3rd Sunday of the Year C,
As we have Heard, so we have Seen
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
D id you ever hear or read words from the Bible and find that those words described you and your situation exactly? What was written in the Bible had happened in your own life or in the world around you. I was with a group of young men and women once who were struggling with addiction to drink and drugs. We were looking at a Sunday Gospel where Jesus said that “people do not put new wine into old wine skins: if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No, they put new wine into fresh wine skins and both are preserved.” It did not seem that these ancient words had anything to do with these young people until one of the girls said, ‘When you come off the drugs you can’t go back and mix with the same old crowd and go back into their ways. You have to make a fresh start.’ It came as a surprise to her that Jesus described the very thing that she was doing at that time.
The end of the world.
At the end of this past liturgical year the Sunday Gospel described the end of the world. Many dramatic things will happen: the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will come falling out of the sky. And then the Son of Man will come with great power and glory. We have no experience of these events because they have not happened yet; but we do have experience of our own world coming to an end, for example through the death of a close relative, through sudden illness, the break-up of a relationship or the loss of a job. In the Gospel Jesus assures us that the end of the world is not the end of the story: when the world ends, the Son of Man comes with power. A recent television programme gave a dramatic example of these words of Jesus being fulfilled in one person’s life.
Mary Fitzpatrick lives in Southill, a suburb of Limerick City. On 25 June, 1999, her son Mikey was stabbed to death at the age of 19. He was a happy caring young man who had never been in trouble. The night he died, his mother’s world came to an end. She was overwhelmed with grief and with anger toward the young man who killed him in an unprovoked attack. On Christmas night her pain was so great that she decided to take her own life. She went to say a silent goodbye to her other children who were asleep. When she looked at the innocent face of her three-year-old daughter, she realised how selfish it would be to inflict so much hurt and pain on her by looking for a quick way out of her own distress. For seven years she continued to suffer.
Then on the strong recommendation of a local priest, Fr. Joe Young, she reluctantly agreed to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. On the fourth day she took part in the Stations of the Cross that looked at the sufferings of Jesus through the eyes of his mother. In those stations Mary Fitzpatrick relived every moment of Mikey’s death. Later that day the pilgrims planted a tree in memory of Mikey. When the night came Mary went on her own to the Grotto. There she spoke to Our Lady, as one mother to another. She told Our Lady, “My son suffered as your son suffered. Now you mind him until I see him again.” That was an important moment in Mary’s journey over the past ten years.
She began to notice that there were other mothers who suffered alone after the violent death of their children. She contacted them and they began to meet for two hours each week. They are able to offer each other understanding, support and encouragement. They call their group “Lost Futures.”
Looking back on her experience Mary says, “For seven years when I woke every morning, my first thought was, ‘I’m a day nearer to meeting Mikey again.’ Now, I don’t say that anymore. I have a lot more to give, and my children need me. I will see Mikey again. I am confident of that.” Her daughter says, “She’s my mother again, she’s happy now.’Jesus read a passage from the prophet Isaiah to the people of his hometown of Nazareth and then said to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” We can read and meditate on any passage of the Bible and be sure that these words also are being fulfilled in our lives and world today. What a wonder that is!
The word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted. The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with his love. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.