Readings for Friday of the 14th Week (odd year)
READING I Gn 46, 1-7. 28-30
Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, "Jacob! Jacob!" "Here I am," he answered. Then he said: "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes."
So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba, and the sons of Israel put their father and their wives and children on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport. They took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan. Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt. His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters -- all his descendants -- he took with him to Egypt.
Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that he might meet him in Goshen. On his arrival in the region of Goshen, Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he saw him, he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arms. And Israel said to Joseph, "At last I can die, now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive."
GOSPEL Mt 10, 16-23
Jesus said to his disciples: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as snakes and innocent as doves. Be on your guard with respect to others. They will hale you into court, they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to give witness before them and the Gentiles on my account. When they hand you over, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.
"Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will turn against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all on account of me. But whoever holds out till the end will escape death. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I solemnly assure you, you will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Yesterday, the city of London, in England, was the theatre of several bomb attacks that left dozens of civilian dead and several hundred wounded. Let us pray for those innocent victims of this new phase in the escalation of violence that has been affecting our world for so long. This happened when the head of states of the eight richest nations of the world were meeting having on their agenda the consideration of the economic needs of Africa, and especially the writing off of the debt. Let us pray that this new outbreak of violence will not bring the needs of Africa into oblivion.
Perhaps the first reading of today’s mass can help us to read such events into a larger perspective – the perspective of God’s plans on humanity. God never wants evil to happen; and to say that God allows evil to happen is even too ambiguous an expression. But God, in his mercy knows how to use our mistakes and even our sins to bring us to a new phase in our relationship with Him, in our history of Salvation.
The economic situation in Ur of Chaldea – the present Iraq – had obliged Abraham to exile himself to the land of Canaan, where he and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob had prospered. The prosperity of Jacob was saddened by the loss of his son Joseph whom his brothers had sold to merchants going to Egypt, in a moment of jealousy and hatred. But, as we know, Joseph was blessed by God and became a powerful man in Egypt and was the saviour of his brothers and of his father and all their families when the famine broke out in Canaan. And we know the rest of history. The Jews will now only prosper in Egypt, but will become slaves of the Egyptians, and some time later will be freed by God from that slavery in the events that we commemorate especially during the Easter Vigil of each year.
If we look at the history of our own personal lives and of our community life with a spirit of faith, we will easily realize that events that are very painful to us when they happen turn out to be occasions of new blessings and new growth. During this Eucharist let us ask for each other the grace of being able to look at all these personal and community events with eyes of faith, and to read them as moments of a long history of salvation and of love.
And we should not forget that we make in today’s liturgy the commemoration of Blessed Eugene III, a Cistercian pope. After being a novice of saint Bernard at Clairvaux he became abbot of Tre Fontane in Rome, and was later chosen to become the bishop of Rome. In a way, it is an extraordinary story, and in another way, it is a rather ordinary story. It does not seem that there was anything really extraordinary about the person of Eugene. He was simply a good novice who became a good monk. Then he was chosen to be an abbot and seems to have simply been a good abbot. When he became a pope, his pontificate was not remembered for any extraordinary event. He was simply a good pope! When he was elected pope, saint Bernard felt that he should continue his fatherly care for him by writing to him the nice little treatise “De Consideratione”. We can assume that Eugene receive it with respect, but probably with also some humour. He was no longer Bernard’s novice. He had moved on. He was Bernard’s pope as he was everybody else’s pope.
We are not called to prepare our own future; and we probably all know by experience that every time we try to do it we make a mess of it. We are called to live fully the present moment. – And let us pray for Benedict the XVI.