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This week’s Aita Antton’s commentary
Sunday January 20, 2019
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Gospel Jn 2: 1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Ebanjelioa Joan 1: 1-11
1 Hiru egunera, ezteiak izan ziren Galileako Kanan, eta han zen Jesusen ama. 2 Jesus eta beronen ikasleak ere gonbidatu zituzten ezteietara. 3 Eta ardoa amaitu baitzen, esan zion amak Jesusi: –Ez dute ardorik. 4 Jesusek erantzun zion: –Utz nazazu bakean, emakume. Oraino ez da etorri nire ordua. 5 Jesusen amak honela esan zien zerbitzariei: «Egin horrek esango dizuena». 6 Baziren han harrizko sei ur-ontzi, juduek beren garbikuntzetarako erabili ohi zituztenak, ehunen bat litrokoa bakoitza. 7 Jesusek esan zien zerbitzariei: –Bete ontziak urez. Haiek goraino bete zituzten. 8 Orduan, esan zien: –Atera pixka bat eta eraman mahaizainari. Hala egin zuten haiek. 9 Mahaizainak ardo bihurtutako ura dastatu zuen, nongoa zen jakin gabe; zerbitzariek, bai, bazekiten, beraiek atera baitzuten ura. Ardo berria dastatu zueneko, senarrari dei egin 10 eta esan zion: «Jende guztiak ardorik onena atera ohi du lehenik eta, jendea aski edanda dagoenean, arruntagoa; zuk, berriz, orain arte gorde duzu ardorik onena». 11 Bere lehen mirarizko seinale hau Galileako Kanan egin zuen Jesusek; honela, bere Jainko-aintza agertu zuen, eta ikasleek sinetsi egin zuten harengan. 12 Ondoren, Kafarnaumera joan zen bere ama, anai-arreba eta ikasleekin, eta han egon ziren zenbait egunez.
To live life in fulness
“There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.” Thus, begins this story in which we are told something unexpected and surprising. The first public intervention of Jesus, the Messenger of God, has nothing religious about it. It does not happen in a sacred place. Jesus inaugurates his prophetic activity “saving” a wedding party that could have ended in a disaster. In those poor villages of Galilee, the wedding feast was the most appreciated event by all. For several days, family and friends accompanied the newlywed couple eating and drinking with them, dancing festive dances and singing love songs.
The Gospel of John tells us that it was in the middle of one of these feasts that Jesus made his “first sign”, the sign that offers us the key to understand all his actions and the profound meaning of his saving mission. The evangelist John does not speak of “miracles”. To Jesus’ surprising gestures he always calls them “signs”. He does not want his readers to remain fixed in that what can be prodigious in his performance. He invites us to discover a deeper meaning. For this, the Gospel of John offers us some clues of symbolic nature. Let’s see only one.
The mother of Jesus, attentive to the details of the party, notices that “there is no wine left” and tells her son. Perhaps the bride and groom, of humble condition, have been overwhelmed by the numbers of attending guests. Mary is worried. The party is in danger. How can a wedding end because there was no wine? She trusts in Jesus.
Among the peasants of Galilee wine was a well-known symbol of joy and love. All knew it. If life lacks joy and lacks love, social coexistence can have a dramatic end. Mary is right in trusting Jesus. Jesus intervenes to save the party by providing abundant wine of excellent quality.
This gesture of Jesus helps us grasp what the orientation of Jesus’ whole life and the fundamental content of his project is going to be: the establishment of the kingdom of God. While religious leaders and teachers of the law worry about religion and its practices, Jesus is committed to making people’s lives more humane, joyful and bearable.
The gospels present Jesus focused, not on religion but on life. Quality good life is not something solely for the rich and powerful and privileged and religious and pious people. It is also for everybody who feel the need to live a more dignified and happy way of life. Jesus transmits faith in a God as a foundation for a better personal and social life full of joy because it is permeated with generosity and love. God IS the fountain of that abundant life.
Sunday January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday in Ordinary Time C)
Gospel Luke 3: 15-16; 21-22
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Ebanjelioa Lukas 3: 15-16; 21-22
15 Herria zain-zain zegoen eta denak ari ziren pentsatzen Joan ez ote zen Mesias izango. 16 Joanek, ordea, denen aurrean esan zuen: «Nik urez bataiatzen zaituztet, baina badator ni baino ahaltsuago dena, eta ni ez naiz inor haren oinetakoen lokarriak askatzeko ere; horrek Espiritu Santuaz eta suz bataiatuko zaituzte.
21 Herri guztia bataiatzen ari zela, Jesus ere bataiatu egin zen eta, otoitzean zegoela, zerua zabaldu 22 eta Espiritu Santua jaitsi zitzaion gainera, uso-tankeran agertuz. Eta mintzo hau etorri zen zerutik: «Zu zaitut neure Semea, neure maitea, zu zaitut atsegin».
Reaching Critical Mass
The Baptist does not allow people to confuse him with the Messiah. He is aware of his own limits and accepts them. There is One stronger and more decisive than him: the only One whom people must welcome. The reason is obvious. The Baptist offers the people a baptism of water. Only Jesus, the Messiah, will “baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
In opinion of many observers, one of the biggest problems the Church faces today consists of “spiritual mediocrity.” It looks as if the Church lacks the spiritual strength She needs to face the challenges of the present historical moment. This is the reason why we need Jesus to baptize us with His fire and His Spirit.
Lately, distrust in the power of the Spirit, and fear of anything that might lead to a renewal has diminished considerably the ardent faith of many followers of Jesus. Much emphasis is placed on continuity in order to preserve that which belongs to the past, tradition, to what always has been done, and refuse to hear the calls of the Spirit to prepare for the future, new challenges and to trying to find new ways to announce the Good News. We are slow to read the “signs of the times.”
We tend to give preeminence to certainties, beliefs, traditions and doctrines to strengthen faith and greater ecclesial cohesion in front of the modern society’s challenges, but often this way of doing things do not facilitate the real experience of an encounter with the person of Jesus. Indeed, have we forgotten that Jesus is stronger than we are? Religious doctrines, usually expressed in premodern and Greek-European language and categories, do not seem to touch the hearts of people who are encouraged to conversion. We have abandoned the refreshing breath of the Vatican II Council. As a result, many churchgoers abandoned the spirit of joy the Council awoke in the early times and given way to resignation and pessimism. Thus, in a silent but noticeable way, disaffection and mistrust in the church’s institutions grows in not few believers.
It is urgent to create a friendlier and more cordial atmosphere in our communities as soon as possible. A healthy combination of doctrine and tradition together with new inspiring ways are needed in order to awaken in the simple people the lost enthusiasm and joy. We need to return to the roots of our faith: we must get again in touch with the Gospel and the encounter with Jesus whose Words are “spirit and life.” This is indeed what means to be baptized.
Within few years, our Christian communities may be very small. In many parishes, there will be no priests permanently. This is why it is important to create now small cores of believers who gather around the Gospel and the person of Jesus. This “critical mass” will keep alive the spirit of Jesus among us. Certainly, everything will be humbler, but also more evangelical.
The best gift we can leave to future generations is a new love for Jesus based on a lifestyle conformed to the enthusiasm and joy of Jesus. Everything else is secondary. If we live from the Spirit of Jesus, we shall be able to find new paths forward.
Sunday January 6, 2019
The Epiphany of the Lord (C)
Gospel Matthew 2: 1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
Ebanjelioa Mateo 2: 1-12
1 Jesus Judeako Belen herrian jaio zen, Herodes erregearen garaian. Jesus jaio ondoren, sortaldeko jakintsu batzuk azaldu ziren Jerusalemen, 2 galdezka: –Non da juduen errege jaioberria? Haren izarra ikusi dugu sortaldean eta gurtzera gatoz. 3 Berri honekin larritu egin zen Herodes erregea, baita Jerusalem hiri osoa ere. 4 Orduan, herriko apaizburu eta lege-maisu guztiak bildu eta Mesias non jaiotzekoa zen galdetu zien. 5 Haiek erantzun zioten: –Judeako Belenen, honela idatzi baitzuen profetak: 6 Eta zu, Judako Belen, ez zara, ez, Judako hirietan txikiena; zuregandik aterako baita buruzagia, Israel nire herria gobernatuko duena. 7 Orduan, Herodesek, jakintsuak isilean deiturik, izarra noiz agertu zitzaien jakin zuen zehatz. 8 Gero, Belenera bidali zituen, esanez: «Zoazte eta jakin xuxen haurraren berri eta, aurkitu ondoren, adierazi niri, neu ere gurtzera joan nadin». 9-10 Erregearen hitz hauek entzunik, abiatu egin ziren. Bidean, sortaldean ikusitako izarra agertu zitzaien eta biziki poztu ziren. Izarra aurretik joan zitzaien, haurra zegoen toki gainean gelditu arte. 11 Etxean sarturik, haurra ikusi zuten Maria bere amarekin eta, ahuspezturik, gurtu; ondoren, beren kutxatilak zabalduz, esku-erakutsiak eskaini zizkioten: urrea, intsentsua eta mirra. 12 Gero, Herodesengana ez itzultzeko oharra ametsetan harturik, beste bide batetik itzuli ziren beren herrialdera.
Finding God in Small Signs
When confronted by Jesus, very different attitudes can be adopted. The story of the Magi tells of the reaction of three groups of people. A group of pagans who seek Him earnestly, guided by the light of a small star. The representatives of the official religion of the Temple, who remain indifferent. And the powerful King Herod who only sees in Jesus a threat against his paranoiac power.
The magi did not belong to the group of the “officially” chosen people. They did not know the “living God of Israel.” We know nothing about their religion nor their ethnic origin. The Gospel only points out at their attentiveness to the reading of the mysteries hidden in the cosmos. These magi were seeking the truth. At a certain moment, they think they discovered a small light that points to a Savior. They need to know who He is and where He lives. Quickly they set on the road. They do not know the exact route they have to follow, but in their hearts the hope burns to find the Light of the world.
Their arrival in the Holy City of Jerusalem causes a general shock. Convened by Herod, the Great Council of “the chief priests and scribes of the people” gather in solemn reunion. The Gospel seems to take some delight in the disappointing performance of the “guardians of true religion.” They could not care less about Truth. These are the very people who represent the God in the Temple but are completely deaf to HIS call. Their religious superiority and arrogance blinds them from seeing God. They know, theoretically, where the Messiah is to be born, but none of them has even gone near to Bethlehem. They are dedicated to worship God but failed to realize that the mystery of God is larger than all religions of the world, and that He has made His own ways to make all His children arrive to the full knowledge of Truth. However, these self-complacent ministers of the Temple will never be able to recognize Jesus.
King Herod, powerful and brutal, only sees in Jesus a threat to his power and is full of cruelty. He will make every effort to annihilate Him. From his oppressive power, he will be ready to “crucify” anyone attempting to bring liberation and humanizing the world.
Meanwhile, the magi continue their search. They refuse to kneel before Herod because they found nothing in him worthy of worship. They also refused to enter in the grandiose and extravagant Temple of Jerusalem. The little light of the Star guides them to the little town of Bethlehem, far from any center of power, to a stable. Upon arrival, all they see is a “child with Mary his mother and Joseph” sleeping in a manger. Nothing else. A child without any power or splendor. A fragile life that needs the care of a mother and a father. This simplicity and powerlessness of a child and the humble presence of his mother and father was enough of a sign to awaken in them the desire to adore.
The story is puzzling. This God, hidden in human frailty, cannot be found and experienced by people installed in power, in religious securities, and self-complacency. God is only revealed to those who, guided by small lights and signs, tirelessly seek to bring hope for the human being in the tenderness and poverty of everyday life.