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...
Jesus had a specific plan for his ministry. The essentials of this are clearly outlined inTHIS SUNDAYS GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 1: 1 – 4. 14 – 21]. These essentials are:
PREACH THE GOOD NEWS
RECOVERY OF SIGHT
It should be possible for us to memorise these points, and bear them constantly in mind – not only as the definitive plan for our own individual ministries, but also as the foundation of our own personal discipleship?
PREACH: has it ever occurred to you that preaching reveals much of the personality of the preacher? Every preacher SHOULD reveal something of his / her own discipleship –their own life experience of what it has meant TO HAVE BEEN A DISCIPLE AND HAVE MINISTERED AS SUCH. I am wary of sermons which communicate that the preacher sees it all very clearly, and has it all buttoned-up! In my view this indicates that he / she has stopped both the journey as well as the quest for constant discovery. Preachers need to communicate that they labour under similar difficulties as the listeners. There are very few things which are either black or white: most are one of the million shades of grey that lie between.
RELEASE: Jesus communicated the Good News that men and women are no longer in a one way, dead end, street. We all need to know that there is HOPE of and for a very different scenario in every situation. I am not at an end of seeing new horizons and challenges. I AM ABLE TO GROW AND DEVELOP. However, hope does not believe that everything will be o k, but waits and works for the Lords arrival in the situation – it is an awareness of God-in-Christ trying to break into my life. Hope is not entirely bound to the future – but is tied to the present. I must be involved in this present.
SIGHT: the need to believe that there does exist a new, different, and exciting way ofSEEING THINGS – especially seeing ourselves and our God in a new and different way. Here, what is involved is the MANNER in which we both view and approach both life and living. The sight the Gospel gives us is never to be confined to the future, to life eternal. The Gospel is concerned with our present living.
LIBERTY: the freedom to choose. This, of course, may (must?) involve us in choosing to be different. If we are seeing things in Gospel terms then very often we will be marching to a different tune from many other marchers. In addition, our own life experience teaches us that hope is a reality towards which we are able to work. Here, it is our own life experience which assists us to communicate this fact. THE GOSPEL IS NOT A SYSTEM OR A PROGRAMME. It is not an ATM! Rather, it is a WAY. Ways have to be travelled.
Jesus Christ taught exactly what the OLD TESTAMENT READING [NEHEMIAH 8: 2 – 4A. 5 – 6. 8 – 10] does. If we are “attentive” to the Gospel, which is presented to us “clearly … giving the sense”, we will be able to “understand the reading.” In addition this reading from the Old Testament provides two important clues. Firstly, we are told that “this day is holy to the Lord … do not mourn or weep.” We need to take on the Good News each day, and day by day. It is said we should not cry over spilt milk! Yesterday is GONE FOREVER, and tomorrow has not yet come. Today is THE day. Get on with it. Why? …. because as the reading tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” HIS JOY FOR TODAY! We might well not feel happy about the burdens of the day which lies ahead. We need to remember that HE IS JOYFUL for us, and will provide HIS STRENGTH. This is the essence of the Good News … and as every good cook knows, it requires only a few drops of any essence to add flavour and taste.
TODAYS PSALM  tells us the Gospel “gives wisdom … gladdens the heart … (and) gives light to the eyes.”
Finally, our NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 12: 12 – 30] tells us thatindividually we are members of Christs body. We should not pretend otherwise. We have to be a part of the Gospel message – of preaching release, sight, and liberty. NO ONE IS EXCUSED. We are all different, and make different contributions.
I have, as Nehemiah tells us, to “open the book” of my life experience of discipleship ministry. So have you to do. This experience is valuable …. but I have to OPEN IT. The Christian disciple should never be a closed book!