5.07.2007 @ 23:45
Under 10: Lectio Divina - Card. Carlo Maria Martini
LECTIO DIVINA OF LUKE 9, 28-36 - Card. Carlo Maria Martini - Monte Tabor, 5th July 2007
I would like to sincerely thank the Minister General for his very kind invitation. I would like to thank all of you who are here, to walk with St. Francis in the footsteps of Jesus. I would like to thank the community of Mt. Tabor, the community of the Friars Minor, the Mondo X community and, above all, let us thank God because He has granted us the possibility of living a day in the shade of a great mystery, the mystery of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
You have already meditated on this mystery, climbing up here on foot, with the heat, on the slopes of this mount, but perhaps when Jesus called the three disciples it was not so hot, it may have been winter, in any case, you have exerted effort in this ascent and this has already introduced you a little into the mystery, which is also in part a slightly difficult mystery.
I would like to begin with a question for Jesus. I would like to say this: â€œLord Jesus, that night, when you were praying on this mountain, what did you meditate on? What was the object of your prayer?â€ The Gospel does not mention it and perhaps Jesus did not want us to know, or He tells us that it was, as it is called, a non-thematic meditation, that is, on the mystery of God without a theme; but, if there was a theme, in my opinion, it could not have been other than the theme of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God which was so greatly in the centre of Jesusâ€™s preaching and that all three Synoptic Gospels mention one verse before the story of the transfiguration when it says, in the Gospel according to Luke, that some of those present shall not taste death until they have seen the Kingdom of God (Luke 9,27) and then the story of the ascent of the mount begins immediately. Probably, Jesus, you were meditating on the Kingdom of God and you were certainly meditating not in a limited way as we do sometimes, that is, the Kingdom of God is here or there or it is fulfilled according to certain categories; but you were meditating on the Kingdom of God in the broad sense, that is the kingdom of God that did not only concern your time, but our time as well, the end of time and also eternity, time without time because the Kingdom of God appears fully in eternity.
From this meditation of yours, we are called today to understand the mystery of your transfiguration. This mystery which is described in the three Synoptic Gospels. I will follow the Gospel of Luke in particular, I will express it from memory because it is better to trust the memory of what we have read so many times. Therefore this story tells us that Jesus took Peter, James and John with him, climbed a high mountain, we are not told where, but tradition points tot his one and this is a beautiful mountain worthy of this ascent and this prayer. Then he started to pray and here his face became as radiant as the sun, says Matthew; his robes immaculately white, sys Luke; that is, he became glorious. We can think of the joy, the serenity and the peace diffused in the hearts of Peter, James and John by this contemplation of Jesus. Jesus radiant and shining; Jesus serene and peaceful; Jesus who already appears as in the final Kingdom of God, that is, in the fullness of His glory.
But Jesus is not alone, because as they are contemplating Him they see two figures next to Him, whom they identify as Moses and Elijah. These two figures are not quiet, but speak; and being heedful, the apostles hear that they are speaking of Jerusalem, they are speaking of an exodus, they are speaking of something grandiose and upsetting at the same time, something that was to change the course of history, just as the Exodus did for the Jews. Then in the end, Peter, James and John, who remained speechless, speak through the mouthof Peter and Peter says something stupid, i.e. â€œletâ€™s make three tentsâ€. In itself this wasnâ€™t so stupid because if it was winter making three tents meant having greater tranquillity, but Peter was made fun of by the Gospels because with these words, as usual, he understood nothing of what Jesus wanted, that is, he did not stop to contemplate the vision, but drew. And so I believe that today as well the Lord asks you not to stop and contemplate the vision that you will meditate, but to draw the consequences of it by being monks, followers of Jesus and of St. Francis in the world today.
And so Peter made his remark, letâ€™s make three tents and then a great cloud came with great darkness and the disciples were afraid. From this cloud a voice was heard that says â€œThis is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, listen to himâ€. When the voice finished, the disciples found themselves alone with Jesus, This then is the story which we are asked to contemplate and on which we are asked to meditate. Obviously this story has a centre and a dominant part. In my opinion, the central part is the last one, the word of God, â€œThis is my beloved son, listen to himâ€, but all the rest has a meaning that we will now try to meditate on together. Therefore we have done, according to the three classic moments of lectio divina or, as you call it, spiritual reading of the Scriptures. I think that that is right, much better, a first part consisting of reading and re-reading the text to bring it alive for us and a second part which is asking ourselves questions â€“ which message does this text, do these words, these gestures, these figures and these people give us? I will limit myself to four or five reflections on this text which could take us very far.
First of all, I would like to recall the central fact of this text which is the glorification of Jesus. Therefore we are here in front of the Kingdom of God in its final form which is anticipated in this moment for the disciples. I have to say that we think little about this final form of the Kingdom. We often say â€œMay your kingdom comeâ€ and we mean come here, come in this circumstance but in fact the question on the kingdom as I have said is broad and long, it includes the salvation of mankind, the dream of God fulfilled, a humanity saved, united and transparent, the whole of God in everyone. This must also be the object of our prayer and our wait. I have to say that until a few years ago, until I was about 75 or 78, I thought little about it because for me the Kingdom of God was to be fulfilled here and now, but now that I am close to it, on the waiting list, I think much more about it and I believe that the Church would do a good thing to think much more about it, because this is the end of all creation, it is the dream of God on mankind, a pacific mankind, a reconciled mankind, a different mankind, but which is recognised in its diversity, a united mankind which is also each one with their particularities, a humanity abandoned by the Father, in which God is all in everyone. I believe that we should always have this dream or this vision before our eyes, because it supports us in all the paths of life and never disappoints. The kingdom of God is the fullness of the manifestation of God when God in his essence, in his absolute truth will appear in full and then whatever we have imagined will be small before this, as St. Paul says, â€œthe sufferings of this world are not to be compared at all with what will be revealed in us.â€ Having this vision of our fullness, of our final call helps us a great deal. This is the first thought on which I wanted to solicit your reflection.
We can try to ask Jesus the second question, saying â€œJesus, why didnâ€™t you appear alone in your glory? Why did you take Moses and Elijah? And not for example Adam, Abraham or other figures like Noah?â€ And, if we are careful, Jesus will answer us first why he did not appear on his own, but he appeared with some representatives of the Jewish world of the Old Testament because Jesus is incomprehensible without the Jewish world, Jesus must be understood, penetrated, loved and admired as the fruit of his people, and too often we forget this reality. Here Jesus wants to remind us: Jesus is Jewish, the son of Mary, a Jewish woman, he was brought up according to the customs of the Jews, according to Jewish tradition , still alive here today in this country and therefore he has to be understood in the context of his world, of his tradition and of his culture. However, we could ask him why he didnâ€™t select other figures, instead of Moses and Elijah? What do Moses and Elijah represent? Moses represents the Torah, that is, the law which is the written word of God to be practised. So it is the Word of God to be put into practice. The Torah is still not a conception for the Jews today, it is a way of being, it is observance, it is a way of behaving. Therefore Jesus wants to remind us that to really understand his mystery we are also summoned to observe a certain way of living and a certain discipline of life, a certain way of seeking him with order and without confused impulses. This is a path that we are all called to follow. I remember that once I gave a course of exercises and I had given as the title of the course a title that St. Ignatius uses in his book, that is putting order into oneâ€™s life and I had this book, together with many others in my room of audiences in the bishopâ€™s palace in Milan and as usual after the audience I said to those who had come â€œchoose a book that may suit youâ€ and many people said â€œHereâ€™s the title that suits me: Putting order in oneâ€™s lifeâ€. This is important as you know better than I do, it is important in the day as in the night; a preacher said: â€œBlessed is he who leaves the exercises with only one intention; always to go to bed at the same timeâ€, and this intention includes many others, above all and today with the facility of using television and instruments of telecommunications that we cannot, after a certain time of the day, completely master. And so this reminder for order in our lives is important.
So Moses reminds us of observance and what does Elijah remind us of? Elijah is the prophet of the incomparability of God and he is also the prophet of the surprises of God, that is, God surprises. According to Moses, then, God acts according to the order of observance; according to Elijah God surprises, with new and unexpected facts with changes of scene and it is very important on our part not to fear the God of Elijah because every change of scene is always in Godâ€™s favour, it is always a closer manifestation of his kingdom. Let us shed all fears and say â€œLord, appear incomparable and greatâ€.
These are the first two thoughts I wanted to suggest to you. We still have a third thought ; I put five, which I also found important. What are Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus about? They are speaking about the Exodus. Exodus is the greatest word for the Jewish world, it means coming out of the slavery of Egypt, leaving the exile of Babylon, it means returning to the homeland, it means the great innovation of God. Jesus, then, is preparing us for great things and he is preparing them for us in Jerusalem. This world, the exodus to Jerusalem, is what various other passages of the Scriptures order for us, for example, the passage of Luke 13,33 when Jesus, informed of the fact that Pilate is looking for him, says I donâ€™t care, I will continue my path and then he says â€œBut today, tomorrow and the following day I have to take my path, because a prophet cannot die outside of Jerusalemâ€. This centrality of Jerusalem is what also brought you to make it the destination of your pilgrimage, what brought me to make it the destination of my life because the greatest event in history took place in Jerusalem, a new world started, a new existence for humanity started, Jerusalem is also probably the place of Abrahamâ€™s sacrifice. A guiding thread connects the facts of the Old Testament with the facts of Jesus, his death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost and Jerusalem will always remain the city of this reality, the city that opens up to the world of God. I would like to conclude this third thought saying: never forget Jerusalem, â€œmay my tongue stick to my palate if I forget you, Jerusalemâ€. Coming up here in the heat, perhaps you experienced the phenomenon of your tongue sticking to your palate, well, remember Jerusalem because it is something that must never be forgotten.
I would like to ask Peter and his companions the fourth question; how do they experience this event? As usual very superficially without fully understanding, a little like us when we try to experience this event, but we remain on the outside to a certain extent. Peter has two reactions; the first is enthusiastic â€œhow lovely it is to be hereâ€. This is a reaction which as we have said is not negative, but is purely aesthetic and is not sufficient. Then a second opposing reaction which is one of fear. Peter is frightened of the overhanging cloud, he fears God, he fears entering the mystery, just as we often fear meditating at length because we say â€œWhat will I do in meditation? How will I spend the timeâ€. The time of silence, the time of God, frightens us. Peter invites us to overcome this fear and to enter the time of God with courage, especially the time of prayer, the time of listening to the Word.
Finally, the last question we ask, before going on to the conclusions of contemplation, concerns the word that is heard from the cloud â€œThis is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear himâ€. Above all, this second word is important here and we could translate it by â€œYes, Jesus, you are right, you tell us not to concern ourselves with accumulating treasures on the earth, not to concern ourselves with accumulating human titles, not to concern ourselves with success, people laugh about these things because everything works differently, but you are right, with my life I want to prove you right, although the world speaks differently or perhaps does not speak but acts differently, I want to say that you are right and with my life I want to follow you completely, as Francis followed you, because only this way can one truly be right and be on Godâ€™s side.â€ Therefore the Lord has let us follow him completely.
Now I would like to go briefly on to the third moment of this meditation which is called contemplation, with some suggestions for your prayer. We have already given some as we reflected on the text but I would like to make these four brief suggestions. First of all, the importance of a long vision, that is, although sometimes we are happy, pleased and in a good mood, it takes little for our mood to change. It is important to be able to look much further and do as Moses who walked â€œas though he saw the invisibleâ€ (Hebrews 11,27).And the same is said of Abraham. Walk as though we see the invisible, that is, walk with the vision of the total Kingdom of God, totally fulfilled, because this will give meaning to all our actions; even the most insignificant or least pleasant actions acquire meaning when they are seen in the broad and long light of the Kingdom of God. Let us walk then with this ample vision and we will always be helped to walk with joy.
The second line of prayer that I recommend is this. Prayer transfigures us as it did with Jesus. When we pray we also become rays of light, Perhaps we donâ€™t realize this but the others do. However, praying well, that is, with careful preparation, with silence, composure of the body, with spirit of adoration and reverence and with a spirit of humility. Praying like that changes the heart and changing the heart sometimes changes the face and makes it shine.
I have already explained the third thought when I spoke of Moses. Moses represents the Torah, observance and observance means an order in things and each of you must learn this order soon, in order not to forget it for the whole of your lives, an order in prayer, an order in food, an order in readings, an order in study, in short an order that means putting all our life together with that of Jesus, perhaps even crucified with him, but bound to him and his appearance in the world.
Finally, the last word I suggest to you is the one which comes out of the cloud. Let us go before Jesus in prayer and say: â€œLord you are right. Often I cannot say you are right because I feel otherwise and in me I have different impulses or tensions, but I recognise that you are right and I want to do what you did. Grant me the grace to follow you completely. St. Francis, intercede for us. All the saints, you who have prayed for us on this holy mountain, in the past centuries, you who have lived here in prayer, intercede for us so that we can prove Jesus was right.