As many of you may well remember, this Sunday’s celebration of the Holy Family at Nazareth is my nemesis? I have long found it difficult to be comfortable in preaching...
As we progress further into 2014, it must be important for us to become angel-messengers TO OURSELVES – as well as others. This Sunday’s OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [ISAIAH 9: 1 – 4] contains the message of which we meed to remind ourselves. There we read that “the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken ….” It is so easy to become down on ourselves, make ourselves sad, lonely, full of regret, and wonder why me? The maudlin Christian is a contradiction in terms.
….. what was, what could have been, might have been or should have been! Oh dear! Some may well remember (even if it dates as so cruelly?!) that wonderful song from the musical ‘CATS’ … the old, tired, once loved and comfortable cat who sings ‘Memories’? It is tempting, from time to time, to become maudlin and begin to live in the past instead of the present. Living in the past has no future – only the present provides us with a future.
The yoke, staff and rod have been broken – and, as Isaiah tells us, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We must always be the angel-messenger of all of this …..
TO OURSELVES! This message IS the present which guides us into the future. The Opening Prayer of today’s Eucharist challenges us to seek the future by asking the Lord to “direct our actions according to your good pleasure.” The only actions he is able to direct are the actions of the present …. and the direction is to the future.
No good being a Job’s comforter ! The Book of Job itself
informs us that the Lord was unimpressed with the counsel given to Job by ‘his comforters’. We may, at times, feel a little down, even depressed. However, the ‘depressed’ must never become depression.
All of this is confirmed in the extract from
TODAY’S PSALM [27 or 26] …. “I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Waiting for the Lord in the past is a sterile occupation and endeavour. We can only wait for him in the present ….. and waiting must always be an active, joyful occupation.
Take a careful look at
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL READING [MATTHEW 4: 12 – 23]. Yes, on hearing the news that John had been arrested (in the present) Jesus “withdrew” but he did not stay withdrawn! “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” AT HAND – THE PRESENT! If we are continually going back to repent over and over again about the past then we have never really either repented or our faith in the Lord’s forgiveness is defective. “Men are moulded out of faults, and for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad.” (Shakespeare: Measure for Measure) We have all been moulded – MOVE ON! BECOME!
Jesus’ withdrawal’ was merely a time of reflection on the current events – and Matthew reminds us of Isaiah’s coming out of darkness! The Lord withdrew in order to gather his resources and accept the challenge of taking over where John the Baptist had left off. He did not go off in order to‘lick his wounds’ and feel sorry for himself. He was not depressed. On the contrary, he saw Isaiah’s waiting harvest, and “began to preach.” The divine messenger started proclaiming
THE MESSAGE, GOOD NEWS!
Do not overlook that the closing verses of the Gospel extract add to Jesus’ teaching and preaching the essential element of “healing every disease and every infirmity.” Undue depressed feelings which tempt us to withdraw for significant periods of time are an infirmity which leads us from the light back into darkness. We must always see the great light and seek the healing which is readily available.
In addition make a note of the fact that our Gospel reading informs us that the Lord’s preaching, teaching and healing was preceded by his calling of the first disciples. There was something very vital about his very first preaching ….. it was inviting, and challenging – attracted people. The message we ourselves give must be the same ….. and this is impossible if we are depressed or downhearted. Our message must be
GOOD NEWS. It must be attractive and appealing – not ‘the end is nigh’ variety.
Jesus Christ was never on the defensive – and neither was his approach one of ‘I am right and you are wrong’.
There is, in our context, one little thought from our
NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 1: 10 – 13. 17]. The last verse tells us that we do not have to be especially eloquent and that coming out of our ‘down’ periods indicates that the difficulties and disappointment’s of life can become proof that THE Cross is not “emptied of its power.“