Vitamin V. So I say when I give the advice to read a few minutes of the Gospel every day: a flash and go! Leaving the mark on the page, so as to continue reading the four gospels in full and then the other books of the New Testament. It is vitamin V, to be taken, as doctors say, once a day, preferably in the morning. I clarify (we must not take anything for granted) that by New Testament we mean the collection of the 4 Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Saint Paul and other apostles and the Apocalypse of Saint John.
The encounter with the Gospels was memorable for me. Since I was a child (about 8 years old) I was struck by reading in the Gospel of Luke (6, 27-35):
" But to you who listen, I say: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who insult you. To anyone who hits you on one cheek, turn the other too; and whoever takes off your cloak do not prevent you from taking your tunic too. Give to anyone who asks you; and whoever takes yours away from you, don't ask him again. And as you want men to do to you, you do to them too. If you love those who love you, what grace do you get? Sinners also love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do you good, what grace will you get? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what grace do you have? Sinners also lend to sinners to receive as much. But love your enemies, do good, lend without hoping for anything and your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High; for he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked. "
It seemed enchanting to me and I noticed the contrast with the common mentality. I showed him enthusiastically to my mother who didn't get too upset. Maybe he was afraid I would take those words literally.
Then came the period of philosophical uncertainty, of skepticism matured during high school. In the history book of philosophy, Jesus was scarcely mentioned, as if he did not matter in the history of thought. And then there were those who questioned the historicity of the Gospels. Instead I found the opposite. The books of the New Testament are the expression of a community that experienced an event that changed their life. A community that had gathered next to Jesus and was already spreading his message: after his death and resurrection, it tried to carefully collect what Jesus did and said. The result was a beautiful concert in which everything fits together despite the diversity of instruments.
I learned that the gospels have enjoyed credibility since ancient times. From the second century after Christ, passages from the Gospel were read in liturgical ceremonies that were placed on the same level as the texts of the Old Testament prophets. There was a strong and unanimous conviction that those writings connected us directly with the person of Jesus and, as far as possible, made us participants in his life. The studies conducted in this regard are analytical and detailed but the basic idea is that the Gospels can be trusted as they have always been read.
The Gospels have nourished the spiritual life of the saints and built the warp of our civilization. Even the fairy tales with the beautiful ending that we heard as children presuppose the gospel because a tradition has been created in which in the end good triumphs. In other cultures, the stories handed down represent epic adventures with uncertain outcome. We have the resurrection of Jesus. The point on which everything is built. In the end, life wins and evil is defeated.
Rationalist criticism, which undermined my faith in the early years, was useful because it served to deepen the studies that give the certainty that those texts are credible. Jesus is the son of his time (the Jewish environment of that era is faithfully represented by the Gospels) and at the same time he is a breaking character. He calls God “Abbà”, that is dad, which is scandalous for the Jewish culture of the time. Before the law, Jesus does not have the attitude of the obstinate Pharisees on the details of external observance; his focus is on the spirit of the law. His attitude towards the Sabbath and legal purifications represents a discontinuity with the rabbinic world. He speaks with the authority of God and this caused scandal and resulted in his killing.
The miseries of the apostles and disciples are pitilessly described. There is nothing mythical. Everything is of a realism that makes the authenticity of the story evident. Jesus is not superman, he is a man and God at the same time: a God who serves. A king who does not send others to die for him but he dies for others.
The gospels are a communication masterpiece. Everyone is able to understand them. The contents are those necessary to fill the heart. A discovery because the dominant culture tends to ignore them. They are a real door for the Holy Spirit to enter into me, who breathes on my miseries, which are the same as those described. I am grateful to the gospels. Without them my life would have been insipid and useless.
Reading the New Testament over and over again, little by little, I never had the sensation of re-reading a text already read. Each time it felt new to me. I like the taste for detail: when the prodigal son returns after having dissipated his inheritance, the father to celebrate does not say "kill a fatted calf", which would be a lot, but "the" fattened calf (Luke 15,23:XNUMX). That fatted calf was supposed to be a character in the stable ... It doesn't say "wear a nice dress" but "the most beautiful dress". And then the ring on the finger. In short, a party that is a party lady. Jesus was an excellent storyteller, today he would be called a screenwriter ...
Then there is the episode of the four friends breaking through the roof to lower the paralytic. Every time I reread it, I laugh and be amazed. But what an initiative those guys! Getting to lower it from a hole in the ceiling ... I can hardly realize how they did it. They had to carry the stretcher up to the roof of the house, and this is already a complicated operation. I imagine the fear of the paralytic: one false step and down! Then the friends break through the roof. But what was this roof like? let's admit it was made of straw (even if the house was big enough to accommodate a crowd). Is it easy to make a hole from above and lower a paralytic? And then the final operation of lowering the stretcher in front of Jesus .. a masterpiece of suspense (also in a literal sense). If Jesus had not done the miracle, what would the landlord have said? I can imagine him saying two little words to the enterprising young men.
An essential step is Jesus' speech at the Last Supper which he ardently held. In Latin: “desire you desired”, with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you (Luke 22). What an intense atmosphere! I seem to read into the heart of Jesus aware of what was happening. St. John in his Gospel delves into recounting the various phases of Jesus' discourse. "I have called you friends ... No one has a greater love than this: to lay down your life for your friends ... By this they will all recognize that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another "(13,35:XNUMX). Loving oneself is a commandment that Jesus calls "new". In fact it continues to stay new. Few seem to me to be those who consider this the essence of Christianity. It seems that the message of Jesus is a doctrine or a morality and instead it is love… Few people know that the art of loving is the art of the Christian. An art that you never stop learning… St. Josemaría had the essential sentences of that speech written on a scroll the size of a picture and placed it in the study room. He called it the Mandatum novum, the new commandment. When, after the Spanish Civil War, they returned to that apartment they found only that painting intact.
It could go on forever. The point is that the Gospel opens up a world where it is good to be and you never tire. An always new and exciting film. Lately I have reviewed, taking advantage of a convalescence, the Jesus of Zeffirelli. It is a job done well, an aid to faith. Continued reading of the Gospel allowed me to have my film, always new, with surprising angles. The director is the Holy Spirit ...
In conclusion, vitamin V has accompanied my heart all my life and will continue to give me energy ...