Council Resources

Lectio divina CG27


Lectio Divina - CG27



Mystics in the Spirit

Invitation to pray the Word

" To God who has chosen us, called us and reserved us for himself, we respond with total and exclusive dedication. The primacy of God, which comes from the free and loving initiative of God towards us, translates into the unconditional offering of ourselves ... Only in the power of the Spirit can we live this call; it is He who in the history of the Church always attracts new people to perceive the charm of such a demanding choice; it is he who raised up Don Bosco, to whose apostolic project we have joined with the religious profession ". [1]

In order to deepen, praying, the spiritual dimension of our Salesian vocation, don Juan J. Bartolomé proposes two schemes of prayerful prayer: the first, centered on a Pauline account of his vocation; the second, on the only failed evangelical story of vocation. Both, although so different, emphasize that to follow Jesus one must first find and then leave everything, even what is good for the called, both the law of God and the goods of God.

By telling the Galatians about the origin of his vocation, Paul reveals to them the essential reason for his apostolic passion: he was "found" by the Risen One and found the mission of his life. A personal experience of God, who introduced him to his Son in his heart and led him immediately to preach the gospel. Without an encounter with God the believer does not meet his vocation.

The memory of the good young man, who could not follow Jesus because he did not want to detach himself from his possessions, becomes a permanent warning for those who follow him today. If it should make us blush the fact that Jesus has relied on us, without being able to tell him that we have already observed all that God wants from us, he should make us even more ashamed that we continue to follow him, but remain attached to our goods, and that we seek the Good in Him and at the same time continue to accumulate other goods.

I. Meeting Christ to meet one's vocation: Gal 1: 13-17

Writing to the Galatians, twenty years after his 'conversion', Paul remembers, once again, what happens to him on the road to Damascus. It does not express this confession as a confidence; rather it is an argument in defense of his gospel. He does not speak to faithful neophytes, but to "stupid men" who "in a hurry" are abandoning the grace of Christ and move on to another gospel (Gal 3: 1, 1,6). The harsh and controversial tone of his testimony is unmistakable. 

  1. To understand the text

Founded by the apostle shortly before (Acts 16.6; 18.23), the communities of Galatia had welcomed him "as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus" (Gal 4:14) and had believed in his preaching by receiving the Spirit and with so many great portents (Gal 3: 5). The first fervor, unfortunately, did not last long (Gal 1: 6): the visit of some who presented "another gospel" (Gal 1: 7) put into question the correctness of the gospel preached by Paul and, even, the its apostolic legitimacy. The 'Galatine crisis' caused the apostle to burst the most disproportionate and unpleasant reaction among those documented in his correspondence (Gal 1,7-9; 4,17-20; 5,7-12; 6,12-14).  

Immediate context

To defend, therefore, his ministry, Paul presents himself as "an apostle not by men, nor by man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal 1: 1); and as an apology of the gospel preached in Galatia he affirms without hesitating that he did not "receive or learn from men, but by revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:12). The apostle can take for granted that the Galatians knew the facts well (Gal 1,13.22): what he says - and how he says it - focuses their attention on what is decisive for Paul: God is the origin of his apostolate and the Son of God is the only content of the gospel that he preaches (Gal 1: 11-12). What he declares, and emphatically, demonstrates his apostolic independence and the divine origin of his announcement. 

The text

To reinforce both the statements, he begins to tell what he had done before and after the meeting with the Risen One, without making a true chronicle of what happened. Ê the model that he also uses in Flp 3: he distinguishes well between the pre-Christian stage from the first steps after the acceptance of Jesus as Lord, his ruthless persecutor's past (Gal 1,13-14) and the present of tireless missionary (Gal 1.15 to 24).

Both parts of the story are credible, but summary, centered on the 'conduct', the Jewish and the Christian, of the protagonist. The apostle presents the facts without embellishing them, nor seeks the benevolence of the readers. While before he did not want the ruin of the church, now he devotes himself completely to its spread. Unlike Flp 3, which focuses more on the subjective significance of what happened, Gal 1 reveals a new, more objective and fundamental fact: God was the actor of his change . It consisted not so much in a transformation of conduct, nor in a change of faith: "God was pleased to reveal his Son to me so that he might proclaim him among the pagans" (Gal 1:16). 

a time of cruel persecution of the church (Gal 1,13-14)

Paul does not seem to be ashamed of his past, when he has become a recognized apostle, he speaks of it to the Galatians. He did not have to repent of having been an observant Jew, a zealous lover of the traditions of his people and uncompromising with those who did not observe them. Never did he appear embarrassed or guilty; just for this reason, his position will be more sincere and authoritative: inheriting a faith and traditions that do not lead to Christ is of no use.

13 You have certainly heard of my former conduct in Judaism, as I proudly persecuted God's church and devastated it, overcoming in Judaism most of my peers and compatriots, as ardent as I was in supporting the traditions of the fathers.

Known to readers, Paolo does not hide his past. Rather, and to focus more on what he says later, he mentions it, reducing the Jewish stage of his life - about half! - a persecution without measure of the Jerusalem community. He seems to recognize that he did nothing else, as Luke reminds us, from the time of his youth (Acts 7.59; 8.1; 22.20; 26.10). He is, in fact, the only one of the first persecutors of the church who is remembered by name: "Saul meanwhile raged against the church and, entering houses, he took men and women and had them put in prison" (Acts 8: 3).

Even here Paul does not reveal the reasons for such brutally anti-Christian conduct. He is not interested in justifying it. Let it be affirmed, yes, its purpose (to devastate the church of God ), the efficacy of its intervention ( excel above most of its peers ), and the most personal reason ( the passionate zeal of the native traditions ). If he fiercely persecuted the followers of Christ it was not because he was a bloodthirsty or a malevolent, but because, convinced observant, he could not stand defections or deviations from the faith of the fathers. God himself freed him from this extreme fidelity to the law .  

called to know the Son and to proclaim him among the Gentiles (Gal 1,15-17)

Not only in the Pauline epistolary, but even in the whole of the NT there is a description of what happened in Damascus which surpasses, or is comparable to, this brief biographical note.

15 But when he who chose me from my mother's womb and called me by his grace was pleased, to reveal his Son in me so that I might announce him among the Gentiles immediately, without consulting any man, without going to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, I went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

Just so is quite shocking that Paul gives more importance to what he said 'soon' after being called, that is, go to Arabia and then returned to Damascus , that he had made God with him , choose to call him, show him his Son and convert him into his apostle . If not more, on a syntactic level, the accent of the expression falls more on the consequence, the immediate evangelization , rather than on the fact itself, the benevolence of God that made him know Jesus as his Son. The interventions of God are seen, they are "measured" in their effects.

But Paul does not hide that to be sent was a pure gift: "by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor 15,10). And, in fact, he does not present himself as the active subject, but as the benefited receiver of an intervention, both gratuitous and unexpected, of God in him. If the implementation of God is something objective, it comes from the outside, the realization happens in his intimate, and becomes a completely private experience: it can be documented only for the result that it produces, the inevitable mission.

Paul presents his apostolic vocation as an experience of God who now knows as the Father of the Risen One, or rather as a giving to know by God - to reveal himself, to reveal definitively - his paternity of Jesus. To this knowledge, "induced" from God, he did not arrive with his abilities nor for his faithfulness. This 'knowledge' is the reason for his immediate apostolate: God acted in him unexpectedly, and he immediately acted among the pagans. God identified himself as the Father of Jesus and Paul feels identified among the pagans as his envoy. His vocation is the consequence of an experience of God given by him.
Paul did not become a less evil or more zealous man. In him there was no change of conduct or abandonment of the Jewish faith. God gave him a new 'knowledge': he came to know the true identity of God (Father of Jesus) and in it was discovered the true identity of Jesus (Son of God). And this understanding, so new that it became definitive ('apocalyptic'), felt it as divine benevolence in his favor; he saw it as a call that filled God with satisfaction, with satisfaction. God felt good when he called him and revealed to him that he was the Father of Jesus. The encounter with the Risen One - Paul recalls to the Galatians - was realized as a conversion, was a double (re) knowledge: knowing that the God of Israel was in reality Father of Jesus (Gal 1,16), and knowing that he was sent to proclaim him to the Gentiles (Gal 1,17).  

This confession, central to the understanding of what happened, is preceded by two participial formulations in the original, which integrate the conception of God that Paul had received: He is " He who chose him from the womb " and " He who he called him with his grace"(Gal 1:15). Choosing, separating it for itself, even before being born and calling it to life from the maternal womb are expressions that have served to narrate prophetic vocations (Jer 1.5; Is 49.1); Paul considers them appropriate to describe his experience and, therefore, he is a prophet, he too, chosen by God. In addition, he now recognizes (while writing to the Galatians), that he has always, even since he was not born yet or during the time in which he persecuted the church, God had chosen him and destined him as an evangelizer of the pagans; calling him to life, he called him to the apostolate. His whole life, compressed over the long period of zealous Jewish and fierce persecutor, had been under divine benevolence. He realized this, it is true, only when he met Christ, when he felt sent to evangelize the Gentiles.

God having been gratuitous with Paul, "educated" him to gratuitousness in the mission, freeing him from the service of the law of God to serve the Lord Jesus, the Son of God. Because his life of persecutor did not prevent God from making him become 'apostle of Gentiles' (Rm 11,13), Paul understood that from now on his life would have had no other task, nor other sense, than to proclaim Christ, and these crucified (1 Cor 2: 2): "It is not in fact for me a boast preaching the gospel; it is a duty for me: woe to me if I do not preach the gospel "(1 Cor 9:16). The person called does not do what he wants, nor does he live to fulfill his dreams; he was found and sent to do the will of the One who wanted him so well that he made him his representative and witness.

  1. To illuminate life

The "conversion" of Paul was, in addition to a sudden change of "trade" (from persecutor to propagator), first and foremost an experience of God . From this, Paul's apostolic conscience was born and took root in it.

  • Is there a personal experience of God behind my vocation, prior and undeserved? Could I also 'justify' the apostolate I carry out with a discovery of Jesus, son of God? What is my call on, where does this find confirmation and energy? Who are they called by, by young people or by God?

    Paul imagines the God who called him as a God who was pleased to call him: God found satisfaction, complacency, contentment when he caused Paul to find Jesus and accept him as his Son.

  • Making Jesus known and being recognized as his Son makes God the Father 'happy'. Does this make me happy too? I am aware that knowing Christ is always a grace that God makes me and a 'pleasure' that He gets - not me! - grants? Why then do you not aspire to anything other than the 'sublime knowledge of Christ Jesus' (Php 3,8) to make God happy?

    After a time of apostolic life, when he wrote to the Galatians, Paul "saw" his whole life - even the time when he persecuted the church of God - as a part and a chimney of a single plan of God.

  • Why can I, if an apostle of Christ, fail to understand my whole life as an admirable history of salvation, even when I was not aware of it or was not up to my mission? Vocation to life and apostolic vocation coincide in the heart of God; How will I make them compatible, indeed inseparable, in my heart?

    Paul was aware of having been sent by God when he heard God. His change of life was the result of a change - perceived by him - in God: from the God of Israel to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • To become that apostle whom God hopes for me, to realize the grace that he made me, I will not have to 'change' the idea - the personal relationship - that I have of God? Is the reason for my apostolate in God, a gratifying and gratifying God?

    II. We leave Jesus when he is not the only good: Mk 10,17-31

Few Gospel texts have had such a profound and lasting influence in the life of the Church as the episode of the rich young man (Mt 19.16-30; Mk 10.17-31; Lk 18.18-30). Along with other texts that formulate the demands of the following of Christ (for example Mt 16.24; Lk 9.23.62; Lk 14.26.33), this story has come to be considered by the Catholic tradition as the biblical foundation - if not the 'unique, at least the main one - of the so-called' evangelical counsels' . Curiously - and the data often goes unnoticed - the episode is the chronicle of a failed vocation.

  1. To understand the text 

The episode basically presents itself as a prolonged dialogue, in which Jesus is the permanent protagonist. Depending on the interlocutor, be it a stranger, the disciples or Peter, three scenes are distinguished : the meeting of a young man with Jesus (Mk 10,17b-22), the comment that Jesus makes to the disciples (Mk 10,23 -27), the reaction of the disciples before the radical nature of Jesus (Mk 10,28-31).

Jesus' dialogue with the rich (Mk 10: 17b-22) begins so abruptly. In the street, Jesus is approached by a man who is not interested in him, in his person, but in himself, in his own salvation. He does not ask Jesus for any benefit, he just wants to have advice (Mk 10,17.20) The meeting takes place at the request of the unknown. Jesus responds to the concerns of his interlocutor, even if only in appearance; in reality, he distracts him with mastery from his preoccupation, so selfish, and proposes perfection to him. As a stranger he goes on to be loved.

17 While he was going along the road, a man ran to meet him and, falling on his knees before him, asked him: "Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good, if not God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother. " 20 He then said to him: "Master, all these things I have observed from my youth". 21 Then Jesus looked upon him, loved him and said to him:"You lack one thing: go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; And Come! Follow me!".  22 But at these words he turned dark and if he was saddened; in fact he owned many assets.

After the removal of the rich, Jesus comments on his failure with the disciples (Mk 10,23-27). The picture opens and closes mentioning the gaze of Jesus (Mk 10,23.27), which, in a kind of catechesis on entering the kingdom, underlines its difficulty (Mk 10,23.24.27). The disciples, first baffled (Mk 10:24), then interested (Mk 10:26), are the sole recipients of this teaching and, for once, understand it correctly. It is not simply a difficulty for men, but something that is possible only to God.

23 Jesus, looking around, said to his disciples: "How difficult it is, for those who possess wealth, to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were puzzled by his words; but Jesus resumed and said to them: "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. "  26 They, even more astonished, said to each other: "And who can be saved?" 27 But Jesus, looking at them, said: "Impossible for men, but not for God! Because everything is possible for God ”.

Peter expresses the reaction of the disciples before the radical nature of Jesus (Mk 10,28-31). The young person's personal problem has completely disappeared from the story. Peter, who takes for granted that he did what was impossible for the young man, manages to snatch a promise of reward from Jesus, for now and later. Whatever you leave behind - and there are seven things enumerated - will be taken into consideration.

28 Pietro then began to say to him: "Here, we have left everything and followed you" . 29 Jesus answered him: "Truly I tell you: there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields because of me and because of the Gospel, 30 who does not already receive now, in this time, a hundred times so at home and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions, and eternal life in the time to come. 31 Many of the former will be last and the latter will be first ”.

2. To light up life

There was a good person who wanted to be better

While he was in the street, she approaches him running a stranger [2] who kneels before him. Man wants to know what he must do to get to possess eternal life. He knows he must keep the law; and, what is more important, he declares himself willing to do whatever he is told.

Before answering, Jesus appears surprisingly critical; he does not accept that he is granted what is due only to God (Mk 10:18). Jesus' answer is too obvious; repeats, without detailed comments or explanations, the second part of the Decalogue (Mk 10:19; see Ex 20,12-16; Dt 5,16-20): that is the will of the good God; his commandments indicate the path of life. Whoever asked should know.

The scene could end here: the person received the requested answer. But instead of leaving, he makes a confession that impresses Jesus (Mk 10:20). Jesus is faced with one who is not only willing to do whatever is asked of him, but can confess that he is already doing it, everything and always, from his youth. And he remains attracted to this good young man (Mk 10:21). Before proposing a radical change, Jesus has radically changed in his regard. That young man is the object of a superabundant love, so he expects something more from him. Jesus' new need is proof of his love for him.

The only thing he misses is to leave all he has, sell it , distribute it among the poor and follow Jesus. Jesus' proposal is not a new condition for obtaining eternal life. It is a new possibility to live that life of obedience to God which the young person is carrying out with such success. The renunciation of what he possesses is not yet all that he misses, but only a first step, a prior step that prepares the definitive one: the following of Jesus (Mk 1,16-20; 2,13-17) and the activity apostolic (Mk 6,7-13). He must not renounce goods because they are bad, but their possession is not preferable and even - in this case - compatible with the company of Jesus when he goes after him: full of goods, good cannot be pursued.

The stranger, despite his goodness, cannot bear the need of Jesus. Without saying anything, sad and head down, he leaves Jesus to not leave what he has (Mk 10:22). He keeps his possessions, but loses his joy and his good teacher. His riches had not prevented him from being a good believer, but put him in the impossibility of being a mere disciple .

How difficult it is to possess property and enter the kingdom!

The gaze of Jesus precedes the teaching to those who remain around him. Owning the kingdom is difficult for those who possess riches (Mk 10.23). Jesus does not yet speak of "impossibility" (Mk 10:27), he underlines the difficulty (Mk 10:24). Moreover, and this is surprising, he introduces here the theme of entering the Kingdom, while the invitation addressed to the good rich was, instead, to follow him poor.

The reaction of the disciples is more than logical. They cannot avoid being amazed by the affirmation of Jesus. In the Jewish religious tradition, wealth, far from constituting an impediment to entering the Kingdom, was proof of God's favor (Deut 28,1-14). The followers of Jesus understand that the difficulty in saving oneself is not reserved only for the one who possesses many goods, but for those who base their conception of 'good' in possessing them (Mk 10.24; Lk 6.20.24). Therefore, it is not the salvation of the rich, but that of man as such that is threatened (Mk 10:26).

In the thought of Jesus the difficulty instead of decreasing increases: it is not necessary to have one's own goods, it is enough to put trust in them, even if they are actually scarce, because entry into the Kingdom becomes difficult. Jesus tries to warn everyone that, compared to God and his kingdom, everything must be small and contemptible, to be thrown away; whoever does not judge everything he has as insignificant, makes God insignificant. And to emphasize the difficulty, Jesus resorts to a hyperbole. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom (Mk 10.25). To let oneself be possessed by what one has can lead to the loss of the Kingdom that was expected.

The reaction of the disciples suggests that this time they understood their master well (Mk 10,26). The fear spreads among them, but they dare not turn to Jesus. They remain anguished by the radical incapacity of man - not the rich! - to save oneself. If even the good ones, despite being rich, succeed, who can ever succeed?

And again Jesus' gaze precedes his words (Mk 10,27). And he responds by confirming the human impossibility of procuring salvation by himself. Not that the power of God ends where man's power ends, the fact is that God's salvation knows no limits. Regardless of what he is or has, man depends on God. He does not need riches to ensure salvation. Everything is a gift of God and God is the only asset that cannot be alienated. Only He can save.

A God indebted as a reward

Spokesman for the disciples, Peter points out that, unlike the rich, they have abandoned everything, not just family and work (Mk 10.28). They lost everything to win him, Peter proclaims, with obvious emphasis. The disciples say they have passed the test to which the rich man succumbed. They are aware of their sacrifices; they expect a reasonable remuneration: something will be left to those who have left something.

Jesus responds with a promise that goes far beyond the intention and words of Peter (Mk 10:29). They can be sure that not only they, but also anyone who has given up something in their life, will have a reward. The enumeration of the possible renunciations is eloquent. The list of possessed people is longer than that of things. Perhaps it is because they are our best assets? Or, maybe, why are they the ones who possess us better?

The renunciation, in any case, must not be generic; it has contents (properties and loved ones) and two causes (Christ and the gospel). Goods , whether they are good objects or good people, can not be waived for any reason whatsoever. It is not in fact any reason to make them difficult. We must have good reasons to renounce the goods we possess. Because only a close relationship with Christ and missionary effort justifies renunciation, goods continue to be a good thing, but they are not the best.

With the hundredfold promised, not only the reward but also the divine commitment is ensured to make it become a reality. This is God's typical way of paying, his custom, with those who listen and do his will (Mk 4, 7-20). Christian fraternity compensates for the family left behind, but it is not without dangers (Lk 12: 52-53; Mk 13: 12-13). The reward of now, although generous, is limited. Only eternal life really rewards discipleship; only in the future will God totally pay his "debt" to those who have abandoned everything to follow Christ. Having a indebted God is the best guarantee of an unexpected future. It is then that the last will be the first (Mk 10.31).

Before concluding: which is my (unique) asset?

The memory of the rich who could not become a disciple is a permanent warning for disciples who wish to be rich or simply the first. Jesus' encounter with the rich young man (Mk 10: 17-31) has as its reason the incompatibility of goods with the following of Jesus: the only good of the good disciple must be only Jesus who is following. Jesus does not tolerate that the good keep their own goods in competition with him. To those who want to follow Jesus, he requires exclusive dedication.

    • The young man who could not stay with Jesus went to meet him because he was really interested in his own salvation. Can one not identify here one of the most frequent reasons why we avoid meeting with Him? Who among us today goes in search of good teachers who teach him the path of life? What is it that is lacking: masters who indicate the path and who accompany the effort to obtain eternal life or want to reach it?
    •   To him who was good, Jesus proposed to be perfect, inviting him to renounce his goods. A goodness based on what is good is not worthy of the follower of Christ. So how can we reconcile goods and Christianity? Why was Jesus able to codify the perfection of the good person in the renunciation and alienation of what he possessed? Is it always true that what is good is an impediment to follow Christ? What is my situation?
    •   If not even the good are saved, however rich they may be, to whom will entry into the Kingdom of God be accessible? Will it not be because God does not sell, nor can one buy for nothing, in exchange for no good, however great? Why do we have to detach ourselves from God's gifts to receive God as a gift? Is it really possible?
    •   Whoever leaves something for God will not regret it: it will be given a hundred times more. Is this our current experience? In any case, what could be the reason? Will it not be because, having left something, we believe we have a right to much? If we detach ourselves from something, do we make God our debtor or do we simply do our duty? Do we deserve a reward for what we do, or wouldn't it be better to let God think of us to reward ourselves?

[1] Trace of reflection and work on the theme of the GC27, ACG 413 (2012) 64-65.

[2] In parallels it is identified: young (Mt 19,20.22), a person of importance (Lk 18,18).

Prophets of the fraternity

Invitation to pray the Word

 " Fraternity lived in community is an alternative form of life, it is a counter-cultural proposal, it is therefore a prophecy. Widespread individualism, social exclusion, cultural homologation are challenges to which the Salesian community responds, showing that it is possible to live as brothers, share life and communicate in depth ... Living together in community is mainly vocation and not choice or convenience: we are summoned by God. Fraternity requires us to discover gratuitousness and relationality. The young people who approach the consecrated life are fascinated by the way of living fraternity ... Diversity is a richness to be recognized and welcomed even in pastoral educative communities, in which they are involved to live and work different vocations together " . [1]

"By entrusting us with brothers to love, God calls us to live in community" (Const. 50): the common life is therefore "for us Salesians a fundamental requirement and a sure way to realize our vocation" (Const. 49) . With two proposals by lectio G. Zevini invites us to pray about Salesian life and thus welcome it with recognition as a gift from God and witness it as a "prophecy in act" (VC 85), since " all the fruitfulness of religious life depends on the quality of common life in common ”. [2]

The analysis of two of the three summaries concerning the life of the community of Jerusalem is, logically, the first text to be prayed. Luke wanted to affirm that in the rising of the living together of the disciples who, a little while before, had betrayed his Lord, one can 'touch' the strength - the Spirit - that made Jesus rise from the dead. A fraternal life, woven from attention to the needs of others and detachment from material goods, is the tangible proof of a new life and makes the proclamation of the Risen Lord particularly effective

The Spirit is at the origin of common life and its diversity. Paul had to explain to his Christians in Corinth that in their community unity of life and multiplicity of gifts come from a single source, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. The abundance of charisms and ministries serve the unity of faith and worship. Paul gives norms to live in common the gifts of the Spirit, but he is not surprised by the difficulties that arose precisely because of these gifts. Having to deal with crises in the community could open our eyes to the presence of the Spirit in it! 

I. The common life of the first Christian community (Acts 2,42-45; 4,32-35) 

The attitude of communion and sharing in fraternity, in the present moment of ecclesiological reflection and pastoral commitment that we are living as a Salesian Family in preparation for the Bicentennial of Don Bosco's birth, and in particular, we Salesians at the next GC27, deserves a particular attention. In the light of the Church "mystery of communion" and in relation to the ecclesial events that characterize it with the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the "New Evangelization", the text of Acts 2,42-45; 4,32-35 appears in all its current relevance. In reality, there is no religious community or ecclesial group that is not interested in meditating on this testimony of the Apostolic Church, which remains normative for the life of the Church of all times.

The biblical text

42 They were persevering in the teaching of the apostles and in communion, in breaking bread and in prayers. 43A sense of fear was in everyone, and wonders and signs took place by the work of the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common; 45 sold their properties and substances and shared them with everyone, according to the needs of each ... 32The multitude of those who had become believers had one heart and one soul and no one considered his property what belonged to him, but between them everything was common. 33 With great strength the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and all enjoyed great favor. 34 No one among them was in need, for those who owned fields or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what had been sold, and placed it at the feet of the apostles; then it was distributed to each according to his need. 

Lectio, exegetical-spiritual commentary

Let's start with the frame of reference of Acts 2 : 42-45 and then tie it with Acts 4,32-35. The biblical text presents a model of behavior for every Christian community and consecrated life. It is the first of many summaries, where Luke presents a picture, a little idealized but "normative", of ecclesial existence. In other words, the evangelist presents a situation where the valid and necessary points for the construction and spiritual life of each faith community are present, namely the ontological status of the relations of the first Christians: “they were persevering in the teaching of the apostles, in fraternal communion , in breaking bread and in prayers"(V.42). Therefore, there are four perseverances on which every religious community must necessarily confront in order to remain faithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of Jesus.

1.         Persevere in the teaching of the apostles. We know that the didaké is something different from the kérygma , from the first announcement: it is a work of formation, of deepening, of illustration of the person and mission of the Lord Jesus. The Christians of the early Church listened to the preaching and the word of the apostles and, therefore, were introduced to the knowledge of the gospel in order to reach a true experience of the Lord from mature believers. A concern that often accompanied the history and life of the Church, and likewise the existence of various religious communities, was the formation and knowledge of the mystery of Christ, linked to a life of witness and faith towards the Word of God.

2.         Persevere in fraternal communion.  Fraternal communion (= koinonia ) is the true community life understood as solidarity on the material level, as a union of hearts and as a participation in common spiritual goods. Luke is very attentive to fraternity in all its dimensions, from the economic one, to detachment from goods, to sharing personal spiritual resources. It also meant the observation that goods were distributed " according to the need of each one " (v.45), a constantly present program and a constructive path on which the primitive Church has consistently exercised.

3.         Persevere in the bread fraction. It is the characteristic sign of the cultural meetings of the first Christians, where Jesus' gestures were renewed during the last supper. But it also indicates the meals of Jesus with sinners and then those of the Risen One with the disciples. We are faced with a clear allusion to the Eucharist. This was lived in homes as a place of Christian life, in the awareness that the poorest Eucharist, if celebrated with truth and well prepared, was essential for the life of the first believers. The true fraternal communion was to celebrate the Eucharist well, aware of living the Christian life in fullness around the table of the Lord.

4.         Persevere in prayers . The term is used in the plural because the forms of prayers were different. They prayed at the temple, during meals or in the secrecy of their homes. And here, Luke adds the element of " perseverance " (v. 42), because it is one of the typical traits of prayer, which must be done "without ever getting tired" (1 Thess 5:17). To understand this attitude of relationship with God it must be included in the traditional spiritual teaching of the primitive community which, in different ways, pursued this ideal: he always prayed, "in every occasion" ( Eph 6:18), "in every place" and " raising to the sky pure hands "( 1Tm2.8). Naturally prayer was linked to charity so much that Origen could say: "Always pray to the one who unites prayer to the works that he must do, and works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider the precept of praying incessantly ". [3] In these few lines of the Acts of the Apostles, a climate of joy, of freshness of origins is captured, which gains the heart of those who witness this "reconstruction" of a new humanity. Climate that has always charmed Christians of all subsequent generations.

But the heart of the biblical text's discourse is expressed in the words: "no one among them was in need" (v.34), because the community "had one heart and one soul" (v.32), reality that Biblical tradition and profane culture had always dreamed. In fact, the eschatological community, that of recent times, will be characterized by the fact that "there will be no needy among you" ( Deut 15.4) and the Greeks dreamed of having "all things in common". Every community that wants to be evangelical lives in the heart the detachment from material goods, an indispensable premise for the harmony of the spirits and reaches goals of spiritual life. The community of Jerusalem is the realization of the definitive one, the perfect one. In the intermediate ones, ours, Jesus' prediction is realized: "you will always have the poor with you "( Mk 14: 7). Finally, the text adds: "With great strength the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus " (v. 33). It is an engraving that does not seem homogeneous with the rest of the context. But various exegetes make it opportune to observe that Luke wants to affirm that the strength of the witness to the resurrection of the Lord comes precisely from fraternal life. Attention to the needs of others and detachment from material goods are basic elements for building a fraternal community, and at the same time making the proclamation of the Word in the Risen Lord particularly effective. 

Meditatio, applied to Salesian life

The story of the first Pentecost with the explosion of the Spirit and the enthusiasm of the first mass conversion, ended unexpectedly: different people began to live a fraternal lifestyle. The Spirit comes and the unrealizable dream of fraternity is made possible: feeling like brothers and living like brothers. Of all the miracles, wonders and signs, this is the most impressive: people who do not know each other, understand each other and speak the same language of charity, sharing their goods. Something great began in the world: love for others becomes stronger than self-love. Fraternity, a prodigy of Pentecost, manifests the true face of the Church and becomes the engine of the expansion of the Gospel: free and slaves, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, all gathered around the same table,

Cultivating fraternity is the first and safest contribution to the Salesian mission in the Church, given that the surest fruit of the Spirit is the construction of a fraternal community. An article from the primitive Constitutions written by Don Bosco read: "All the members of the congregation live together only in fraternal charity and in the simple vows that bind them together to form one heart and one soul to love and serve God". [4]The way of life of the communities born of the apostles has always been seen as a reference point for religious Orders and Institutes and for us Salesians. Even today, this high ideal fascinates, even if there are skeptics against the possibility of living this fraternity. Yet Christian fraternity is the first sign to be set for the evangelization of the world and of young people. Not only is it a sign of recognition that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus ( Jn 13:35), but it is also a sign that the Lord Jesus is the one sent by the Father ( Jn 17:21), not one of the prophets, but the Prophet, the Son.

The Salesian community is founded in God who is its model: "God calls us to live in community, entrusting ourselves to brothers to love" ( C 50th). The common life in fraternity, which in the Salesian perspective has as its goal the love and service of God, is realized in the mission to the needy, especially the poor and marginalized young people by society. This life demands fraternal affection, sharing and spiritual union as it is said in our Rule of life: "We gather in community, in which we love each other to share everything in a family spirit and build the communion of persons" ( Const.49b). To have a heart only means for us Salesians to have only one will and the same goals. Don Bosco to a Salesian cleric said: "You can and must study the way of inflaming all the brothers of our Society with the love of God, and do not arrest yourself unless one heart and one soul are loved to love each other and serve the Lord with all our strength throughout the course of our lives. Certainly you will give the example verb et opere ». [5]

The more individualism progresses, the more the community in its various realizations cannot fail to present itself as a fraternity. Fraternity to be built with personal commitment and with the joyful proclamation of the Gospel, made of witness and life. The only ecclesial model that comes from the biblical text is the model of fraternity: not only a theological model, but a community model to be implemented, as a premise for every other realization. Only the beauty of a fraternal community will give new impetus to the Salesian mission. And if this is true, that model cannot be set aside as utopian or poetic or too vague, as is sometimes heard. It would be the triumph of a materialistic ecclesiology that, in the name of realism, fails to see the mystery of fraternity, the great Christian novelty in our society. 

Oratio, to customize

Lord, the text of Pentecost reminds us first of all that only the Holy Spirit is the foundation of the unity and harmony of the Salesian community, it is the criterion of communion in community and personal life. We are aware that he continues the work of Jesus in history, inspiring the existential hermeneutics of Christian life: it engages the ecclesial community, religious life, the existence of every Salesian in a continuous task of reform. This consists in creative and responsible fidelity to the Spirit of Christ and of Don Bosco who enlivens us.

Only in this way can the Salesian community become a space of life, when the Spirit arrives to free the energies of intelligence, charity, freedom, creativity of each one and to disrupt them in the community and in life together with others. Then the Salesian community manifests its prophetic vocation: that of being a sign of hope, capable of opening horizons of meaning and livability to young people, of indicating ways of fraternal communion and communication with cultural and religious differences. The rediscovery of the centrality of the Word of God and the face of the other, especially the poor, the different, the non-believer, belonging to another religion, remind each Salesian of his vocation to listen to the world and the faces of young people, in whom the Holy Spirit is personalized and can be contemplated in the fruits he produces,Gal 5.22). 

II. Common life and variety of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12, 3-13)

The words of H. Urs Von Balthasar introduce us to the lectio divina : “The movement of love between heaven and earth is guided by the Holy Spirit, and he thus gives fulfillment to the relationship, knotted in Christ, with the Zion-Mary Bride - Ekklesia . The Christian lives in the center of this event, which wants to become reality also in him and for him, through his loving dedication to love. His existence must always be a creative translation, God's future perpetually in the Holy Spirit ". [6]And also the words of our Salesian tradition that defines the Salesian spirit "our own style of thought and feeling, of life and action, in putting into practice the specific vocation and the mission that the Spirit does not cease to give us. Or, more in detail, the Salesian spirit is the complex of the aspects and values ​​of the human world and the Christian mystery (first of all the Gospel, the Church, the Kingdom of God ...) to which the sons of Don Bosco, accepting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and by virtue of their mission, they are particularly sensitive, both in their inner attitude and in their external behavior "( ACGS n. 86). 

The biblical text

3 Brothers, nobody can say: "Jesus is Lord!", If not under the action of the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different charisms, but only one is the Spirit; 5 there are several ministries, but only one is the Lord; 6 there are different activities, but only one is God, who works everything in everyone. 7 To each one is given a particular manifestation of the Spirit for the common good: 8 for one, by means of the Spirit, the language of wisdom is given; to another instead, by the same Spirit, the language of knowledge; 9 to one, in the same Spirit, faith; to another, in the one Spirit, the gift of healings; 10to one the power of miracles; to another the gift of prophecy; to another the gift of discerning spirits; to another the variety of languages; to another the interpretation of languages. 11 But all these things work the one and the same Spirit, distributing them to each one as he wishes. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, although many, are one body, so is Christ. 13 In fact we have all been baptized by one Spirit in one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free; and we have all been quenched by one Spirit. 

Lectio, exegetical-spiritual commentary

The experience of fraternity lived in community and that of the Spirit are a constant in the New Testament, but the forms of these experiences are manifold. They are at the origin of the Church, and the Word of God clearly shows how the presence of the Holy Spirit acts in the life of the religious community and impresses you with a note of unity and mission.

The language of the Spirit is the Word of God that comes down to man and that leads the community of faith not to impose its own language, but to enter into the language of other men, to "say God" and to proclaim the gospel according to the possibilities and ways of understanding the other. This means that St. Paul in his mission saw in the recipients of the announcement not a simple passive receptor, but a theological subject whose culture determines the forms and modalities of the mission itself. Obviously, all this has important repercussions on the level of community life and interpersonal relationships: loving the other means listening to him, assuming him in his diversity, in his otherness, entering into his sensitivity to be able to communicate with him not with violence, that is by imposing ourselves on him , but in charity and in truth, that is, opening ourselves positively to its difference. This action, for Paul, is pneumatic action, work of the Spirit that comes down from above, comes from God. St. Paul says of this Spirit that he opposes the "flesh" (see Gal 5,16-17), that is, the tendency selfishness of man, to the closure in himself, to the refusal of encounter and communion with the other.

The first Christian communities, in fact, experienced the presence of the Spirit with joy and vivacity and recognized the variety and richness of its manifestations and its gifts. But they also realized that the manifestations of the Spirit are not free from ambiguity. Thus the certainty of the presence of the Spirit in the community does not close the discourse within the community, but opens a new and important one, that of the tools necessary to guarantee the various gifts present in the community fidelity to tradition and the capacity for common construction.

This was the experience of the Corinthian community. The community was rich in charisms and ministries, but also in tensions and contrasts. In intervening, Paul affirms, first of all, that the variety of gifts comes from the Spirit, which is rich and cannot manifest itself in a single way. Uniformity is never a sign of the Spirit. But for the variety of gifts to be a sign of his presence and of his action, three conditions are needed.

The first condition is faith which finds its center in the affirmation: " Jesus is the Lord " (v.3). Who affirms that Jesus is the Lord, comes from the Spirit; those who claim otherwise cannot come from the Spirit. But what does it mean to proclaim "Lord Jesus"? First of all that Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One is Risen; who is present and acts now in the community; that his path, that of the Cross, is the path that must be followed also by the disciple.

The second is that the variety of gifts finds the point of convergence in the common construction . Behind the variety of gifts of each is charity, the best and common charisma. Only on this condition can we speak of the presence of the Spirit.

There is a third criterion for discerning the Spirit: the charism is conceived as a function, as a service , not as a dignity. The charism does not establish a dignity, a greatness to be valued, but a task to be performed, a service for others. This is the central, revolutionary affirmation that Paul develops through the allegory of the body and members. A gift that was conceived as a dignity, as a self, to be used for one's own benefit, would cease to be a charism that comes from the Spirit. The Spirit is present there - and only there - where the gift becomes service and openness to the brothers.

Meditatio, applied to Salesian life

The Church is a community-communion rich in various charisms. Don Bosco, the founder, in his time ignored and did not speak of charisms, of which he was not without. He implored special graces from God and the Help of Christians, which were actually charisms. Just think of the gift of the word he asked for and obtained on the day of his priestly ordination. In this regard, Don Ceria reports a very significant phrase: " the grace of healings, the discernment of spirits, the spirit of prophecy are charisms that abounded in the life of our Saint, nor will we tire of recording the facts as we meet them of ascertained ”. [7]With St. Paul we call charisms the gifts of nature and grace that are at the service of the Church and for the building up of fraternal communion. To us Salesians, as to every religious institute, "fidelity to the founding charism and the consequent spiritual patrimony is required". [8]

Speaking of the charism of Don Bosco the founder, Don E. Viganò recognized him in the fountain experience of the "new gift of Valdocco", enriched by common elements of Christian holiness and by apostolic zeal, generator of spiritual posterity. These are the essential elements of the Salesian heritage: an original choice of covenant and union with the Spirit of God; an active and affective collaboration with the Church's mission with a particular style of spiritual life; a typical form of evangelical life in a family style of relationships that can bring young people to Christ. "Don Bosco was inspired by the High to want for us a specific form of evangelical life, adaptable and adapted to the times, agile and available for the mission among the youth, of harmonious permeation between religious authenticity and social citizenship,[9]

The Spirit and the Word of God therefore appear as the elements that preside over the harmony of the fraternal community within it and in the world. Especially among the young the Salesian community is placed by the Spirit as a witness of Christ, called to proclaim the Gospel and the work of God in today. Within it the community is situated in the fruitful dialectic of unity in diversity: the Spirit is unique, but it is personalized in each one. Paul states that the uniqueness of the Spirit is accompanied by the diversity of manifestations and charisms (see 1Cor 12, 4-11). And all this is in continuity with the testimony of Christ, whose presence and word raised both welcoming reactions and reactions of refusal.

The Salesian spirit rejects the monotony of prefabricated and standardized things; he gives each one different vocations and gifts, according to the personality of each one. These differences can also lead to Salesians, as in the time of St. Paul, to be in danger of cataloging, opposing one another, facing each other in heated comparisons. The Spirit demands unity even in diversity, each one preserving its own personality. Personal gifts and charisms benefit the good of the community, whose conditions governing such charisms are to live faith in Jesus Christ, produce fruits of the Spirit, such as charity, peace, joy ( Gal 5:22 ), practicing the golden rule of common construction ( 1Cor14.26), made of union with God and fraternal communion. All this applies to the gift of "prophecy" which consists in speaking in the name of God, who arouses in the heart of the believer prophetic word intended to promote growth and reform of the religious community.

Don Bosco's charisma is an experience of the Spirit, transmitted to his disciples to be lived by them, guarded, deepened and constantly developed in harmony with the body of Christ in perpetual growth ... with a character of its own that also involves a particular style of sanctification and apostolate ”. [10] For us Salesians today the common life in fraternity has a convinced adherence and full appreciation, aware that living this aspect means making our charisms grow. 

Oratio, to customize

"The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes in the heart of man together with prayer. In this he manifests himself first of all and above all as the gift "which comes to the aid of our weakness". It is the magnificent thought developed by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8.26) when he writes: "We do not even know what is convenient to ask, but the Spirit himself intercedes insistently for us, with inexpressible groans". Therefore the Holy Spirit not only causes us to pray, but guides us "from within" in prayer, making up for our inadequacy, remedying our inability to pray: he is present in our prayer and gives it a divine dimension. Thus "he who searches the hearts knows what the desires of the Spirit are, for he intercedes for believers according to the designs of God" (Rom 8:27).

"Our difficult age has a special need for prayer. If in the course of history - yesterday as today - many men and women have given witness to the importance of prayer, consecrating themselves to the praise of God and to the life of prayer, especially in the monasteries with great advantage of the Church, in these years the number is also growing of people who, in ever-expanding movements and groups, put prayer first and in it seek the renewal of spiritual life. This is a significant and consoling symptom, since from this experience a real contribution to the resumption of prayer among the faithful, which have been helped to better consider the Holy Spirit as the one who arouses in hearts a deep yearning for holiness "has derived." [11]

Giorgio Zevini, SDB

[1] Trace of reflection and work on the theme of the GC27, ACG 413 (2012) 65.

[2] John Paul II, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the CIVCSVA (20-11-1992), in OR 21.11.1992, n.3.

[3] The speech 12, PG 11.452.

[4] Primitive constitution, ms. in ACS 022 (1), c. I Form , art. 1

[5] Epistolario. Introduction, critical texts and notes. Edited by F. Motto, Rome, LAS, 1999, II 174

[6] Spiritus Creator . Theological essays III, Morcelliana, Brescia 1972, 328.

[7] MB XIII 572.

[8] VC 36b.

[9] E. Viganò, Letter to the Salesians, 14 May 1981, in 'Circular Letters', 309-310.

[10] E. Viganò, Letter to the Salesians , 8 February 1995, in "Circular Letters", 1557.

[11] John Paul 2, Lord, the Giver , 18 May 1986, n. 65.

Serve the young

An invitation to pray to the Word of God 

 " The most beautiful gift we can offer to young people is the possibility of meeting the Lord Jesus; it is the proposal of an education that is inspired by the gospel and that opens to young people "the door of faith" ... We dedicate ourselves to the mission "with tireless industriousness, taking care to do everything well with simplicity and measure" (Const. 18 ), following the example of the Lord Jesus who "like the Father always works" and in imitation of Don Bosco who spent "his last breath". Apostolic work sometimes requires renunciations, labors and sacrifices, which make sense if they are aimed at a greater good: "the glory of God and the salvation of souls ". [1]
The mission identifies us in the Church as consecrated to God and to the young and "from one to all our existence its concrete tone" (Const. 3). "In fulfilling this mission, we find the way of our sanctification" (Const. 2). FJ Moloney offers us two ideas for a prayer in which we contemplate that, first, service to young people is above all, service to Christ and that, according to, the apostolic ministry is a service without measure.
The story of the first multiplication of the loaves reminds us that Jesus satisfied the crowd by his compassion for Jesus and without so much paying attention to the unavailability of his disciples. Only when they put at their disposal what little they have, Jesus will do the prodigy: the scarcity of food is no excuse to make a multitude eat. To serve the people, the disciples must learn to hand over everything, even if very little, to Jesus so that he can deliver himself to others.
The apostolic ministry requires total surrender of oneself, as Paul confides to the restless Christians of Corinth. And to surrender himself completely, the apostle must be totally free.To save the gratuitousness of the message, the messenger must know how to renounce his rights, even to the most noble and indispensable ones. His honor, his salary, lies in being able to work for the gospel: being an apostle is a task and a reward, a trust and a reward. Preaching is not something elective, it is a necessity that cannot be freed. Irresistibly linked to the gospel, he will have to offer it regardless of his person, as long as he can earn someone (!) For Christ.

I. Jesus quenches the crowd: Mark 6: 30-44

The theme of service to young people, so central to the Salesian vocation, was identified by the Rector Major as one of the thematic nuclei for the GC27. A careful Salesian Lectio of Mark 6: 30-44 provides a basis for this theme. In any Christian initiative, the believer must recognize that the "mission" of service has its origins in God through his Son Jesus Christ. This passage speaks of the initial reluctance of the disciples to give food to the crowd. Jesus enables them to do so, using their poverty to feed a great multitude. Thus, the Lord also leads us - who are sometimes reluctant - to take on our poverty and deliver it totally to the young.

Biblical quote

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, " Come aside, into a lonely place, and rest a while." In fact, there was a lot of people coming and going and they didn't even have time to eat. 32 Then they set out on the boat to a lonely place, apart. 33 But many saw them depart and understood, and from all the cities they began to rush there on foot and went ahead of them. 34 When he disembarked, he saw a great crowd and was moved by them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things. 35 Having already become late, the disciples approached him saying: " This place is solitary and is now late; 36 Leave them, therefore, so that by going through the countryside and neighboring villages, they may buy themselves food. "
37 But he answered," You give them something to eat. "They said to him," Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii of bread and give them food? "38 But he said to them," How many loaves do you have? Go and see. "And having ascertained, they reported:" Five loaves and two fishes. " 39 Then he ordered them to make them all sit down, in groups, on the green grass. 40 And they all sat in groups and small groups of a hundred and fifty. 41 I took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced his blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute; and divided the two fishes among them all. 42 They all ate and were fed, 43 and they took away twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and even fish. 44 Those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (Mark 6: 30-44 CEI)

Exegetical-spiritual commentary

A characteristic of Mark's Gospel are the two narratives of Jesus feeding the multitude (Mark 6: 30-44 and 8: 1-10). They play an important role in the way Marco develops his presentation of Jesus and his disciples. The first episode is located in Israel, on the Jewish side of the Sea of ​​Galilee. Between the first miracle and the second, Jesus comes across the rejection of the leaders of Israel and denounces their attitudes with strong words (7: 1-23). Leaving Israel, Jesus goes to Tire and Sidon (vv. 24-30), and then to the pagan Decapolis (vv. 31-37). Now being in a pagan region on the other side of the lake, it feeds the multitude again. It is not possible to misunderstand the message of Mark: Jesus, through his disciples, nurtures both the Jew (6: 30-44) and the pagan (8: 1-20).

Mark 6:30 closes the previous episode in the story of Mark, that is the return of the Twelve sent on mission (6: 7-30), and opens our passage, 6: 30-44. Meanwhile, between the sending of the Twelve (vv. 7-13) and their return (v. 30) the death of John the Baptist was announced (vv. 14-29). This event is inserted in the heart of the account of the first mission of the Twelve to indicate a model of discipleship: it costs nothing less than everything. Then in v. 30 the Twelve return to Jesus with the idea of ​​having accomplished everything. To Jesus who made them (v. 3:14) they report all they have done. The death of John the Baptist, together with the misunderstanding of the disciples about the true source of success in their mission, is a warning to the Salesian reader that the service of the young does not concern the Salesian individual and his talents,

In v. 31, Jesus speaks to the disciples, asking them to withdraw a little and go to rest in another place because "the crowd ... came and went and they didn't even have time to eat" (v. 31b). Jesus and the disciples physically leave a place and go to a lonely place crossing the lake (v. 32) - but it is all in vain. The attraction of Jesus is too strong. Many come on foot "from all the cities". They are already there waiting for Jesus and the disciples when they arrive (v. 33). This enthusiasm of the crowd contrasts with the incomprehension of the disciples. Indeed, it often happens that the disciples, even we Salesians, do not recognize the miracle of being so close to the Lord. We feel bored, simply doing what we have to do, unaware of the great wealth we possess and that we must share with others.

Upon seeing the great crowd, which has flocked from all sides, Jesus is moved (v. 34a), and Mark uses the image of "sheep without a shepherd" to describe the sentiments of Jesus (v. 34b). His attitude recalls the words of Yahweh to Moses: "so that the community of the Lord may not be a flock without a shepherd" (Num 27:17). It also recalls an essential aspect of the Salesian, who is called to be a follower of the Good Shepherd, participating in his compassion for the most needy, especially the young (C 27, 95). As the story of the miracle proceeds, Jesus will be seen commanding his disciples to also take care of the flock (cf. vv. 37-41). Meanwhile, on this background, Jesus teaches "many things" to the crowd. Like Moses, Jesus teaches and also offers food in the desert (v. 34c).

The disciples, as fragile as they are, point to Jesus the late hour and the isolation of the place. They ask him to send the crowd away to let her buy something to eat (vv. 35-36). But Jesus invites them to share in his compassion, commanding them: "You give them something to eat" (v. 37a). Called by the Good Shepherd to join him in the mission of solicitude for the needy, the disciples had chosen an easy way: send them away! But, as the account of the death of John the Baptist teaches (vv. 13-29), the disciple of Jesus must give everything to live a life rooted in the Gospel: here is the evangelical radicalism that is at the heart of the convocation of the GC27.

There is an urgent need to feed the people (vv. 36-37). We need to take care of the sheep that are without a shepherd. And we Salesians have been called by Jesus and the Church precisely for this (C 26, 31). The response of the disciples to Jesus' command is around money and bread (v. 37b). Is this also our strategy: to offer another building, another program, more qualified personnel, more expensive equipment and the latest cry? Jesus instead is interested in the poverty of the disciples, not in what they possess. They inform him that they have only five loaves and two fish (v. 38). What they  possess - in this case, the lack of possessions - disturbs them. But it does not disturb the Good Shepherd.

People are asked to sit "on the green grass" (v. 39). This detail is not mentioned to add some color. Instead it recalls the Ps. 23.1: "The Lord is my shepherd: I lack nothing; on grassy pastures it makes me rest. "The themes of the Good Shepherd and the Exodus continue as Jesus makes people sit in groups of one hundred and fifty (v. 40). The numbers reflect the groups that marched in the desert, as described in Exodus 18: 21-25, Num 31:14 and Deut. 1:15. As to a people of the Exodus who is in need, Jesus gives food, and asks the disciples to join them on that restless journey towards the future in God. Jesus is in control, leading where he wants to go. Neither the disciples nor the Salesian of today determines the way (C 31, 34).

Taking the little that the disciples have with them, Jesus performs different actions: "taken", "raised his eyes to heaven", "pronounced the blessing", "broke the loaves and gave them ... so that they could distribute them" (v. 41) . These actions have their origins in the primitive Eucharistic practices of the community (see Mark 14:22). Marco's words make us think of our Eucharistic celebrations. A detail to note is that Jesus gives the blessed and broken bread to the disciples to distribute to the people. Despite their inability to understand their role as a pastor, they are enabled to join Jesus' concern for the needy.

The comment: "Everyone ate and fed" (v. 42) takes up the theme of the pastor of the Ps. 23: 1 ("I lack nothing"). The connection between feeding five thousand people and the Eucharist continues. The disciples collect the pieces of bread and fish that are left over, and fill twelve baskets. In the early Church, the Greek word that is used here ( klasmata) indicated the Eucharistic bread (see John 6:12). An important theological link is made with Israel through the collection of the twelve baskets of pieces that advance. The meal shared with the crowd that came from all the cities of Israel (see v. 33) still remains open, unlike the Manna of the Exodus that crumbled after one day (Ex. 16: 19-21). The bread given by Jesus is always available in the twelve baskets. In this miracle, the number "twelve" is based on the original number of the tribes of Israel, now personified in the "Twelve" of Jesus. Today we are their heirs, invited as disciples of Jesus to participate in the meal and attract others to this participation. This is the mystery that lies at the Eucharistic center of Salesian life. There "we draw dynamism and constancy in our action for the young" (C 88).

The Word of God teaches us that Jesus takes from the weakness and poverty of the disciples of all times, and feeds both the Jew (6: 30-44) and the pagan (8: 1-10). Jesus feeds the whole world. The Eucharistic background links this act of feeding humanity with the central and universal mystery and mission of the Church. The continuous presence of the disciples, the Christian Church, is called to feed the peoples of all times. The Salesian vocation, now present in the four corners of the earth and unconditionally and tirelessly committed to serving the young (C 1, 78), finds its evangelical and Eucharistic roots here. 

Ideas for an application to life and to prayer
      1. Do you recognize the importance of Jesus' words: "Come aside, into a lonely place, and rest a while" (v. 31)? Or do you realize that your busy Salesian life considers these occasions (cf. C 85-95) a waste of time? Do you do anything to avoid these community and personal moments? How important are moments of community and personal prayer for you? Do you feel the need to pray more, or do you ask for help for this aspect of your Salesian life?
      2. Is your interest and enthusiasm for the mission still as strong as it was when you started the Salesian mission? Do you see young people as those who "from all cities began to rush there on foot" (v. 33)? In your reflection, ask the Lord for a passion for the service of young people.
      3. The presentation of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has become a central biblical image for the Congregation and its mission. This Gospel passage tells you about Jesus Good Shepherd and about you continuing the mission of the Good Shepherd? Ask the Lord for a generosity of heart, a tireless industriousness and the courage to recognize that your mission as a Good Shepherd to the young will cost you nothing less than everything (C 95).
      4. Are you tempted to escape the responsibility of caring for the needy by sending them elsewhere? Do you sometimes spend too much time, money and effort to ensure that we have facilities, organization, possessions, professional preparation, experts and other similar things (C 77)?
      5. "You give them something to eat ... Should we go and buy two hundred denarii of bread and feed them?" (V. 37). Do you realize that this is a wrong question? Bring your poverty to the Lord, and let him change it into an abundance that you can give to young people. Reflect on this, enumerating the weaker aspects of your person and your ministry, and ask that they be changed into service for young people.
      6. Feeding the crowd foreshadows the gift of the Eucharist. It is always open to the world (C 7). Is your Eucharist the driving force of giving yourself to young people?
      7. Is the universal presence of Salesians throughout the world somehow Eucharistic? Are you part of this presence?
      8. How does the Eucharist connect with the radical gift of yourself to young people? Is it simply something you do together every day? Or does it mean something more to you and your community? What does it tell you about your mission?    
      9. Does this reflection on the Word of God take you deeper into the mystery of the Good Shepherd who calls you to be a good pastor of the young, giving you regardless of the expenses - a little like John the Baptist - to those who need you most?
      10. We are called to become Eucharist and not simply to celebrate the Eucharist. Ask the Lord for the courage to live the Eucharistic nature of your salesian vocation with courage and conviction.    
II. Making it all to all: 1 Corinthians 9: 1-27

Our first moment of prayer and reflection focused on the learning by the disciples of Jesus of the art of giving themselves totally to the people (Mark 6: 30-44). Having completed that reflection, let us now turn to the Apostle Paul to participate in his ardor as an authentic disciple of Jesus. There are no limits to Paul's gift of himself. It happens that some who work for the spread of the Gospel do it with good intentions, but for their self-realization and personal success. Paul challenges the Corinthians - and us. His is not a road of privilege. There is no limit to the gift of self for anyone who spends his life being and doing everything to everyone. Indeed, our Salesian vocation to serve young people knows no limits:

Biblical quote

9: 1 Am I not free, myself? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus, our Lord? And are you not my work in the Lord? 2 Although for others I am not an apostle, for you at least I am; you are the seal of my apostolate in the Lord. 3 This is my defense against those who accuse me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to bring a believing woman with us, as do the other apostles and brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or does Barnabas and I have no right not to work? 7 And who ever performs military service at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating its fruit? Or who feeds a flock without eating the milk of the flock? 8 I don't say this from a human point of view; it is the Law that says so. 9 For it is written in the law of Moses:You will not put the muzzle on the threshing ox. Did God think of oxen? 10 Or does it say so for us? It was certainly written for us. For he who plows must plow in the hope of having his part, like the thresher thresh in the same hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things in you, is it a great thing if we collect material goods? 12 If others have that right over you, wouldn't we have more? But we did not want to use this right, but we endure everything so as not to get in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who worship worship take food from worship, and those who wait at the altar have part of the altar? 14 Thus also the Lord has ordered that those who proclaim the gospel should live by the gospel. 15 But I didn't use any of these rights, nor do I write to you so that you can regulate yourself with me; I'd rather die. No one will take away this pride! 16 It is not a boast for me to preach the gospel; it is a duty for me: woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I do it on my own initiative, I have the right to a reward; but if I do not do it on my own, it is an assignment that has been entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That of preaching the gospel for free without using the right conferred on me by the gospel. 19 For although I was free from all, I made myself the servant of all to gain the greatest number: 20 I became a Jew with the Jews, to gain the Jews; with those who are under the law I have become like one who is under the law, though not under the law, for the purpose of earning those who are under the law. 21 With those who have no law I have become like one without a law, although not without the law of God, but being in the law of Christ, to win those who are without law. 22 I made myself weak with the weak, to win the weak; I did everything to everyone, to save someone at all costs. 23 I do everything for the gospel, to become part of it with them. 24 Don't you know that in stadium races everyone runs, but only one wins the prize? Run you too in order to conquer it! 25 But every athlete is temperate in everything; they do it to get a corruptible crown, we instead an incorruptible one. 26 I therefore run, but not as one who is without a goal; I do boxing, but not like someone who beats the air, (1 Corinthians 9: 1-27 CEI) 

Exegetical-spiritual commentary

Paul had founded the community of Corinth (see Acts 18: 1-11), but is now aware of serious problems in that immature community. They are divided among them (1 Cor 1-4. See 1:11); they do not respect the Christian importance of the human body (5: 1-6: 20); there are problems in marriages (7: 1-9) and in sexual matters (7: 17-40). In a long section, it deals with the difficulties that come from outside to a minority group inserted in a world full of pagan cults (8: 1-11: 1); it also deals with the use of the gifts of the Spirit (12-14). Finally, he deals with the question of the resurrection from the dead (15: 1-58). In 9: 1-27, at the heart of his intense interaction with his community, he challenges them by telling the story of his life. Praying and reflecting on this Word of God,

Paul's ardor is a sign that not everyone has a liking for him. There are those who ask questions about his role among them. Not less than fourteen times in 7: 1-18, he asks angry questions (see vv. 1 [4 times], 4, 5, 6, 7 [3 times], 8 [2 times], 9, 10, 11 , 13, 18) to defend himself (v. 3). The Corinthians are dear to him, the fruit of his labor, a sign before the Lord (vv. 1-2). He, their apostle, feels deeply wounded because some doubt him. In these ferocious questions we see a passionate man who is concerned about his mission in the name of Jesus Christ and the Christian community. Only in this way can someone become everything to everyone. The Salesian must be passionately proud of having been chosen as an apostle for the young; must live his vocation publicly,

An apostle is not forced to take on the mission, but makes a free response to God's call (v. 1). However, the unconditional commitment of the apostle can lead him to a lifestyle that appears strange to the secular world. Paul freely renounces his rights to food and drink, to a wife, to a salary for his work on behalf of the people he serves (vv. 4-7). We join him in these counter-cultural gestures in and through a consecrated life of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity (C 60-84). The Salesian must show young people that he is an apostle for them , not for himself . "It is enough that you are young, because I love you very much ... for you I am also willing to give my life" (Don Bosco, C 14).

The Bible says that the worker has the right to earn something from his labor (vv. 8-9, referring to Deuteronomy 25: 4), that he who plows must receive a reward from the harvest (v. 10, in reference to Ben Sirach 6:19). Even Paul can legitimately request a prize as the fruit of his work among the Corinthians (vv. 11-12). But this is not Paul's way of acting. He is driven by a burning passion to spread the Gospel of Christ. Any idea of ​​personal gain from the mission must be abandoned (C 73). Paul's life shows that he lives the Gospel he preaches. The Salesians join him in this passionate commitment to live the Gospel without compromise, participating "more closely in the mystery of his Passover, in his annihilation and in his life in the Spirit" (C 60).

Paul, forced by divine urgency, can do nothing else: "Woe to me, he says, if I do not preach the gospel" (v. 16). He does not want to boast of his virtues (v. 15), since there is only one thing that matters to him: to preach the Gospel, driven by an urgent sense of being an apostle of the Lord. He serves only the Lord and never himself (vv. 16-17). The most effective way to proclaim the Gospel is "free", gaining no benefit but forming those to whom it is sent so that they may become "the seal of [his] apostolate" (v. 2). For the Salesian, "good Christians and honest citizens" are the sign that we are living the Gospel (C 34-36).

The apostle knows neither cultural nor social laws nor limits. Paul not only does without; he becomes the slave of all (v. 19): a Jew with the Jews, a pagan with the pagans, weak with the weak. There is only one law, and it is the Law of Christ (vv. 20-22). There is only one goal. Whatever the cost, Paul's unconditional commitment is to save those to whom he is sent (v. 22). If this is done in the name of the Gospel, Paul feels rich in his blessings (v. 23). We also share this commitment of Paul as Salesians, called to serve the youth, especially the less privileged one "who has the greatest need to be loved and evangelized, ... in places of greatest poverty" (C 26).         

Paul turns to the Corinthians, asking them to renounce their petty divisions and difficulties that led him to write this letter. Remind them that they are running in a race to win the crown of their final victory (v. 24). There is no easy way, there is no life without sacrifice: we realize that we are in a race and in a struggle, and therefore we must act appropriately (vv. 25-26).

Paul follows the way first, as every apostle must do. If he had not embraced a lifestyle and given a passionate gift to everyone, his ministry would have been in vain. That would have disqualified him from this precious ministry (verse 27). The thing that Paul asked the Corinthians, he also asks us now: "Be my imitators, as I am of Christ" (11: 1), so that we do not become disqualified. The tradition continues: every Salesian continues to imitate our founder and to embody his charism "imitating Don Bosco's concern" (C 27).

Ideas for an application to life and prayer
      1. Do you feel the ardor of Paul as he participates in his Christian and Salesian charism? Do you understand and share Don Bosco's relentless commitment to this charism?
      2. Reflect on your practice of obedience, freely embraced as an anti-cultural sign in your life. Do you accept this central aspect of your apostolic vocation with joy as part of your identification with the relationship between Jesus Christ and your Father? Does it "free" you to serve the young without reservations? To whom is your heart and your will submissive?
      3. Reflect on your poverty, freely embraced as an anti-cultural sign in your life. Do you accept this central aspect of your apostolic vocation with joy, repeating the simplicity and generosity of Jesus, as did Don Bosco? Does it "free" you to serve the young without reservations? What is more important to you, the "things" in your life or the young to serve?
      4. Reflect on your chastity, freely embraced as an anti-cultural sign in your life. Do you accept this central aspect of your apostolic vocation with enthusiasm and joy? Does it "free" you to serve the young without reservations? Where your heart is, there is also your treasure (see Matthew 6:21): where is your heart?                       
      5. How important is your position in the world, in the Church, in the Congregation? Are you demanding when it comes to what you would like to do with your life and ministry? Do you ask the Lord to give you generosity and enthusiasm to accomplish any task for anyone, as long as it is for the young and for the service of the Gospel?
      6. Do you consider the young people to whom the Salesian has unconditionally surrendered "[his] work in the Lord" and "the seal of [your] apostolate in the Lord" (1 Cor 9: 1-2)? Or do you judge your success according to criteria that have nothing to do with the youth to whom you are sent?  
      7. Paul demonstrates a good understanding of the requirements of the apostolic life when he describes it as a race (1 Corinthians 9:24). In the secular world there are many who run to obtain the reward of the heart and life of the young in order to destroy their spontaneity and beauty. We Salesians enter the race in the name of Don Bosco, and we do everything to receive the prize: we run to obtain the imperishable crown of young people who are "good Christians and honest citizens" (Don Bosco).
      8. Ask the Lord for strength to overcome the fear and doubt you feel when confronted by your failure, criticism, and failures of others. Paul's courage in defending himself and his Gospel (1 Cor 9: 1-4) should guide him in this.
      9. Be brave and honest! Do you sometimes run aimlessly or box as one who strikes the air (1 Corinthians 9:26)? Recognize aspects of their Salesian life that do not bear fruit and that often waste a life that was unconditional and totally surrendered to the Lord in the Salesian Congregation to serve the young, especially the most needy.
      10. Recognize the importance of "imitation". We are imitators of Christ, like Paul. We are imitators of Paul and imitators of Don Bosco. Everything looks back to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Recognize your dignity as a bearer of the Good News for the young. You are running in this race for the gospel to share in your blessings (see 1 Corinthians 9:23).    

Francis J. Moloney, SDB

[1] Reflection and work on the theme of GC27, ACG 413 (2012) 65.