Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek.  To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments. The ancient rabbis had a saying that when God saw Abraham, he exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon”. Through Abraham God established a nation for himself. Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus truly was. He was the first apostle to recognize Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah and Christ) and the only begotten Son of God. The New Testament describes the church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5). Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones.

Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would overcome because it is founded on the rock which is Christ himself. Epiphanius, a 6th century Scripture scholar who also translated many early church commentaries from Greek into Latin, explains the significance of Jesus handing down the “keys of the kingdom”:

For Christ is a rock which is never disturbed or worn away. Therefore Peter gladly received his name from Christ to signify the established and unshaken faith of the church.… The devil is the gateway of death who always hastens to stir up against the holy church calamities and temptations and persecutions. But the faith of the apostle, which was founded upon the rock of Christ, abides always unconquered and unshaken. And the very keys of the kingdom of the heavens have been handed down so that one whom he has bound on earth has been bound in heaven, and one whom he has set free on earth he has also set free in heaven. (INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 28)

The Lord Jesus offers us the gift of unshakeable faith, enduring hope, and unquenchable love – and the joyful boldness to proclaim him as the one true Savior who brings us the kingdom of God both now and forever. Who do you say he is to yourself and to your neighbor?

“Lord Jesus, I profess and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Lord and my Savior. Make my faith strong like Peter’s and give me boldness to speak of you to others that they may come to know you personally as Lord and Savior and grow in the knowledge of your great love.”

Psalm 23:1-6

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; 
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; 
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;  you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. 
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;  and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Who do people say that the Son of Man is? by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

    “Note that he is not asking them their own opinion. Rather, he asks the opinion of the people. Why? In order to contrast the opinion of the people with the disciples answer to the question ‘But who do you say that I am?’ In this way, by the manner of his inquiry, they might be drawn gradually to a more sublime notion and not fall into the same common view as that of the multitude.
    “Note that Jesus does not raise this question at the beginning of his preaching but only after he had done many miracles, had talked through with them many lofty teachings, and had given them many clear proofs of his divinity and of his union with the Father. Only then does he put this question to them.
    “He did not ask ‘Who do the scribes and Pharisees say that I am?’ even though they had often come to him and discoursed with him. Rather, he begins his questioning by asking ‘Who do men say the Son of man is?’ as if to inquire about common opinion. Even if common opinion was far less true than it might have been, it was at least relatively more free from malice than the opinions of the religious leaders, which was teeming with bad motives. 
    “He signifies how earnestly he desires this divine economy to be confessed when he says, ‘Who do men say the Son of man is?'” for he thereby denotes his godhead, which he does also in many other places. (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 54.1.6)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Thursday (February 21): “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

Daily Reading & Meditation

 Thursday (February 21): “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

Scripture: Mark 8:27-33

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Meditation: Who is Jesus for you – and what difference does he make in your life? Many in Israel recognized Jesus as a mighty man of God, even comparing him with the greatest of the prophets. Peter, always quick to respond whenever Jesus spoke, professed that Jesus was truly the “Christ of God” – “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). No mortal being could have revealed this to Peter, but only God. Through the “eyes of faith” Peter discovered who Jesus truly was. Peter recognized that Jesus was much more than a great teacher, prophet, and miracle worker. Peter was the first apostle to publicly declare that Jesus was the Anointed One, consecrated by the Father and sent into the world to redeem a fallen human race enslaved to sin and cut off from eternal life with God (Luke 9:20, Acts 2:14-36). The word for “Christ” in Greek is a translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah” – both words literally mean the Anointed One.

Jesus begins to explain the mission he was sent to accomplish 
Why did Jesus command his disciples to be silent about his identity as the anointed Son of God? They were, after all, appointed to proclaim the good news to everyone. Jesus knew that they did not yet fully understand his mission and how he would accomplish it. Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD), an early church father, explains the reason for this silence:

There were things yet unfulfilled which must also be included in their preaching about him. They must also proclaim the cross, the passion, and the death in the flesh. They must preach the resurrection of the dead, that great and truly glorious sign by which testimony is borne him that the Emmanuel is truly God and by nature the Son of God the Father. He utterly abolished death and wiped out destruction. He robbed hell, and overthrew the tyranny of the enemy. He took away the sin of the world, opened the gates above to the dwellers upon earth, and united earth to heaven. These things proved him to be, as I said, in truth God. He commanded them, therefore, to guard the mystery by a seasonable silence until the whole plan of the dispensation should arrive at a suitable conclusion. (Commentary on Luke, Homily 49, by Cyril of Alexandria) 

God’s Anointed Son must suffer and die to atone for our sins
Jesus told his disciples that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die in order that God’s work of redemption might be accomplished. How startled the disciples were when they heard this word. How different are God’s thoughts and ways from our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8). It was through humiliation, suffering, and death on the cross that Jesus broke the powers of sin and death and won for us eternal life and freedom from the slavery of sin and from the oppression of our enemy, Satan, the father of lies and the deceiver of humankind.

We, too, have a share in the mission and victory of Jesus Christ
If we want to share in the victory of the Lord Jesus, then we must also take up our cross and follow where he leads us. What is the “cross” that you and I must take up each day? When my will crosses (does not align) with God’s will, then his will must be done. To know Jesus Christ is to know the power of his victory on the cross where he defeated sin and conquered death through his resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives each of us the gifts and strength we need to live as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit gives us faith to know the Lord Jesus personally as our Redeemer, and the power to live the Gospel faithfully, and the courage to witness to others the joy, truth, and freedom of the Gospel. Who do you say that Jesus is?

“Lord Jesus, I believe and I profess that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Take my life, my will, and all that I have, that I may be wholly yours now and forever.”

Psalm 102:15-22,28

15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory. 
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory; 
17 he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication. 
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD
19 that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die; 
21 that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their posterity shall be established before you. 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Peter confesses that Jesus is God’s Anointed Son and Savior of all, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

“You see the skillfulness of the question. He [Jesus] did not at once say, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ He refers to the rumor of those that were outside their company. Then, having rejected it and shown it unsound, he might bring them back to the true opinion. It happened that way. When the disciples had said, ‘Some, John the Baptist, and others, Elijah, and others, that some prophet of those in old time has risen up,’ he said to them, ‘But you, who do you say that I am?’ Oh! how full of meaning is that word you! He separates them from all others, that they may also avoid the opinions of others. In this way, they will not conceive an unworthy idea about him or entertain confused and wavering thoughts. Then they will not also imagine that John had risen again, or one of the prophets. ‘You,’ he says, ‘who have been chosen,’ who by my decree have been called to the apostleship, who are the witnesses of my miracles. Who do you say that I am?'” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 49)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use, please cite credits: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager