A spiritual reflection after the tragic earthquake in central Italy.
Fr. Francesco Pesce
An unending list of names. The Bishop of Rieti began the Funeral Mass for the earthquake victims from Amatrice and Accumoli by reading the names of the dead, one by one. Names, stories, faces, families whose lives have been shattered. It made me remember the episode on the Sea of Tiberias, in Galilee, described in Chapter 21 of the Gospel according to St. John. In that passage, at the end of the Gospel account, after the crucifixion of Jesus, no-one spoke and no-one knew what to do or to say. The atmosphere was oppressive. Jesus was already dead and hope was dying. Peter took the initiative to rid himself and the others of discomfort and said “I go a-fishing” (Jn. 21,3) and in this way their former life seemed to be returning but “ that night they caught nothing” (Jn. 21,3).
So many nights in the Bible, in life, during our own times; so much fragility in our lives, in our families. This is a natural weakness the nature of which is corrupted by the mystery of evil and sin. Jesus asks us to cast the net again, to continue to live and hope. The net of our life is destined to be filled because it is cast upon the Word of the Resurrected Christ, even though the Apostles had not recognized Him, even if sometimes, when faced with tragedies, we struggle because life isn’t a principle to be defended but a great adventure to go through with the aid of Grace. We believe that there will always be a new dawn where we can cry out “it is the Lord ” (Jn. 21,7) –John’s cry of love, or as in the Song of Solomon “my beloved” (Song 2,8). An Easter cry, of love which conquers the shadow of death. While I was watching the Funeral Service on the television, I was struck by the fact that nearly everybody took Communion, not something common these days, even during important celebrations. There was an almost urgent and compelling desire for the Bread of Heaven, the real one, which we all need, “Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he who believeth in me shall never thirst” (Jn. 6,34-35). In fact, we celebrate the Eucharist “Awaiting His return”, because we believe that a love that dies, a love that is destroyed finds the gift of the God of life.
Today we are celebrating together throughout Italy the body and the flesh. The word flesh in the Bible, indicates all that is corruptible, fragile, mortal. The entire Christian faith is a rapport between carnality and spirituality. The expression “flesh and blood” is a typically Hebrew expression to denote “fragile life” When Jesus is “flesh and blood” he becomes weak, limited and therefore accessible because he takes on our weakness through which he gives us His eternal life. Today in Amatrice and Accumoli we have yet again celebrated a fragile reality, but an already eternal one.. We have celebrated the “bread and wine”, simple food from the table of the poor, signs of the solemn poverty of men and God. “Give us this day our daily bread” is still the cry reaching us from the towns and villages devastated by the earthquake, these places where Saint Francis and Saint Benedict trod. It is a cry already listened to by Him who conquered death through love. “Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”(Ez. 37,9-10)