Mass of Second Sunday of the Year
Sunday, 19 January 2014
St. Joseph’s Church, 11.30am
My dear friends,
There are many things in life that most of us seek, and one of these is attention. We like to get our own way and we glow on a liberal measure of notice. The more insecure we are, the greater our need of recognition. If we are not secure in ourselves, it annoys us intensely to find others getting their way and it can really infuriate us to find ourselves wilting in the shade as we look out and see others getting all the sunny smiles and compliments. It can lead us to feel sorry for ourselves, it can add to our feelings of inadequacy and cause all kinds of nasties to emerge – anger, jealousy, rivalry and can even end up in physical violence.
Did you remark anything in today’s Gospel? Did you notice anything about John the Baptist? Did you find it strange how willing he was to hand over to Jesus? Up until now, John had been pulling in the crowds and getting all the attention. He was a public figure of some standing and importance. We would normally have expected him to be somewhat reluctant to retreat into the background. But John knew his role and his place. He knew that someone was coming after him who was even more important than he was himself. The one coming had an even more important message for mankind. John had a mission; he had been given a task to do. He was wise enough and secure enough in himself to be content that he had given all he could and all he needed to give, and now it was time to stand aside gracefully and gratefully.
In 1986 two large ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Over 400 passengers died in the icy waters. That sounds pretty awful; it sounded even worse when an investigation showed up the cause of the disaster. It wasn’t a technological or mechanical failure in either ship, nor bad weather that was to blame. It was simply human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby, and both of them could have steered clear at any time. According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, neither wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to pull back first, and their pride led to the tragedy.
Such an unfortunate example of extreme pride is unusual and thankfully very few people would be so foolish as to act in such an arrogant and self-centred way. Most people will recognise as good and value a balanced self-confidence and self-belief. But to allow these to grow in a distorted way to become pride and arrogance is to sow seeds of destruction. A sense of equality, teamwork and co-operation is essential to the harmony and well-being of humanity. The classroom where most people learn this lesson is in the heart of the family. Parents learn it in looking after their children and in keeping the family together. Most children in turn are fortunate enough to have parents who will teach and pass on this discipline and wisdom to them.
Over the past number of years there has been much angst and worry in our country about the problem of suicide, especially in young men. Many have sought answers as to why such tragedies happen, leaving parents devastated and family members traumatised. It is not always easy to find answers. But when things go wrong it is hardly the mistaken option to search for the manufacturer’s handbook. With the decline in the practice of the faith this does not get a huge hearing any more. We are promised many delights in the advertisements. Often times this might lead us to chasing after everything and nothing, maybe ending up in a state of envy and jealousy towards those we think are better off than ourselves.
Is it possible that the best antidote to the tragedy of suicide is to be found in the Word of God? If we accept that, while we were given great dignity and potential by the creator God we believe in, we have freedom of choice. In exercising this power of choice, we have shown ourselves to be pretty fickle and weak human beings. We have messed up the garden more often than we care to admit. But God did not leave us helpless in the ruins we brought on ourselves. He sent his Son to rescue us. That is why we refer to ourselves as sinners and to Jesus as our Saviour.
Is this the medicine we are searching for? Is it here we will find the beginning of answers? The Word of God that we listen to on Sundays, and at other times, tells us that we can be happy but, like all precious things, it comes at a price. Instead of grasping for ourselves, we have to think also of other’s needs. Instead of being angry and nursing hurt, we have to learn to forgive. Instead of boasting about our strength, we need to acknowledge our weakness and accept the help offered us by others and by God. Instead of feeling worthless, we need to reread those lines that remind us we are more important than many flowers. Instead of putting our faith in what we can touch, feel, wear and hoard, we are advised to seek what does not fade, what does not pass away.
There is too much in the Book of Life for one day’s reading. But if we are willing to search, there is a lot of medicine on these pages. It is challenging but can we rise to any heights without facing the challenge? Isaiah says “the Lord has spoken.” St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, prays that “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.” And John the Baptist says “I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.” Do we need to repent, to re-assess our position? Should we go back to the alternative Book of Love, which does not carry any advertisements, and have another look. Is it possible that we might find there cures for selfishness, for envy, for jealousy, for anger, for hurt, and for suicidal thoughts? Will the healing, the salvation which Jesus Christ promises us enable us to clear up the mess and restore the garden to its intended beauty? Will it enable us to dry our tears and protect us from future mistakes? There is only one way to find out – to open the Book, read it and reflect on it!
+Liam S. MacDaid
19 January 2014
+Liam S. MacDaid
19 January 2014