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Looking intently

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

We continue to read the Letter to the Hebrews. In the passage proclaimed this week in the second reading we are urged to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

We believe in one man, Jesus of Nazareth, who claims to be God. His claim would be just that if it had not been validated by the fact of his resurrection, of which his disciples are eyewitnesses. Christ is indeed the point of departure of our faith because we believe in Him.

Our faith is rooted in love, it is directed and ordered towards communion with God for all eternity. That communion is possible because it is willed by God. He wills it so very much that He does what nobody could have ever dreamt: he assumes human nature to bridge the gap that exists between our human nature and his divine nature. Thus, Christ is also the goal of our faith, because in Him, with Him and through Him the possibility of communion with God opens up for us.

Christ is also the perfect man. In Him humanity shines brightly in all its splendor. He is not superhuman, but a person in whom human nature is not disfigured by sin. He experiences hunger, thirst, pain, sadness, every single human emotion. He thinks with a human mind, has a human will, loves with the heart of a man, works with human hands. He knows friendship and betrayal. He lives his childhood in a family home. He grows in wisdom, learns a trade, talks to teachers. He prays, does penance, fulfills the ritual practices of Judaism by going to the synagogue and celebrating the feasts according to the traditions of his people. He is free from cultural constraints, especially in his dealings with women. He shows himself available and willing to help in the face of suffering. Treats everybody with respect and dignity. He defends truth and goodness with passion. He appreciates beauty. He decries hypocrisy and abuse. He becomes the servant of his disciples.  Treats those who come to Him seeking consolation and help with goodness and dignity. He agonizes and experiences the anguish of suffering, faces death courageously. He surrenders confidently to the Eternal Father. His entire life is an example of humanity that edifies us and impels each and every one of us to grow in humanity. Therefore, to fix our gaze on Him also helps us to become better persons.

To look intently at Christ enables us to avoid the pitfalls of pride, envy and consumerism. Whoever looks at Him and tries to configure his or her life according to His example, does not have any time to waste in useless comparisons that fill the heart with empty bitterness or pride and foster envy.

Setting our sight on Christ helps us to realize how small we are and the distance that separates our daily life from the example of Christ. It leads us to apply all of our energy in the imitation of Him. Additionally, that contemplation reveals to us the intensity of the love of God who gives Himself up for each one of us. Indeed, as St. Paul says God offers Himself for me, this concrete person, not an idea. He loves me with passionate, radical love. He also gives Himself up with the same radicality and infinite love for every human being created in His image and likeness. Therefore, each person I encounter on my journey is my brother or sister. She or he is loved by God with the same intensity that I am loved.

Somebody said that consumer society makes people spend money they do not have, on things they do not need, to impress those who do not love them. When we realize that we are loved on account of our human nature, we no longer need inanimate objects or consumption patterns to feel or be seen as important, because we recognize our intrinsic worth. Christ who is poor teaches us the value of detachment from material goods and solidarity.

To set our sights on Christ crucified also helps us to understand the salvific value of suffering, so that when we encounter it in our lives, and encounter it we will at some point in life, our heart is not troubled, we are not fazed, but we embrace it with serenity because we find meaning in communion with Him. Thus, the example of the martyrs who did not seek to die, they were not psychopaths or masochists. On the contrary, they loved life deeply and experienced joy at every moment, yet, in the supreme hour of trial, they persevered even in the face of torture and death because they were looking intently at Christ dead and risen.

Each age has its own challenges. Today more than ever, distractions abound and our time presents us with some peculiar difficulties to live our faith. In a world that is in so much turmoil and in so many ways disoriented, the best we can do is to look intently at Him who claims to be the light of the world and who truly is because His person, His life, His death and His resurrection dispel the darkness of sin and death and illuminate the path of all of humanity of which his is the origin and the summit.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid