THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for December 4th, 2013
Liturgical texts here
THE lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute… these are the ones who gathered around the feet of Jesus. And today’s Gospel says, “he cured them.” Minutes before, one could not walk, another could not see, one could not work, another could not speak… and all of sudden, they could. Perhaps a moment before, they were complaining, “Why has this happened to me? What did I ever do to you, God? Why have you abandoned me…?” Yet, moments later, it says “they glorified the God of Israel.” That is, suddenly these souls had a testimony.
I have often wondered why the Lord has led me down the paths He has, why He lets certain things happen to me and my family. But by the banquet of His graces, I can look back and begin to see that the sufferings in my life—and how God has either delivered or sustained me through them—are now the letters and words that make up my testimony.
What is a testimony? For Christians, it is something very, very powerful—powerful enough to defeat the devil:
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. (Rev 12:11)
It is the story of God entering into your life and manifesting His presence there. The “ink” with which your life is written is the Holy Spirit, the “Giver of life”, who creates out of your misery, hope; out of your sorrow, joy; out of your sin, deliverance. Just as the Holy Spirit, with Mary, formed the Word of God in her womb, so too, the Holy Spirit (with your Mother) forms the Word, Jesus, in your life through your obedience.
If the Holy Spirit is the ink, then the paper is your obedience. Without your “yes” to God, the Lord cannot write a testimony. The pen is His holy will. And sometimes, like a pen, His will is sharp, painful, imprinting suffering into your life—the way nails and thorns imprinted God’s will into the flesh of Jesus. But it is from these wounds that light shines forth! It is “by his wounds, you are healed.” cf. 1 Pet 2:24 So, when you accept God’s will, even when it is sharp and painful, piercing your plans and pathways, you acquire wounds.
And if you wait, letting the power of the Resurrection heal and deliver you in God’s time, then that very same light of Christ shines through your wounds. That light is your testimony. Read it again: By his wounds, the wounds in His body, you are healed. And who is the “body” of Christ, but you and I? So you see, it is through our wounds too, as part of His mystical body, that God can now touch others with hope. They see in us how God provided, how He helped, how He “showed up.” And it gives others hope. That is the paradox of the Cross, that through our weakness, the powerful light of hope shines. So don’t quit now! Don’t give up in your suffering, because Jesus wants to use you—even in this frailty… precisely in your frailty—to give hope to others through your testimony.
This is the deeper meaning in the 23rd Psalm today. It is not by restful waters and verdant pastures, but in the “dark valley” that the Lord spreads “the table before me in the sight of my foes.” It is in your utter weakness and poverty that the Lord puts on the banquet, so to speak. He gives you rest and consolation in the pastures, but it is in valley of suffering where a banquet is served. And what is served? Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. cf. Isaiah 11 from yesterday’s first reading And when you have dined on these “seven loaves” you can in turn share these “fragments” with others.
But beware of the fast food the devil will try to serve you. For it is also there in that darkness of pain, abandonement, and loneliness that the devil comes to tell you that God does not exist; that your life is a random by-product of evolution; that your prayers are never heard because there is no one to hear them. He offers you instead the processed food of human reasoning, shortsightedness, bad advice, bitterness, false solutions, irreverence and fear. Then, suddenly, the valley of darkness becomes the valley of decision. You can believe the devil’s lies and cease to follow the “right paths” in which the Lord’s will is guiding you, or… you can wait… wait… follow… and wait. And if you do, the Lord will come “at that time” cf. Matt 15:29 and multiply the little offering of your loaves and fish, making “all things work to the good” because you love Him. cf. Rom 8:28 Why do I say you love Him? Because, even in your suffering, you still say “yes” to Him; still choose to follow His will. And that is love:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. (John 15:10)
So, when I wrote to you yesterday and said that Jesus and His Mother have a mission for you, I say this to each of you, no matter who you are, how known or unknown, significant or insignificant you are in the eyes of others. Forget about saving the whole world. Not even Francis of Assisi or Jesus for that matter converted everyone. Rather, the Lord has placed you exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment in your life (or if you have rebelled against Him, then this moment can become the next moment of the rest of your life—and He can continue to write your testimony from here on in.) Your mission may be to help save your spouse’s soul—and that’s it. But how precious one soul is to Jesus. Can you say “yes” to God to save that one soul whom He is putting in your path today?
What you need is what the lame, blind, deformed and mute had that day. You might expect me to say faith, and yes, that is true. But first, they had to have patience. Some of them were disabled from birth. Then they had to wait for the moment to see Jesus. And when He passed by, they had to climb a mountain to find Him. Then they had to wait their turn. At any one of these obstacles, they might have said, “Enough is enough of this God-thing.” But they didn’t.
And that’s why they now have a testimony:
This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us! (Isaiah 25)
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