Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
Gospel of Luke 9:18-24
Many years ago a dear friend of mine and his wife lost a child. It was a heart wrenching experience. I tried to be there for him, tried to comfort and be a true friend. I did not know what to say. I did not know how to handle it. I had never been through that experience and while I did try to understand and emphasize, I truly could not know what he was going through. I remember him asking me if I wanted to hold her. She was like a porcelain doll. Her features etched and fine, premature but there was no doubt in my mind that she was beautiful. I still to this day remember holding that child and sobbing inside. Years later, after having lost a child of our own to miscarriage I understand even more. I know that the heart mourns the life it has not had a chance to live. My heart still aches to this day, and while I am comforted to know that I have a young Saint in Heaven who is praying for me and watching over me, I still long to see him. I still find myself in tears sometimes, mourning the loss when some scene comes on the TV or I see a child playing.
In the first reading today we see that same grief. Written over 500 years before the birth of Christ, we as Christians see a clear prediction to the Passion of our Lord. "They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn." The mourning that day will be as great as one of the 'worst days' in Jewish history, the day when one of the greatest kings of their time had fallen in battle. I was just watching the movie Risen (2016) again last night. I am struck by the scene at the foot of the cross where the guard says "surely this man was innocent." His acting was amazing in my mind. You could see the confusion, the terror, the understanding. The responsible Psalm captures his emotions in a simple way: "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God." As God Himself hung before him on the cross, with water and blood pouring from His side to form the Church that would fulfill that longing by bringing us face to face with our God in the Sacraments, his mind reeled with confusion as that longing and restlessness was confronted with divinity.
St. Augustine said it well when he said "Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee O Lord."
In the Gospel we see Jesus asking His disciples the simple question that should resound in all of our hearts, just as it resounded at the foot of the cross: "Who do you say that I am?" St. Paul talks in the reading from Galatians about being clothed in Christ. How can we claim to be clothed in Him if we do not know Him? And how can we claim to know Him if we do not have a relationship with Him? If I told you I love my wife and family and know them well, and you asked well how is your wife... and I responded "I dunno, I haven't talked to her lately." You'd say this man is crazy! He doesn't know his wife? How can he claim to love her if he doesn't even speak to her? Doesn't spend time with her? Doesn't know what makes her tick? Doesn't at least listen and care enough to be present to her? And so it is with Jesus, we have to get to know Him. We have to spend time with Him. We have to learn to do the things He loves, learn to avoid the things that He dislikes, and above all learn to spend time with Him.
That means two things in my mind: A Sacramental life, and living out Matthew 25. Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Today we listened as Father Moses from the Missionaries of Saint Paul speak about doing just that. He talked about celebrating Mass in make shift shelters, performing things normally done by nurses and doctors because a life was at stake, feeding the poor, comforting the sick, giving clean water to the thirsty. He spoke of times when he smelt the flesh of those burnt by Boko Haram and had to minister to those burnt, maimed and harmed by them. It wasn't till his last story that I began to cry though I was close the entire time. When he spoke of a woman who walked up to him and said, "Father I loved your story. I do not have money to give you, but can I give you a hug?" That alone was enough to make me emotional but his response was amazing: He said it was such a powerful gift because he carries his ministry in his heart, so when she hugs him, she hugs all those in need, all those he has served.. the women, children, the poor, the destitute, the refugee, the indigent, all those Christ speaks of in Matthew 25.
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ - Mathew 25: 34-40
That's what it means to be a disciple of Christ, to truly be clothed in Him. It means carrying Him in your heart and all those He cares about. It means being so immersed in your love and service for others that when they see you, they see through you to the Christ you have been in a relationship with you. Christ in the Sacraments gives us the strength to go out and share grace with Christ in the stranger. Are you holding Him in your heart in such a powerful way? Are you ready to be so united with Christ that you allow Him to not only take you into the Tabernacle with Him in the Eucharist, but to make you into a living tabernacle that goes out into the world to share Him with others? Jesus has the poor, the meek, the mourning, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted with Him, they are with Him always.. are you with them? Not all of us are called to be missionaries, but all of us are called to be disciples, to serve where we are.. to bloom where we are planted. Are you blooming? Will He find you when He comes with fruit? Or will He find you not dressed for the wedding?
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."