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Jesus’ banquet
“I have been in Bolivia for three years and I run a diocesan center for street children. I am profoundly ashamed, as a Christian and an Italian woman, of the lifestyle proposed by our politicians. They are giving a shameless show of that moral destitution that is at the origin of the material destitution of the other side of the world. Why is the Church not making her voice heard more strongly? Where is the “social doctrine” proposed by the popes’ encyclicals? Doesn’t the Gospel contrast Herod’s banquet to Jesus’ very different one in the desert?”
Cecilia Nicolai

Certainly, Jesus’ banquet hasn’t Herod’s style. They are two opposite ways of life. Herod feasts his birthday with the powerful, generals and rampaging others. Maneuvered by her wolfish mother, the beautiful minor pleases everybody. The last move of her dance is a platter with the severed head of “the greatest among the born of women.” The feast looked beautiful and fascinating; in reality, it was ugly and macabre.

Jesus’ banquet in the desert springs from His compassion from the very people who are oppressed by Herod’s orgy. His style is to take what is there, blessing the Father and sharing it with the brethren. The desert blossoms; the fragrance of bread fills the night. Different from Herod’s orgy: here all eat and are satisfied. And twelve baskets are left over, as many as the tribes of Israel or the months in a year. There is food for everybody and forever!

To propose one style or the other is not moralism as mercenary theologians say. It is a question of life or death. The powerful don’t understand it, only those who pay the consequences. In the choice between the two lifestyles, our humanity is at stake.

In the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius wants to bring people to distinguish Jesus’ style from Satan’s. The latter, liar and murderer since the beginning (John 8:44), is a top communicator: he makes appear good, beautiful and desirable what, in reality, is bad, ugly and obscene more than death (Genesis 3:1ff; 1 John 2:16). Seated among smokes and fires of special effects, Satan sends his minions to all categories of people, throwing around his “nets” (television nets?) and “chains” (distribution chains?) in order to inject the virus of “having, dominating and appearing” ever more. Then he and his minions may as well retire. It will be up to the well-brainwashed people to destroy themselves and others. Each one will want to handle everything and everybody, dominate and think he is god, spreading stupidity and death.

Jesus, instead, sends His disciples to all persons to teach them to love poverty, service and humility. From this, springs compassion, sharing and mutual giving. All who live like that become what they are: God’s children, loving to the point of surrendering their very selves.

For Saint Ignatius, this is the “Sacra Doctrina” (Sacred Doctrine), that in medieval Latin means the “Essence of Christianity.” The beautiful name of Christ must not be displayed in order to suck blood from “the Stone rejected by the builders.” We must witness to it with a childlike and brotherly lifestyle. In the Sermon of the Mount, Christ outlines His self-portrait on our behalf: He is the Son who shows His face as well as the Father’s on whom our own face is mirrored. In this way, He unmasks the lie that takes our identity away, the identity that belongs to the God of whom we are a reflection.

If enemies make the Church prevail, “friends” (too many of them!), who aim at power, can cause her damage by continuously dropping “friendly” fire on her. They follow Satan’s strategy. They are good and “love” Jesus, without knowing Him. And are unable to change for the better because they are blinded by “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and think themselves as being more than good. Like James and John (Luke 9:54ff) or like Peter whom Jesus calls “Satan” (Matthew 16:21-23), they are “enemies of Christ’s cross,” and “they glory in what they should think shameful” (Philippians 3:19). “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” says Jesus on the Cross (Luke 23:34). All evils find their consummation in unconsciousness, a great sin. A good dose of it belongs to the merchants, ineradicable from the temple, who, “by their wickedness, suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

© FCSF – Popoli, 1 aprile 2011