Who is He?
Attentive readers and listeners will notice a detail Matthew emphasizes in his story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: Jesus is riding on an ass and a foal, on two animals?
Some interpreters speculate whether the evangelist took a poetic duplication from the prophet’s text he is quoting too literally. However, there is probably another reason. Matthew continually describes Jesus’ story through Israel’s scripture. With the donkey and its foal he refers back to Jacob’s blessing of his son Judah: “He tethers his donkey to the vine, his donkey’s foal to the choicest stem. In wine he washes his garments, his robe in the blood of grapes“ (gen 49;11). A paradisiac image because no farmer would ever tie his donkey and its foal to the vine, since the animals would naturally nibble on it. The image means: The Messiah is expected to come from Judah. And the saving coming of God’s anointed one starts now in His people. hak
When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: “Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Where the spirit blows
In everyday language the word “spirit” is highly opalescent. It ranges from the white ghost to an intellectual wit on to something vaguely palpable. In the current context of the Church it is consequently often seen as something free, intangible, ultimately something placeless.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel has a completely different idea. When he speaks to his people that God will breathe His spirit into them, then he means the return of the scattered people to their land. The spirit is effective when the faithful set out and let Him bring them together in their land. God does not revive his people just anywhere, but in a specific place. The same goes for Christians. The spirit of God can work among them if they break through their isolation and come together as the people of God. ruk
Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel. You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.
Knowledge – Faith – Facts
If we understand the healing of the blind man as a spell or a magical act, we’re on the wrong track – and remain as blind as Jesus indirectly says of the self-righteous ones at the end of the story. Because in this case, seeing is another word for believing.
The disciples and Pharisees think they know everything about the correlations between sickness, guiltiness and healing. The healed man, however, knows nothing, his parents even less. He does not know who opened his eyes – he assumes, maybe a prophet. He only knows the facts: he was blind and now he can see, and how the healing was discernable outwardly. But it wasn’t the clay that made him see, but only trusting in the person of Jesus. He did what Jesus said, trustingly faithful. And that is so easy that anyone could do it – and so, without knowing much, could heal. bek
As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “So how were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for him self.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
The books of Moses paint an unadorned picture of the Israelites between Egypt and the Holy Land. Like a non-desert-people in the desert they are constantly dissatisfied, discontent and irritable. This time they are thirsty.
If it were only about water, Egypt would truly be a better place. But the people lacked more. There is also a deeper desire than the one for drink and nourishment: namely for the word that comes from God. It is not a coincidence that the rock, from which the water flows, is by the Horeb. That is the mountain on which Moses will receive the vital words. The staff that helped free the people is also needed. The deliverance is decided in the question: “Is the Lord in our midst, or not?” tac
Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” The LORD answered Moses: Go on ahead of the people, and take along with you some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the Nile. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Reminiscere – Remember Your mercy
The protestant churches retained the name of this second Lenten Sunday after the reformation. Most of the time the God of Israel speaks:
In the first reading to Abraham, “go forth.” And in the gospel to the three disciples on the mountain of the transfiguration, “listen to him.” In the introductory verse from Psalm 25 we have a different situation. The God of Israel is challenged. He should remember what he did in the years before and do the same again. Joseph Ratzinger often indicated how the biblical concept of God discerns: It’s His addressability; He listens, He can be called. How can we understand this reciprocity? In the fourth century, an early monk, born into slavery, Abbas Mios, said it like this: “Obedience stands for obedience. If a person listens to God, God also listens to him.” ars
Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old.
Do not let my enemies gloat over me.
Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!
“… that we make progress in understanding Christ’s Arcanum…
… and that we draw the right consequences from it.” That is what the Church asks for on this first Sunday in Lent. And with that she describes the program for the next forty days until Easter.
The readings concentrate less on the consequences; they circle around the Arcanum, the mystery of Christ: over the first human, Adam, he is raised to the position of the new, last Adam. But not just like that. He is tempted, he is tried. He is lead down a dangerous path before the “old Adam” can become a new human. What the first people in the Garden Eden wanted to achieve, being like God, is granted to the latter – through his obedience. ars
Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned — for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.
Commandments for freedom
Israel’s wisdom teachers know that man is given an incredible freedom: “Before everyone are life and death; whichever they choose will be given them.” A person’s personal fate fundamentally depends on this basic decision.
God’s greatness is mirrored in man’s freedom. However, in manifesting this freedom man remains capable of everything. That is why the experiences made before our own time are invaluable. They help us to manifest this freedom in a way it can bear fruit for many. These experiences were gathered through the course of centuries in a multitude of commandments and prohibitions, so that every person and every generation does not have to repeat the same mistakes. Usually we only know the ten most well known of them. They don not want to limit man’s freedom, but guide it towards its goal. ruk
If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God. Set before you are fire and water; to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death; whichever they choose will be given them. Immense is the wisdom of the LORD; mighty in power, he sees all things. The eyes of God behold his works, and he understands every human deed. He never commands anyone to sin, nor shows leniency toward deceivers.
Only a pinch of salt?
At the end of his gospel Matthew writes about Jesus’ instruction to go to all the peoples. But what exactly does that mean and how should we imagine it? How should a select few achieve something earth-shattering?
It doesn’t depend on the amount, not an elaborate strategy or structure. No, speaking metaphorically, it only depends on the one thing: the pinch of salt. It is only a tiny ingredient in the whole of the soup. The great, all-changing element always remains a minority in the whole of the world. So wherein does the effective ramification of something inconspicuously small lie for the big picture? Speaking with Jesus’ metaphor: that the salt does not pall! If connected to our Church’s situation: Not organizational, structure-related deliberations can introduce reforms, but a few living valiantly “salty” again. bek
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
Desired and feared
With the feast of the Presentation of the Lord the liturgy returns to the Advent and Christmas season once more time, to certain expectation and incipient fulfillment. The prophet Malachi knows the tension that goes hand in hand with God’s coming: We search for Him and desire Him, yet at the same time we ask the question: Who can endure the day of His coming?
Still the certainty of His coming is unshaken because the place, which he can come to, exists: His temple, Judah and Jerusalem – and there is a time that counts as measure: the ancient days, the years gone by. As through fire and lye, the promised purification has conditions that are already fulfilled and a clear concentration towards the righteous sacrifice; i.e. on the constant relationship between the mass and a just life. tac
Now I am sending my messenger — he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand firm when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in ancient days, as in years gone by.
He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.
That is what the angel says to the women who come to Jesus’ tomb and despair because they find it empty. Jesus also points them toward Galilee. The empty tomb and the indication “Galilee” were always perceived as something dark and gave rise to much speculation.
Already for Jesus’ early appearances Matthew tells us: He retired to Galilee. His background from the “Galilee of the Gentiles”, from Nazareth, continues to stick to him until the inscription on the cross (INRI). Populated by the tribes Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee had already been conquered by the Assyrians and settled by pagans in 732 BC. “Can anything good come from there?” This disgrace was still present to Isaiah 200 years later. But Isaiah tips a window to the future and Matthew opens it wide: A light has arisen in Galilee. The recovery of the lost tribes begins with the gathering of the twelve. According to Joseph Ratzinger the new thing about the New Testament is the person of Jesus and the twelve apostles. ars
When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.