What is the first commandment of the Law? Somebody asked Jesus. The answer is easy because it is contained in the most ancient and important prayer in Judaism: The Shema. “Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…” We too are the people of God and we too are called not only to love the Lord but to LISTEN. On the 30th of September, feast day of St Jerome, Pope Francis established the third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God. A day, in the first place, to draw us closer to the Jews – our elder brethren in faith – and our Non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters with whom we share a big part of the Scriptures. And secondly to discover the particular importance and relevance that the Word of God has for us Catholics, especially at Mass, when we celebrate and participate in the death and resurrection of Christ. The unbreakable unity between the Scriptures and the mysteries of the life of Christ, which Pope Francis so clearly emphasizes in his last motu proprio: ‘Aperuit Illis’, is not his own invention but has been there ever since the beginning. Right on the day of his resurrection when two of his disciples were walking towards Emmaus, Jesus appeared to them and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). But the story does not end there, because as the lecture on the scriptures finished, they agreed to stay together, and Jesus broke the bread for them. It was only then that their eyes were opened and they were able to recognise him. This is still the dynamic of our Eucharist in which, we are fed from the “table” of the Word of God and then from the “table” of the altar. Always remembering that the bond between these two “tables” cannot be broken without the detriment of both. In the words of Pope Francis: “Apart from the Scriptures, his death and resurrection cannot be rightly understood”. Let us open our ears and our heart to LISTEN more attentively to the Word of God in the liturgy and in our private prayer, that we may come to understand and participate better in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection made present for us in the sacraments. Fr Daniel Herrero Peña
This Sunday the Church closes up the Christmas season with the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A feast day to celebrate and contemplate on a more than puzzling event in the life of Jesus. Why did Jesus go to John to be baptised? Mark’s gospel says: “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4). But, if there was something Jesus did not need was forgiveness, so why did he do it? When we look at John’s baptism a little closer then we realise that it made a lot of sense. We know from the Gospel of John that John the Baptist exercised his ministry in “Bethany, beyond the Jordan” (Jn 1:28). That is, the eastern bank of the river – today’s country of Jordan. With his baptism John was inviting people to re-enact the Exodus. Passing from the desert, where Israel wondered for 40 years, back into the Promised Land. This Baptism was, as John himself said, only a preparation for the coming of the real Messiah, the One who would lead the whole of humanity in a new Exodus – not from the slavery of Egypt as in the past – but from the slavery of sin into the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, what we see in the Gospel is that Jesus, appears at the bank of the river Jordan to be baptised by John. Not to re-enact the Exodus, as John was doing with the other people, but to bring that baptism to its fulfilment. To take the lead of the universal and final Exodus. And as he crossed the river and he stepped to the other side the heavens opened as a sign that the way was now open for the rest of humanity to pass with Christ to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Fr Daniel Herrero Pena