sabato 7 aprile 2018

«Qui venit per aquam et sanguinem»

Christianity is a complex religion: there are different aspects to be considered. It is not like human ideologies, where there is only one idea, and everything revolves around it; Christianity has to keep together requirements often at odds with each other. For instance, what is more important, faith or love? There are some who stress the first virtue; others, the second one. Nowadays there is even a tendency in the Church to downplay faith—which would be divisive—and emphasize almost exclusively love for the neighbor, because this would be—and actually it is—the greatest commandment in the law. Of course, there is no contradiction between the constituents of Christianity, and it would be wrong to oppose them as if they were mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it is of the greatest importance to keep them together. Today’s liturgy can help us to do it.

First of all, Christians are those who believe: what primarily distinguishes Christians from others is faith. In the first reading Christ’s disciples are simply called believers. The second reading reminds us that “the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” What is a Christian supposed to believe? That Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. This is the main object of our faith. In the gospel Jesus reproaches Thomas, because he has not believed the testimony of his companions: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe … Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” The evangelist John reminds us that the gospel itself has been written so that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief we may have life in his name. So, faith is indispensable for salvation: without faith we cannot be saved; only by believing we can find life. 

Is faith divisive? The first reading tells us the opposite: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.” Faith unites, does not divide. It is an illusion to think that men can reach unity and peace leaving faith aside. Whoever thinks so, forgets that in man’s heart there is sin—which is the real cause of division—and the only way to get rid of sin is the faith in Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles shows us that faith heals relations among people, levels social and economic inequalities, fosters the sharing of material goods: “They had everything in common … There was no needy person among them.” Faith does not prevent social justice, but makes it possible.

The second reading explains the grounds for this connection between faith and love: “Everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.” Usually, we stress the opposite, and rightly so: we show our love of God by loving our neighbor. That’s right; but here John reminds us of the complementary aspect: there is no true love of the neighbor without the love of God; we really love others only if we love God. And John points out how to know whether we love God or not: “The love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”

The second reading ends with a mysterious hint: “This is the one who came through water and blood (qui venit per aquam et sanguinem), Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood.” It is a reference to Christ’s baptism (water) and death (blood); but it is also an allusion to the blood and water flowed out from the heart of Jesus soon after his death. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, invited him to put his hand into the wound of his own side. Jesus, appearing to Saint Faustina, presented that wound as the fountain of mercy. God’s mercy revealed itself through the pierced side of Jesus. Looking at that wound and drinking at that fountain, we may purify ourselves and become merciful as God is merciful.