A Word to be heard, a Love to be seen

Fr Paolo Consonni MCCJ

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Education is not an easy task nowadays. Once I heard a father sharing his experience in this regard. He said that one day he got so immersed in his job that he did not notice his three-year-old son standing nearby, with his eyes fixed on him. When he realized his presence, and felt his intense gaze, in that precise moment he realized that education comes not only by listening but by watching. Children are constantly watching their parents (and adults in general), learning how to face life from their attitude and behavior, and not merely from their words. That father felt that within the son’s gaze there was a pressing appeal: “Dad, through your example, assure me that there is value in my coming into this world.  Let me know by the way you live that there is a basic goodness in my life.”  The father then added that if a son feels reassured through what he sees, then the goal of education has been achieved,  even if the father is imperfect and often makes mistakes.

“The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him,” we read in this Sunday’s gospel (Lk 4:14-20) regarding Jesus starting his public ministry in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth. His choices, His attitudes, His gestures, His relationship, His prayer…his whole life, enlightened and explained by his words, would become “the Gospel,” the Good News that “the invisible God, out of the abundance of His love, speaks to men as friends and lives among them” (Dei Verbum 2). Through the Incarnation, God’s Word became visible in the person of Jesus. No aspect of His life could be left out: not one word, not one deed. From now on, His whole life would be an open book for everyone to read. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”(v. 21)

For us human beings, wounded by sin, the integration of all aspects of our lives (our faith, relationships, work, as well as our use of material things ) into  perfect unity seems impossible. We all have dark corners in our souls where we can hide, where we can disconnect what we do from who we are. This happens in marriage, in religious life, in friendship, in politics, in our social media. We easily condemn others as hypocrites when we expose their imperfections, but in our conscience, we know very well we are not much better.  To be educators presents a terrible dilemma: either to pretend to be perfect, but without convincing anyone; or, vis-à-vis our imperfections to give up education altogether. 

As disciples of Jesus, we humbly but stubbornly continue in our efforts, always imperfect, to combine faith and life, words and deeds, aware of the fact that what it is required from us is not perfection but the inner conviction that the more closely we follow Jesus, the more we will experience a life that is meaningful, filled with goodness, and worthy to be lived with passion…. And we can reach this conviction by looking at the lives of the saints, the living proof that, in Christ, we can fulfill God’s plan for us in our “today”.

Therefore, the Church can passionately continue Jesus’ mission “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18) because in every period of history, in spite of our many transgressions and sins, through the imperfect and fragile human lives of many Christians, the Holy Spirit continues to reveal God’s love to the world. Looking at their lives we too feel that our own lives could be worth living and that our own efforts are not wasted.

“We have books in our hands, but the facts before our eyes,” said Saint Augustine in speaking of fulfillment of the prophecies in the Scriptures by Jesus. Jesus’ facts were his miracles, his gestures of compassion, his forgiveness of sinners, and the sacrifice of his life for us. The eyes of our sons and daughters, of our pupils, or of our coworkers are fixed on us too: they expect not perfection but love; not convincing eloquence, but truth. They want to “see” that God’s mercy can truly permeate, (or better, “anoint”) all our life, all our actions, all our dreams, even our failures: nothing excluded.

A final note. Surprisingly, many of those present that day in the synagogue rejected Jesus at the end, a strong reminder that the outcome of a true educational effort is never taken for granted, it’s never automatic, because genuine education elicits a free response, never a compulsive one. Let our lives speak  of God’s love even when it seems that nobody is listening, because they might keep watching…