January 27, 2013


He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives. – Luke 4: 18

   A certain parish held a raffle to end all raffles: The first prize was a Rolls Royce; the second prize was a Mercedes; the third prize was a Jaguar; & the fourth prize was a Lincoln Continental. After it was over, a parishioner asked the pastor about the results. “Who won the Rolls Royce?” he asked. The pastor replied, “The bishop. Wasn’t he lucky?” “And the Mercedes?” “The monsignor. Wasn’t he lucky?” “What about the Jaguar?” “My assistant pastor.” “That leaves the Lincoln.” “The parish deacon” said the pastor. “By the way,” asked the Pastor, “how many tickets did you buy?” “None,” said the parishioner, “wasn’t I lucky?”

   “Taking a Chance on Love” was a popular song back in the 1940’s. As the title suggests, when someone falls in love with another person, there is always the chance that his or her love will not be returned in kind. There is always the chance of rejection or betrayal. But the Psalmist writes, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 118:1).

   You see, God’s love for us is not a matter of chance. His love is steadfast, unconditional, & forever! We can’t earn it, or win it with a raffle ticket, nor can we lose it. God has loved us first, & it is here to stay. I think most of us, if not all, have known anxiety & grief, have felt trapped in our life situation or felt that life isn’t fair. We know what it is like to feel lonely or abandoned or rejected or betrayed. All these things can rob life of its joy. The GOOD NEWS we have to proclaim is that our Lord, the anointed One, wants to set us free from these killers of joy.

   The trust in God that Jesus teaches us & demonstrates in His own life is not some pious platitude or a superficial phrase. It is a way of life in which we actually trust ourselves so completely to God’s loving presence that we are empowered to cast off the kind of destructive anxiety that robs us of joy in life.

   St Paul reminds us that even though we are vulnerable & imperfect, even though we may face hardship & conflict, God has given us a spirit that can sustain us & free us from the chains of worry that bind us. Afflicted? “Sure,” says St. Paul, in every way, but not crushed.” Perplexed? “Absolutely,” says St. Paul, but not driven to despair.” Persecuted? You bet, but not forsaken. Struck down? Oh yes, down & down, but not out. Why? “Because,” says St. Paul, “we have the life of Christ in us!”

   Ours is an abiding hope in God’s promise of that great day when divisions will be reconciled. No longer will kindness be false & no longer will truth be cruel, for “justice & peace shall kiss.”

   The following notice appeared in the “Personal” column of a weekly newspaper: “Retired school teacher. Tired of reading, writing & ‘rithmetic! Is there a gentleman, in his late sixties or older, who can help me find my way to the playground before the bell rings?”

   Our calling is to help folks make their way to the playground before the final bell rings. We are called to tell people that our common future is most UNcommon. Our future, the future promised by God is NOT too good to be true. But before folks can believe that, they have to see the difference is makes in our lives. That is the challenge our Lord puts to us. Are we up to it?  AMEN!