When life is heading out of control … rediscover love through generosity and express gratitude for the good we have
The First Reading begins with a line indicating that the Israelites were in trouble/ difficulty: “Say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid.” Then follows a series of encouraging lines to give the Israelites, and us, HOPE for a good solution.
I’m not sure if you have ever struggled at High School – you were probably smarter than me – when you were given a big project assignment? I used to start sweating and worrying: how am I going to do this? However, after looking at the big picture and breaking the project down into smaller ‘problems’, I was able to answer each &, surprise, surprise, the big project was solved.
I think a large part of our school life is not about the content of the classes – although that’s important sometimes (ha, ha) – the most important things we learn at school and university are: how to learn, where to look for answers and how to create a pathway to a solution?
I strongly believe, that being part of a Faith Community – and consistently attending church – we receive good training in how, and where, to find answers; to build up our faith and find “solutions” for our challenges in family life, relationships and “personal” issues.
After reading the Gospel you might be feeling annoyed with Jesus because he’s not here to do miracles for me today! And, why doesn’t God empower our “useless” priests to do miracles? I mean, if it was OK to cure deaf people: why not fix my cancer? why not fix my kid?
It’s a nice coincidence that right now the Paralympics are being held in Japan. So many gifted and talented individuals giving their amazing best in spite of physical challenges.
Even outside the Paralympics, I’m sure we’ve all seen little videos of people without arms/ legs or blind/ deaf people doing amazing things and making a successful life.
The physical body is very important – we believe in the Resurrection of the body! – but it’s at the service of the soul. As Thomas Aquinas once said (I think): the body is the substantial expression of the soul. Often those with disabilities put those with “complete” bodies to shame.
Those with Down Syndrome are usually more loving and friendly than other people. It reminds us that our biggest problem, as human beings, is the struggle between DOING what we want to do, and BEING who we are created to be.
Jesus did not come to cure physically blind people, or physically deaf people: God came among us to open the eyes and ears of our souls, to help us find the secret of life= LOVE. The purpose behind the miracles of Jesus Christ is to open the “eyes/ears” of people to the reality that God (LOVE) is among them. That the secret to a happy life is gratitude and generosity .
For the young people in the audience, that means sacrificial love, not romantic love! Sorry. Mind you, romantic love has an important place in life but, too often, we misplace it and create chaos (selfishness), rather than leading us to the place of real love (generosity).
Religion and Faith do not remove challenges from life: at best, we avoid many stupid mistakes. On average, they help us break down a situation into manageable challenges.
For example: (1) my child is suffering from bad choices: what do I do? First of all, we must remember each child is an individual – God gave them freedom. If we have done what is reasonable to teach them A+B+C, we should not take responsibility for their mistakes. How often God “suffers” because our society does selfish things, but He remains faithful to us?
Despite the child being “foolish”, they see that the parents still love and protect them: this is God present for them. Don’t feel despair: unfortunately, we usually learn more, and grow closer to God, through mistakes even as we are suffering. The way up is, first of all, the way down (thanks Fr Richard Rohr OFM).
Example (2) No matter what I do, I keep “failing” in my struggle with sexual temptations.
First of all, our Faith teaches us that God is love, and only wants the best for us. God created us and understands us: God knows what things have happened to us. The Church’s teachings are NOT to condemn people, but to help protect us, and safe-guard our relationships with others.
If we keep focusing on the “failure”, we will spiral down into shame and depression. But, when we focus on being generous to others, and appreciating all the good in our lives, our sexual temptations will slowly reduce. The intervention of Jesus for the deaf man teaches us the importance of asking another person to help us with our temptations. This is especially helpful for the common problem of pornography: find a friend to share with= break the secret!
Let’s pray that God can teach us how to hear in a new way, and speak a softer language to our family and friends. In that way, you will feel God “saying”: you are wonderful.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI