In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy
In today's Gospel (St. Luke 10:25-37) we hear the
Lord saying to each of us that our neighbour is not the one whom we
like, not even the one whom we love; it is the one who needs us, whether
he likes us or not, and it is to him that we must turn in compassion, in
charity, as indeed the Lord God Himself turned to us at the moment when
the whole of mankind was alien to Him; and again, turns to each of us at
the moment when we are at rock bottom, when we are as far away from Him
as we can imagine, indeed, much farther, because only God can measure
the distance that separates us from our being in Him, with Him, the
distance which measures His absence from our life.
On November 28th is the beginning of fasting time
that prepares us for Christmas; many will turn to fasting, eating those
things which are appointed by the Church; but is that the fast which God
wishes us to keep? Listen to what the Lord said to the Hebrews, from the
lips of Isaiah the Prophet [Isaiah 58:3-8]:
"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a
trumpet, and show My people their transgressions ... Yet they seek Me
daily, and delight to know My ways, as though they were a nation that
did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God. ...
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and Thou seest not? Wherefore have
we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day
of your fast you find pleasure and exploit all your labourers! Behold,
you fast for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness!
You shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his
soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth
and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day
to the Lord? Is not this the fast I have chosen to loose the bands of
wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, to
break every yoke! Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and that
thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the
naked, that thou cover him? and that thou hide not thyself from thine
own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine
health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go
before thee, and the glory of thy Lord shall be thy rearguard."
Let us remember these words, because more than ever
in our time we must not fast hypocritically, not fast with false piety,
but fast by turning away from every evil, from all evil, put right in
our lives everything that has gone wrong.
Are we going to meet the day when the Lord our God
took flesh in order to enter into the realm of death, He Who is the
Eternal One, the day when He chose to enter into the realm of suffering
for our sakes Ч are we going to meet this day by accepting to continue
in our estrangement from Him? And we are estranged from Him when we hate
our neighbour, when we reject our neighbour, when we refuse to forgive,
when we turn away from him or her who is in need of our mercy Ч not only
of bread, not only of shelter Ч indeed, that also counts! Ч but in need
of forgiveness, of the mercy of the heart! Are we going to meet the Lord
who came to save sinners by rejecting those whom we consider as sinners,
those who have offended us, those against whom we have fought? Can we
meet the Lord on such terms?
Let us think of the shepherds: they were simple
people, unsophisticated, uncomplicated, but their hearts were open to
the extent to which it was possible to them, they were clean, pure of
heart, and therefore, they could hear the news of the Incarnation; they
could hear and receive the news as the most wonderful thing that changed
everything in their lives. We have been listening to the good news
day-in, day-out, year after year Ч has it come to us as good news that
has transformed our lives, made us into people beyond compare, people
who are prepared to live and to die for those who hate, who reject, who
ignore, who offend us? If we are not Ч it is in vain that we speak of
being Christian; he who does not love his brother is a liar when he says
that he loves his God Ч these are the Apostle's words.
Let us therefore enter into this period of fasting in
earnest, stand in judgement before God to be judged by Him, and ask
ourselves whether we could stand side by side with Him when others come
to be judged, and step forward and say, 'Lord! I have forgiven Ч Thou
hast no grudge against him, against her, any more!' Amen.