Jan 30, 2022

The Angry Mob

 Luke 4:21-30



Today’s gospel continues where we left off last week. Our Blessed Lord has entered into this hometown and has announced the beginning of a new era in the relationship between God and humanity, a new initiative. Jesus announces the Kingdom of God and that the very words he had spoken were being fulfilled right in front of their eyes.


However, his own townspeople could not fathom that the Scriptures, which spoke of the coming of the Messiah, would actually be happening right before them. Regardless of who they thought Jesus truly was, the evidence of something wonderful was happening all around them. They heard the reports of the miracles being worked by Jesus. This they did not doubt. But they preferred to keep the action of God’s involvement in the world tied up to past events in times remote and distant.


We must be careful not to fall into this trap also, of keeping God locked into events in the past, failing to believe that our Lord can and does work in the here and now and is alive, albeit in an invisible and hidden way.


The violent attitude and actions which Jesus witnessed when he spoke the truth is still very much manifested today. The people of Nazareth, rather than listening and reflecting, quickly changed the subject by pointing to members of his family. They try to “dumb him down”. 


Rather than accept the possibility that God might be speaking to us (which would mean they we would have to listen and do what He says), and even though it be announced through unworthy ministers of his Word, it seems easier to shot or attempt to embarrass the messenger, change the subject or not take it seriously, move the goalposts or walk out and slam the door.


During this early episode in his ministry an angry lynch mob surrounds Jesus and, dragging him to the top of a cliff, they were intent to throw him to his death, silencing him for good. Notice how he is saved. 


He doesn’t plead with them, nor does he try to rationalize or even defend himself. Our Blessed Lord saves himself through his own divine power and walks away from the hostility. Why? 


Jesus will not be forced into giving his life away. His life is his own, and he will wait for the right time to give it freely and offer his life for his people, not because he had to, but because he freely chooses to. (Cf. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke)


At the end of his public ministry, when our Blessed Lord was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he could have walked away then. When he was to be brutally abused and tortured by the Roman soldiers, he had it within his power to switch off any feeling of pain or agony. When he was slowly crucified, he could have easily come down from the cross and brushed off in an instant, all the injuries and scars. 


No one can take Christ’s life away from him. He freely gives his life and does so out of the most intensive love unimaginable considering you and me worth the suffering, the pain and the sacrifice he offered.


May our Blessed Mother, who pondered all these things in her heart, help us to appreciate the Good News of our salvation and the sacrifice our Blessed Lord freely offered so that we might experience lives of true freedom and authentic love.


Jan 27, 2022

The Eyes Have It

 


Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

When Jesus entered the synagogue of his home town and announced the beginning of his ministry as God's Anointed One, we are told that "the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him." We must do likewise. As important and necessary it is to see the face of Jesus in others, how easy we can disappoint each other when we are not Christ-like and we can become obstacles to others who sincerely seek the face of God.

As important as our Christian witness should be, all who seek Christ must seek Him above all and everyone. We set ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment when we judge Christianity by her members. We are sinners. It is difficult for us all, indeed for all who seek Him to look directly into the eyes of Christ. We know He sees everything that we are – there are no secrets from His gaze. And His look into our eyes can be as beautiful as it can be so frightening to behold.

This present year in the Church’s calendar will very much focus on the Gospel according to St. Luke. How does this evangelist invite us to look at Jesus? St. Luke, as the beginning of this written Gospel first explains interviewed eye-witnesses who could tell him about the historical life of Jesus. ‘With them, we are back to ground level, because, because they did not become disciples as a result of what they heard from others. Rather they were eyewitnesses and servants of God the Word” (St. Athanasius, Festal Letter 2.7). We are thus able to be invited into the events of the Lord’s life and ministry, to see Him as those who were His friends and disciples saw Him.

And how did his disciples see Him? In the early Church, the symbol for the Gospel according to St. Luke was an ox. During the time of Jesus, the ox was the choicest sacrifices one could make in the temple of Jerusalem. St. Luke sees Jesus as that choice sacrifice. He sees Him as strong, able to carry the great burden of the world's sins on His shoulders. He sees Him as the offering on the altar of sacrifice so to take away the sins of the world. But because He does so freely, we see Jesus as the priest as well as the offering itself. We see the face of the Mercy of God.

Because we see the Mercy of God for the world in the sacrifice Jesus offers on the cross at the beginning of His public ministry, Our Lord is able to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind. Our own sins have made us blind - blind to God's mercy, blind to the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for you and me to free us from the captivity of fear and death.

It is for this reason that we must constantly ask that the Holy Spirit will help us, not only to see ourselves as we truly are but to have the courage to look into the eyes of Christ and see the Merciful One who loves us to the point of sacrificing everything so that I might be set free from all forms of slavery and darkness. I

St. Luke had a close and beautiful relationship with Mary. Through her, the evangelist was given a unique window into the events of Christ's infancy, not shared with the other gospel writers. St. Luke must have been able to look into the eyes of Mary as she told him who the angel came to her, how she traveled to Bethlehem, how she reared Our Lord as her child, and how she saw him leave home to begin His public ministry.  As she told him the stories that she, no doubt pondered and reflected on for so many years, St. Luke, must have seen Jesus through her eyes.

And so must we.  Never close your eyes to Our Lord, and tell the story of His life so that with Mary and so many others, we too can be eye-witnesses of the great things that God has done for us too.

Jan 15, 2022

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord






Some time ago I had led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit the historical sights associated with Christ. 


A rare opportunity was opened for us to also visit the river Jordan in whose waters Jesus was baptised, as we read in the Gospel today. We had even planned to wade into the river, to renew a sense of our own baptism in the waters that Christ had once been baptised in. 


As we approached the banks, we looked at the river. It was filthy! Parts of it were stagnant. You could see trash and plastic objects floating in it, even here and there a shimmer of oil on the surface. The water was brown and smelly, flies and insects danced on its surface. Even an occasional dead fish floated by! God only knew what lay beneath it. It was repugnant. Instinctively, I knew this place was a major health hazard.


Was I going to even touch this water, even dip my finger into it, to at least bless myself?  


I read and meditated on the Gospel we have just heard, recalling Christ being baptised in this river. It then occurred to me, during Christ’s time this very river that flowed into the desert was used by towns and villages upstream to dump their human waste. Now that I looked into this filthy dirty water before me, I realized how disgusting and vile it must’ve been 2000 years ago, used as a floating dumpster for humanity. What was Christ getting himself into?


As pilgrims, passing through this world, we can visit the sites associated with Christ’s life, death and resurrection but we can keep ourselves clean, sanitized, on the outside looking in or reviewing our Lord’s life like a picture book, a movie or walking through a museum. 


God did not tiptoe through the murky waters or walk carefully across stepping stones from one side of the river Jordan to the other. No. The word “baptism“ literally means “immersion”. 


God was no tourist to earth or a pilgrim visiting sites. The pure and the holy, the divine and sinless one, totally immersed Himself, plunged himself completely into the filth and horror, into the physical and spiritual (dare I call it…) waste of the human condition, into the dark depths, into the very bowels of human sin. He was baptized, not only into our life, but into our sickness, our diseases, our sins, our death. 


Do we as Christians remain on the riverbank peering in from a distance, astonished, removed, or from the sidelines, simply full of admiration for what Christ did? Can we hear His voice again that calls to us saying, “come follow me”. What? Follow you into your baptism, that baptism? 


That’s why we can not simply sit on the riverbank, or observe Christ’s life from a safe distance like tourists simply passing through. The grace initiated in our life when we were first baptised, still runs through us. Is that water still clean?  That’s why it is also so important to regularly examine our inner life. Doing so safeguards us slipping or falling down a muddy bank into an uncharted river whose contents and direction we know not.


With the closing of the Christmas season now upon us, meditate on how God immersed himself into the complexities of our human lives. But do not be afraid to immerse yourself deeper and deeper into his, so that we may come to share in the heights of his divinity because He dared to plunge Himself into the depths of our humanity. 





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