April 27, 2008
First Reading: Acts
8:1, 5-8, 14-17
Theme: Jesus, The Reason to Hope for the Best
The beginning of todays first reading from the Acts of the Apostles reveals that a severe persecution began against the Church [cf. Acts 8:1]. However, when the people received the power of the Holy Spirit, they did overcome their fears; they regained their lost hope. For some of us in a world such as ours, we too suffer from various kinds of persecutions. Just imagine an unfortunate and excruciating illness like having to deal with depression, racism and discrimination wherever you turn, addiction to alcohol, drugs or substances; addiction to having indiscriminate sex with men and women kids and unwilling partners; sudden shocking news from a doctors office that we have some terminal illness and may die shortly; stillbirth, the death of a dear one, being criticized for having a child from the so-called out of wedlock (Vulgo quasiti), a spouse that no longer shows you love, a broken or a failed relationship, a marriage that stands on a shaky ground, separated or divorced, on the verge of being separated or going through divorce papers; going through tough times with school work, loss of job, trust broken or shattered; you queried God for a child and now you find yourself stuck at home to care for an incapacitated child in a wheelchair; you prayed and prayed and prayed for a spouse and now you have to contend with an abuser, an alcoholic, a lazy bum and a jerk [ref. teenagers song You jerk ; sometimes we have a feeling that no one cares or we may have this overwhelming feeling that even God has abandoned us . These are some examples of personal persecutions we face in life.
I empathize with those of you whose marriage and family did not turn out as you wished. I empathize with those of you whose career had to take detours for some years before achieving your goal. I empathize with those of you who might have made bad choices in the past that have left their impact on your lives and you have had to contend with unfavourable consequences. These examples indicate that we are, in every way, broken and hopeless. I just want to assure you that we are not broken beyond repair. We are just in lifes messiness or that we are facing our spiritual messiness.
When we find ourselves in spiritual messiness or brokenness, we often take wrong approaches to everything. We may zigzag in our relationship with God and even tend to need God on our own terms instead of God's own terms. When we go through tough times, we do not think of Jesus as our saviour. We may even question him as to why things are happening or are not going our way this time. We doubt Gods grace upon us. In our spiritual messiness and brokenness, we fall into deceptive moods that make us believe that we are wonderful Christians, fantastic Catholics or parishioners, when in fact we may be living in quite distorted situations.
In our spiritual messiness or brokenness, we may assume quite wrongly that a broken relationship with God is irreparable. But it is precisely for our spiritual messiness and brokenness that God sent Jesus to redeem us and so to heal us from our wounded heart. In our spiritual messiness and in our brokenness, Jesus calls us to live the ideal. The ideal is Jesus himself, who is ready to fulfill our lost hope and transform our hopelessness into moments of joy. However, in order for you and me to live moments of joy, we can no longer live in cacophony. In other words, we must consciously stop living lives that result in anything but discord or disharmony. When we live in harmony with each other, Jesus becomes our reason to hope for the best in life. Of course, Jesus ought to be the centre of all that we are. Isnt this the purpose of our life on earth? Isnt Jesus the reason and meaning of our faith? Yes, we are to give everything and our very selves back to him the first giver.
Indeed, Jesus is telling you and me that no matter what our past has been, no matter what our cry is right now, no matter what the problem we are dealing with right now, no matter what the uncertainty of our future will be, Jesus is our reason to hope for the best. Therefore, if Jesus is our hope, then it is critically incumbent upon us also to be signs of hope to each other. Essentially, when we make Jesus our hope and when we become hope to each other, we are never able to malign, abuse or shame the other [cf. 1 Pet. 3:16]. My dear friends, Jesus teaches that in order for us to never again malign, abuse or shame another, we must possess all characteristics and Presence of the Holy Spirit. Take as examples our inability to have good thoughts and remarks about others. There are some of us who never for once, have any good thought or dare or care to make one good remark about other people. They seem to have only malicious thoughts or words that put down others and so reduce any iota of goodness in such people. There are some of us who refuse to NOTE that their uncharitable word and thought force others to distance themselves from them; they seem not to care about how they use words and expressions. Folks, Jesus is teaching us to develop intellectual curiosity about others and to live as agents of justice and peace, and love and harmony in anothers life. Why? Simply because, the Holy Spirit is a JOY-FILLED LOVE that connects us and binds us together with the Father and the Son, and in conjunction with each other as believers and worshippers.
By our participation
in this Eucharist, let us listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
and so move away from a privatized culture of faith into a public proclamation
of faith in Jesus, who alone is our reason to hope for the best in life
and encounter with the Creator!