Blessed James Alberione

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Isaiah is the greatest of the prophets. Although he is not chronologically the first, he is placed first in the canon of the Scriptures, because he is worthy of such a distinction for the loftiness of his revelations and his style.
Born and lived in Jerusalem, Isaiah started prophesying when still very young. His prophetic ministry lasted about fifty years. Begun at the death of Uzziah, it continued under Jotham, against the corruption of Israel. The influence of Isaiah appeared vigorously under the impious Ahaz, when the kingdom of Syria and Israel endanger the existence of the kingdom of Judah; meanwhile Ahaz calls to his help the powerful king of Assyria, Tegla-Phalasar. Isaiah's influence was decisive under the reign of the saintly king Hezekiah of whom he was a friend and counselor, and for whom he prophesied when he was ill, in the Babylonian embassy, and during the invasion of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. After the Assyrian invasion, Isaiah disappears from the political scene, but not from the world. It is believed that he lived under the reign of the impious Manasseh, who, perhaps in 696, so tradition says, sawed him with a wooden saw.
His prophetic activity is certainly more vast than his work as a writer: he did nothing but write the summary of his prophecies.

The book is composed of speeches and prophecies, dictated and written in the course of fifty years. All the parts, however, although they deal with different things, aim at a single purpose which is expressed by the prophet in the first chapter through the words: Zion shall be redeemed in judgment, and set free through justice.
Isaiah, sent by God to call the people back to the law, had, now inveigh against, now to console, now to comfort. Even so, his entire book can be called consolation and rightly Isaiah can be called the prophet of divine mercy. He, in fact, threatens the children of Israel and the gentiles; but if judgment and punishments are for the death of the blinded, they shall be salvation for those who will go back to the Lord, and the very pagan people shall be one day made participants of the blessings of the messianic kingdom which shall last forever. The center of the new kingdom shall be Jerusalem and its king will come from Judah.
Isaiah is the prophet of lofty style, of grandiose images, the prophet of the Messiah, of whom, more than as a prophet, we can say that he talks as an evangelist.
The prophecy of Isaiah is the book that St. Ambrose among all the others recommended to St. Augustine.


From Holy Scripture flows the virtue of hope

Your laws become my songs
wherever I make my home.
(Ps 118/119:54)

Hope is the second of the theological virtues. The catechism defines it: Hope
is that supernatural virtue by which we trust in God and expect from him eternal life and the graces necessary for meriting it here on earth through good works.
It is the virtue that gives us strength amidst the various difficulties of life. It is the salutary ointment that calms our troubled heart from the passions and gives strength to our will in our struggle against all our spiritual enemies.
The thought of heaven, how great a consolation it is for us in times of discouragement and trials!
No sacrifice is ever too great for one who often thinks of Heaven!
Like faith, also this virtue flows from Holy Scripture and grows and increases when we read it.

* * *

The object of Hope is twofold: Heaven and the graces necessary for meriting it.
We will see then how the Bible keeps alive in us the thought of heaven and increases the confidence that we will have from God all the necessary means for meriting it.
We read in the first book of the Maccabees that Jonathan, writing to the Romans to establish with them an alliance of brotherhood and friendship, tells them: Now we, although not needing these things (alliances), because we have, for our consolation, the sacred books in our hands says further that such an alliance they make only as a sign of friendship and harmony and not because they feel the need of the help of the Romans: the only hope in fact of receiving from God all the necessary aids was very strong because it was founded on the divine promises written in the Bible.
The hope1 that began to shine in the souls of Adam and Eve when, after they sinned, God promised them the Redeemer, kept on growing until Jesus Christ. The Hope for the Messiah was very much alive not only among the Jews, but also among the pagans: all longed for him and ardently desired him because they saw in him the Prince of Peace prophesied by Isaiah; they hoped from him the peace so greatly desired.
With Christ, heaven was also hoped for. It was his role to open again the gates of heaven, closed due to the sin committed by Adam and Eve. Before Jesus Christ, no one could enter heaven, not even St. Joseph. It was only after Jesus' glorious resurrection that the gates of the eternal city were opened wide.
Magnificent is the example of hope given us by Job who, tried by God in many ways, never got discouraged or lost heart. He knew well that his God was just and would be compassionate to him.
At the height of his sufferings, he kept on saying: But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him, and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing. (Jb 19:25-27)
How much strengthened becomes our hope even by the mere reading of this biblical incident!
If hope is vivified by reading the books of the O. T., what can we say of the New?
What a sublime example of Hope is that of the Blessed Virgin when, invited by the pious women to also come to the sepulcher to embalm the body of her Jesus, refuses to go, not because she did not love her Son, but because she strongly hoped that He would resurrect, as she had read many times in the Prophets.
How many other examples, narrated in the Bible, can we mention for the comfort and increase of our hope in Jesus and in his Paradise, since the whole Bible is all for saying that man is not to stay on this earth, but he is created for heaven... that his dwelling is not here, but in Paradise.
How long will you people mock my honor, love what is worthless, chase after lies? (Ps 4:3) Seek and love the eternal beauties for which you have been created.
The reading of the Bible not only revives in us the hope of Heaven, but also increases our confidence to receive from God all the graces to merit it. For as many as 400 times,2 God, in the Bible, says that we pray, ask, and demand that He will give us all that we need to reach heaven. Let us quote some of them: ...the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary (Lk 18:1); serious and sober for prayers (1Pt 4:7); Let nothing prevent the prompt payment of your vows... (Sir 18:22);3 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Mt 7:7)
Then, what can we say of the numerous examples recorded in the Bible for our edification? Let us mention
only that of the Holy Virgin who, at the wedding of Cana, having noticed that there was no more wine, went to Jesus and simply told him: They have no wine. Then, certain that she would be heard, she tells the servants: Do whatever he tells you. (Jn 2:1ff) It was then that Jesus performed his first miracle by changing the water into choice wine.
Most beautiful are the parables narrated to us by Jesus, of the lame, the lepers, the blind, the deaf, and the mute who, having prayed, were healed and cured.
Read Holy Scripture and it will console you; there you will find everything that you desire. Your heart will be filled with all the goods it longs for. You will learn how to pray and how to acquire heaven.

* * *

From this follows a great conclusion, that the favorite spiritual reading must be the Bible. How many souls, thirsting for holiness, look for worthless books here and there in order to nourish their souls, and they are never satisfied. Let these souls take the Bible and there they shall find abundant and substantial food. It is, according to what the Imitation of Christ says, a heavenly banquet prepared by God for your souls.
For two things do I feel to be exceedingly necessary to me in this life, without which this miserable life would be intolerable to me; being detained in the prison of this body, I confess that I need two things, food and light. Thou hast therefore given to me who am so weak, Thy sacred Body and Blood, for the refreshing
of my soul and body, and hast set Thy Word for a lantern to my feet. Without these two I could not properly live; for the Word of God is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament the bread of life.
These may also be called the two tables, placed on this side and on that, in the treasury of Thy holy Church. One table is that of the Sacred Altar, bearing the holy bread, that is the precious Body and Blood of Christ, the other is the table of the Divine Law, containing holy doctrine, teaching the true faith, and leading steadfastly onwards even to that which is within the veil, where the Holy of Holies is.4*

EXAMPLE - St. Euplius5 gives his life for the Sacred Scriptures. - Deacon Euplius was brought before Calvisian, the governor of Catania; as soon as he reached the room where the judge was, the deacon shouted that he was a Christian.
He stood before the governor with the book of the Holy Gospels in hand. Where did you get these writings? Calvisian asked him. Do you bring them from your house? I do not have any house, Euplius replied, but I had this book with me when I was arrested. Told by the judge to read some passage, he opened it and read these two sentences: Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.6 Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.7
Calvisian ordered that this confessor be stretched over the rack; then, he asked him a second time if he insisted in his sentiments. Then, Euplius, making the sign of the cross on his forehead, answered: I already declared and I declare to you anew that I am a Christian and I read the divine Scriptures. And he added that he would have offended God if he surrendered those writings which he loved; better to die
rather than commit such a crime, his death would be followed by a life eternally blessed.
The governor doubled the tortures, but in vain; he exhorted the martyr to worship the gods in order to be freed and to offer sacrifice. Euplius, however, replied: I adore the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; I adore the Most Holy Trinity. I offer myself as sacrifice to Jesus Christ, my God. In vain you tire yourself to make me change my resolution: I am a Christian.
Fed up, Calvisian, finally read the death sentence; and Euplius was conducted to the place of execution with the book of the Holy Gospels hanging on his neck. His blood reddened the Scriptures that he defended and confessed until death.
It was 12 August of 304.

LITTLE SACRIFICE. - I, too, shall have always with me at least a page of the Holy Gospel.


Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace,
according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.

(Lk 2:29-32)


Hope in the resurrection

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has
put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for he subjected everything under his feet. But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him.
When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them? Moreover, why are we endangering ourselves all the time?

(1Cor 15:20-30)


Grant me justice, LORD!
I have walked without blame.
In the LORD I have trusted;
I have not faltered.
Test me, LORD, and try me;
search my heart and mind.
Your love is before my eyes;
I walk guided by your faithfulness.
I do not sit with deceivers,
nor with hypocrites do I mingle.
I hate the company of evildoers;
with the wicked I do not sit.
I will wash my hands in innocence
and walk round your altar, LORD,
Lifting my voice in thanks,
recounting all your wondrous deeds.
LORD, I love the house where you dwell,
the tenting-place of your glory.
Do not take me away with sinners,
nor my life with the violent.
Their hands carry out their schemes;
their right hands are full of bribes.
But I walk without blame;
redeem me, be gracious to me!

(Ps 25/26:1-12)


1 It is one of the essential messages and contents of the Scripture. He who studies the Bible becomes a person of hope even in the execution of his duties, according to the teachings of the Church. In the Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII, quoted many times in LS (pp. 17, 30, 109), it is required that “provisions be made so that young persons undertake biblical studies conveniently prepared and endowed, so that they may not frustrate their just hope and so that, what would be a greater evil, captured by the deceptions of the rationalists and by the appearance of erudition, they may not carelessly run the danger of losing their way.” (no. 6) Don Alberione refers above all to the hope of eternal life and heaven.

2 It is difficult to make calculations like these on the concordances of the Vulgate. In the Nuovissima Versione (ed. San Paolo) the result is as follows: 29 forms (of the verb “pregare” [to pray], of the noun “preghiera” [prayer], or [“orazione”]) are present in 360 verses of the Old and the New Testament, for a total of 542 occurrences. Prayer is certainly one of the most important themes of the Bible.

3 In another Italian translation, the words are different: “Non ritardare il voto quando sei in tempo, e non aspettare la morte per assolverlo.” The original Greek speaks about a “vow” or “to always work.” The following verse, however, (v. 23) refers to prayer: “Ante orationem praepara animam tuam et noli esse quasi homo qui tentat Deum.” The Italian translation mirrors the Latin and specifies it: “Prima di fare un voto preparati e non essere come chi tenta il Signore.” The English translation: “Before making a vow have the means to fulfill it; be not one who tempts the Lord.”

4* Imit. 1. IV, c. 11, n. 4.
[The 'Holy of Holies' in the temple of Solomon was called debir, literally, “the holiest place.” In reality, the word debir means “set apart” and, extensively, mysterious, “sacred,” reserved. The debir, a cubic hall of about 10 meters on each side, accommodated the Ark of the Covenant, and could be visited only by the high priest, and only once a year on the Day of Expiation (Yom Kippur) celebrated by the Jews on the 10

th tishri (September-October). The Chronicler calls debir “the cell of the Holy of Holies” (2Chr 3:8,10). Referring to the verb dabhar, “to speak,” Jerome translates it as oraculum, that is “(place of the) word” or “oracle.”]

5 This refers to Euplius, martyr of Catania, tortured to death because he violated the first edict of Emperor Diocletian (February 303), that ordered the surrender of the sacred books. Cf. Bibliotheca Sanctorum, V, p. 231.

6 Mt 5:10.

7 Mt 16:24 (Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23).