Today's reading from Isaiah
tells us to have courage
because we will be vindicated.
Justice will prevail.
God will uphold us,
make all things right and just for us.
And when that happens, Isaiah says,
the poorest will be healed.
The eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
those who can't walk will leap like deer,
and the tongues of those who cannot speak
will sing for joy.
In the Gospel we heard Matthew tell how John the Baptist,
when he sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is sent by God,
gets the answer
in terms of a fulfillment of that passage in Isaiah:
go back and report what you hear and see:
‘Those who are blind recover their sight;
those who cannot walk are able to walk,
those with leprosy are cured;
those who are deaf hear;
the dead are raised to life;
and the anawim—the “have-nots”—
have the Good News preached to them.’
The practice of looking to the tradition
for keys to the present situation
is as long as recorded history.
It's the habit of calling on the wisdom of the past
for guidance in our time.
James' letter gives the same kind of advice:
Be patient, don't grumble about one another, persevere—
take the prophets as your models.
What about us, now, in our time?
We say we are followers and imitators of the way of Jesus.
That means, according to the Word we just heard,
that we are to be teachers and healers,
reaching out in love to the poor and marginalized.
We are to work miracles, just like Jesus did.
It sounds like a tall order,
but we see those miracles all around us.
Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement,
has a local branch that meets over at Corpus Christi Parish.
Just one of the projects that makes Pax Christi a healer
is the “Manna bag,”
a gallon-size plastic bag full of non-perishable food and drink
that they put together and sell
so they can give them away
to those folks standing on street corners asking for help.
Then there are miracle workers like our own Liz Facey, who,
like so many other teachers,
works tirelessly to open the eyes and ears
of her special needs students.
We've been seeing stories on the news lately
about doctors who are pioneering stem cell therapy
that rebuilds body parts,
giving new life to people struck with disability and disease.
We all know families and friends of stroke victims
who tend them through the difficult times of loss and rehab,
loving them through every possible step of improvement.
We all face hard times, accident, illness, or surgery,
the difficulties of aging,
and it's there that we see the loving care
that Jesus told John's followers to tell him about.
Miracles are happening here at Holy Spirit, too.
We're focused on the environment
and the impact of climate change
on the poorest and most vulnerable people,
and we're doing something about it
with our Tree Toledo efforts.
And you are generous in direct help to the anawim of our time,
donating to organizations
that serve the poor and the marginalized
with housing, food, health needs, clothes, education…
it's a very long list!
You write letters to officeholders
supporting programs that help the poor…
or criticizing programs that harm the poor.
And you pray,
preparing your heart and your soul
to be ready to love when it's the hardest.
Christmas is just two weeks away.
It's heart-warming for me to hear the plans you're making
to gather with family and friends,
to share a feast and enjoy each other's company.
And among the things I hear is
that you're going to welcome Maude and Claude—
Aunt Maude with her acid tongue,
Uncle Claude with his overindulgence.
And you're going to embrace Pam and Sam—
cousin Pam, who is sure to let you know
that she's better than everybody else,
and nephew Sam with his crude language,
sneaking off to smoke marijuana behind the barn.
Even though you don't approve of what they do,
you love them.
You're planning to open the door and welcome them at the table.
And that's a miracle.
As Richard Rohr said:
“The Second Coming of Christ is us.”
When we help the poor and the oppressed,
the downtrodden and the marginalized,
no matter if they're families
racing away from their bombed-out homes in Aleppo
or family at the Christmas feast,
it's our love that brings Christ to life again.
We are miracle workers.
People don't recognize us as Christians
because we go out and buy lots of presents every December.
They know us by our presence, our p-r-e-s-e-n-c-e.
People see that we are followers of Jesus
because of how we treat people every day, all year long—
family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, enemies.
We meet them and reach out to them and walk with them
along the way.
We spend time with them, get to know them,
see the face of Christ in them.
That's how they know we are Christians…
they see our love bringing light to the world.
It's the true miracle of Christmas.
We have two weeks left to get ready
for our celebration of the fact
that we are the ones
who make that miracle happen all year long.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006