15 PROLOGUE by the divine anointing,” is pronounced christos, “Christ,” and the term “messianic,” christianos, would soon mean “Christian.” Wasn’t the multitude of men and women who acclaimed Jesus in this way already, in potency, the “Christian” community? Except in the secrecy of one particular conversation, Jesus nevertheless avoided declaring that he was the Messiah, a term that would signify too restrictively “messiah of Israel.” His attitude as well as his formulations, in his prayers and even more in his unfathomable mystical experiences, started to make it evident that everything was at work for him in the altogether unique character of his filial relation to God. Our Father: so begins the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples. These two affectionate words addressed to God have transformed humanity. The Jewish people had long since glimpsed the fact that God is Father for all human beings; although often demanding and terrible (Dt 7:21), isn’t God also slow to anger and full of love (Ex 34:6)? But the “sons of Israel” jealously claimed God’s tenderness as theirs exclusively, and they would have been afraid to demean the Almighty by addressing him with the confident familiarity of a child who knows that his father is nothing but love, because he has experienced it. Jesus, for his part, addressed God as “Father,” Abba in Aramaic. Claiming to be so close to God the Father as to be one with him (Jn 10:30), thus declaring himself the only-begotten Son of the Father (cf. Jn 1:18), Jesus invited all men and all women of all times to recognize that they were his brothers and his sisters so that through him, with him, and in him, they might address God in truth by calling him “Our Father.” With this end in view, the three Gospels according to Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, and Saint Luke, as well as a letter by Saint Paul, report that on the eve of his death, Jesus gathered his disciples to have a Last Supper with them in the Cenacle. During this meal he offered them the opportunity to become in some way members of his body. Taking bread, he broke it and distributed it to them saying: “This is my body which will be given up for you” (cf. Lk 22:19). And taking the cup of wine, he shared it with them saying: “This is my blood, which will be poured out for the multitude” (Mt 26:28). Then, according to the fourth Gospel, at the end of the meal, Jesus entrusted to them his testament: My little children, I give to you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.... If you love me, you will keep my commandments.... He who loves me will be loved by my Father, And we will come to him and make our home with him. (Jn 13:33-34; 14:15-23) Christ’s disciples are called to recite and to live the Our Father and to put into practice the new commandment; from this will arise a community of brothers and sisters, the “assembly” (in Greek ekkle-sia, “Church”) of the “children of God,” who are recognized as such not by their human descent, nor by their membership in an ethnic group, but because they are truly born of God through Jesus, with him, and in him. This grace of a new and everlasting divine filiation [sonship] for all human beings is addressed first and naturally to the Jews, the heirs of the primordial promise made to Abraham. Would they agree to make up the original nucleus of this nascent people who from then on would be the authentic people of God? And would they acknowledge in Jesus the prophet of the new times, appointed directly by God as his only Son, having come into history to bring the grace of salvation to the multitude of people, with no distinction as to sex, origin, race, or social status, nor of personal abilities and faculties? LIABLE TO THE DEATH PENALTY Here, now, we see that the call of Jesus would be received by the authorities of the Jewish people as a challenge, and the gratuitous gift—as a provocation. Grace, which is meant to be offered as the most authentic and long-awaited ratification of the divine election claimed by Israel, would be understood as an attempt to dispossess them of a heritage that they had already received. Then, Jesus’ pretention to divinity appeared as the worst of blasphemies, liable to the death penalty. When Jesus was in Jerusalem for the yearly feast of the Passover, some of the religious dignitaries and Jewish leaders seized the occasion to coordinate a campaign against