Is 8:23-9:3; I Cor 1:10-13,17; Mt 4:12-23
Disappointment, discouragement, desolation, darkness and even despair are all too common to us, weak, wounded, weary human beings as we proceed on our painful pilgrimage in this world we rightly call a vale of tears. That beautiful prayer we address to Mary, our Mother, the Mother of Mercy, crying out to her as poor children of Eve exiled here in this dark valley of death reminds us of Psalm 23 which says confidently to God, our Good Shepherd that even if we have through the valley of darkness and death we shall not be afraid only because of our strong conviction that we are not alone; that he the Lord is with us every step of the way, holding us by the hand and guiding us along the way.
Perhaps no nation on earth was so much tried and tested by tribulations and trials as the ancient Israel. Frequent wars, violent attacks, repeated aggression, death and destruction, devastation and dispossession were Israel’s constant fate. Hence depression and despair were an easy temptation. They easily lost all hope. It is in that mood of dark despair that the Lord speaks to them through the Prophet the word of comfort and consolation, holding out a promise that He would revive their fortunes, rebuild their walks, renew His covenant with them and re-inforce their strength.
It is this promise of God made to ancient Israel that has been fulfilled in Jesus. God’s constant reassurance to Israel through the Prophets was- “Do not be afraid I will be with you. No floods will drown you. No fires will burn you. For I will always be with you to save you.” This is precisely what has been fulfilled with the coming of Jesus, the Emmanuel – God-with-us. Indeed our Triune God is, God-for-us, the Father; God-with-us, the Son; and God-in-us, the Holy Spirit, who surrounds us from all sides with His love, so much so we too can say with the Psalmist : “Where can I go to flee from your presence? If I climb the highest peaks you are there. If I plumb the deepest depths you are there. If I fly far into the East or the West, I find you there.” That is why we do not need to be afraid. Nothing need to terrify us. For God is with us. He never leaves us. Never forget or forsake us. “I will never forget you my people. I have carved you on the palm of my hands. Does a mother forget her baby? Or a woman the child within her womb? Yet, even if these forget, I will never forget you.” says God through Isaiah. That is why the Psalmist can confidently assert: “Even if my father and mother should forsake me, my God will never abandon me” Indeed our God is a God of infinite, unconditional, faithful love. “Mountains and hills may crumble down to dust, but my love for you will never come to an end; for, I am a faithful God.”
This deep sense of being loved and cared for by the God of love gives us a strong sense of security and well being. We look at the lilies of the field and birds of the air and we realize that a Provident God is looking after us, caring for us and protecting us. And we feel secure, strong and serene.
It is only when this faith in a loving, provident God weakens that we become insecure leading to suspicion, jealousy, rivalry and conflict leading to divisions : “I belong to Paul” and “I belong to Cephas” We are in the Christian Unity Octave when we become painfully aware of the shameful divisions among Christians. These rifts will be healed only when every Christian can say : “I belong to Christ” and live as one who truly belongs to Christ. If everyone of us has this deeply felt belief that we belong to Christ, then, all of us will live as so many branches rooted in one single vine.
Eucharist makes us be deeply rooted in the vine that is Jesus, so that all of us are nourished by the same life sap that flows from Christ the vine. May this Eucharist bring about this unity among us.