Homily – December 11

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.” We’ve heard these words before. Jesus spoke them in the first sermon he gave in his home synagogue in Nazareth. They were read over each of us when we were confirmed.

As I mentioned before we all know these are unsettled times. The financial crises facings so many countries in Europe do and will have an impact on our own financial stability. Many good people are out of work; too many are numbered among the working poor. In our personal and family lives we may be facing our own crisis or uncertainties. We may be worried about personal health or the health of someone we love, worried about the stability of our own families. No one of us is trouble free. Behind every front door there is a cross in one form or another.

“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to captives, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” Hearing again these powerful uplifting words of Isaiah we might hear them calling each of us to reach out to the needy, the troubled, the oppressed, and the captives of our times – and God knows there are plenty of them. That is one valid way of hearing them but there can be another way too. When Jesus used these words in the synagogue, when he finished the reading he handed the text back to the attendant and looking at the people sitting before him he said, “this text is being fulfilled even as you listen.” In other words these words are meant for you as each one of you faces the circumstances of your own personal life.

It is you and I who are the poor and oppressed. We are impoverished, as we admit our unfulfilled hopes and dreams and desires and the unfinished projects of our lives. We are impoverished as we face the gap between who we are and who we want to be – we are oppressed as we admit our inability to overcome personal traits and habits we’ve been struggling with for years, our sometimes utter incapacity to manage our way through life and love.

We suffer broken hearts in the very lives and loves and labours that mark our existence. The tragedy of broken marriages, the rejection of faith and values we hoped to see lived in the next generation. The alienation from family members over some past hurt or misunderstanding, all these number us among the broken hearted.

So it is with our blindness before grace, to the bounty of life, to the gift of each breath we breathe. Our blindness is inability to see the wounds and gifts of those near and far. As Jesus said, ‘You have eyes but you do not see.’

We too are captives, prisoners unable to see our way out of our failures, our fears that paralyze us, our attachments that hold us frozen; we wait for that amazing grace that sets us free. So we stand before God at the Mass and every day of our lives lifting our empty, begging hands knowing our poverty of Spirit, but we stand too with hearts and lives open to receive the transforming life and love of God. We pray without ceasing giving thanks in all circumstances, for the one who calls us is faithful and he will do this.