Providing the Word of God.

March 23, 2017


“I will never forget you”: Gather with me

Reading 1 – JER 7:23-28

Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Verse Before the Gospel – JL 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel – LK 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Reflection

About five or six years ago, I accompanied our Youth Group to a homeless shelter in December to bring food, sing Christmas carols and spend some time playing games and just be present to those who might not otherwise have any kind of Christmas. I remember thinking how good it is for these teenagers who are so immersed in such a self-centered and ego-driven world to seewhat others are experiencing and what they themselves take for granted too often.

It was good for all of us. I remember some of the kids were a little frightened of the folks coming in for a hot meal, which, by the way, those young people had all helped prepare earlier that one Saturday morning which was cold and wet and most inviting to remain in a warm bed…but there they were!

As our time went on, I could see everyone actually becoming more and more comfortable, starting to address one another by first names while more and more laughter began to fill the shelter area. The songs and games went extremely well and who’d have thought that we had all spent more than three hours together!

As the afternoon progressed, the temperatures dropped substantially and the rain slowly moistened the ground beneath our feet as I began to catch a few saying good-bye to their new-found friends, knowing that they may never ever see them again. A few of them were crying and I knew that was a good sign and a hopeful sign for not only a powerfully different Christmas but also, perhaps, a changed perspective on life.

elderly womanAs we began to pick up empty boxes and wrapping paper and make our way back to the vans, an elderly woman sitting alone at one of the tables motioned for me to come closer. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, “what can I do for you?” 

“Do you have one of those cell phones, honey?,” she politely asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

And with that, she pulled out a small plastic bag which I assumed at that moment contained most—if not all—of her belongings and fumbled for a short while to locate then give to me a small piece of paper with a phone number on it.

“Sir, could you please do me a favor? You see my son and I were travelling and we had some problems with the car so he left me here at this place where I could get a some food every day and a warm place to go. He told me to call him and he would come for me but I don’t have a phone. Would you please call him for me and tell him that I’m ready to go now? It’s already been two months…”

For a second, I thought time had stopped. It was as if for a couple of seconds I couldn’t move or say a single word. I knew exactly what had happened to her and I was sure that number wouldn’t work:

“Of course, ma’am, I certainly will call for you and everything’s going to be fine,” although deep in my heart I wasn’t even sure if I believed that.

“Merry Christmas, honey,” she said with a sweet, tender smile, her eyes gazing off into the distance.

“Merry Christmas, to you, too. God bless you!,” I said, fighting back a few tears.

As soon as I returned to my vehicle, I tried the number and as I suspected, it went nowhere. Not a working number. Not even a working area code. (!)  A couple of days before Christmas, I returned to the shelter and spoke with the workers and they told she was fine, just looking out the window all day, waiting for her “ride.” I waved but I don’t think she recognized or remembered me.

That particular year, we had a nasty freeze right after Christmas which left quite a few homes without heat. I’m sure I probably got busy with all my life’s demands and forgot about the shelter for a while but after it cleared up a bit, I did think about that woman and called down to the shelter to see if they needed blankets or fire wood or anything. They told me that the cold spell affected the older residents dramatically and that poor woman died in her sleep on New Year’s Eve.

Her own son never took her call, but the Son of God sure did.

Every call to Heaven is always answered. He will never forget us…He will never forget you.

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