We are placed on this earth that our lives may be a blessing to those around us. Through our lives and our words, we bless others. Words reveal what is held in the heart. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) If there is deep faith in our hearts, we will make a great and welcome difference in the lives of those who are suffering. When we cling to faith, we will be used by God to fulfill His mission of spreading the light of hope to this world.
“Utter What Is Precious, And Not What Is Worthless” (Jeremiah 15:19)
The Gospel of Luke gives a rather elaborate description of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, for there is plenty of significance when it is reflected on in the light of God’s wisdom. One such important passage is the visitation of the archangel to Zechariah who was to be the father of the Baptist. Angel Gabriel announces to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” (Luke 1: 13-14) What the angel declares is in fact good news – a prayer that is granted and a baby to be born. However, Zechariah responds with apprehension saying, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel then declares, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:18-20)
Zechariah was a priest, chosen to serve God in the temple. He was childless for his wife was barren. The Jews of the time understood this to be a curse from God, to be married and not have children. His life as it appeared was woeful. Nevertheless, he persisted in praying to the Lord and it was in his old age that God’s benevolence was manifested. The angel of God conveyed to him the great news of the long awaited blessing of a child to be born. Zechariah who all along was praying about this great blessing was now askance at the declaration of the angel of God. He could not believe what he heard since his wife and he were rather advanced in age. Unable to trust the Word of God, He instead sought a proof from God for confirmation. He was a man of reasoning and in the face of reason, his faith in God faltered. Though he was a priest serving God all the time, his sense of reasoning failed to acknowledge the Power and Might of God. He could not comprehend how God could work the impossible. Because of his unbelief, the angel of God told him that he would become dumb and remain so until the birth of his son.
One could conclude easily that Zechariah was being punished. On the contrary, if we look closer we would realize that God in His Goodness and Infinite Wisdom prevented Zechariah from talking for his own sake. Zechariah did not really believe God’s message. Every time he would speak about his experience of the heavenly visitation, he would express his misgivings about the angel and the Word of God. In the process, he would be going against God by discrediting His Word. Zechariah’s speech would affect the faith of those around him and he himself would grow depressed. Though what he received was the good news of a blessing, he would become the bearer of bad news. This would undermine the blessings God was bestowing on him and others through him. Therefore, it was clearly better for him to remain dumb until the fulfillment of the promise with the birth of his child.
“How Beautiful Are The Feet Of Him Who Brings Good Tidings” (Isaiah 52:7)
In life, many things can go wrong. We get sad when things do not happen the way we want it to. We are angry when others step on our toes. We are desperate when our plans do not materialize. We are frustrated and upset when we are unable to control and maneouvre things our way. When we do not see anything good ahead for us, we lose hope instantly. The Word of God instructs us how to face such struggles in life.
Sufferings and setbacks are indeed the moments when God is waiting to enter into our lives and become part of our struggles. Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20) A moment of struggle can awaken us to the faithful love of God that waits to redeem us. However, we need to open the door of our heart to let Him in. “Dining with the Lord” is a symbol of celebration in the Bible. The Lord is waiting to enter into the difficult moments of our lives to turn them all into a celebration. What is required here is a faith with which we open the door for Him who waits for us to let Him in. This is indeed genuine faith: to let go of our life into the hands of God for Him to take charge. When we are challenged we can stubbornly cling on to the problems of our life imagining that we are the masters of our destiny. It is in such moments that we make too many mistakes. On the other, we have the great opportunity to leave our life in the Hands of God. As servants and handmaids of God, we wait upon Him to listen to His Voice and to do His Will. This is when we are united with His Will and God’s magnificent Grace flows into all situations turning everything to our good. As St. Paul assures us, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We need to experience and understand how God is leading me by the hand changing my sadness to joy. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This is when we become the bearers of good news at all times as we have been assured that God is working in our lives. When we realize and acknowledge this in our lives then we will bring healing and hope to other weary and wounded souls with the message of our words.
A story is told of the time when the St. Peter’s Basilica was being constructed at the Vatican. Many people were working around the place, mixing sand, breaking stones and doing all the preliminary work usual to construction. A Cardinal was taking his evening stroll. He went to a woman worker and asked her how the work was progressing. She was in a grumpy mood and grumbled to the Cardinal, “I’m breaking stones all the day long. It is a very hard job. The sun is blazing. Work seems endless. I’m tired and fed up of doing this.” The Cardinal after listening to her proceeded to the other side of the construction site. He saw another woman breaking stones and enquired of her how the work was. Excitedly she said, “Your Eminence I am building the cathedral. I thank God for this great work that is happening and that I am a part of it.” With great joy on her face she was sharing her vision of how gloriously the cathedral would stand and how many nations would come and stand in awe at the masterpiece that was being moulded. Both the women were doing the same job. However, the first woman was getting broken while breaking the stones. The hardness of the job quenched her spirit. Therefore, she was tired of the job and had nothing good to say. Whenever she spoke, those who listening to her would become demoralized. The other woman was doing the same hard job but she was excited about it because she had opened her eyes to take count of God’s Presence and the vision of the Church to inspire her. This option strengthened her for the task. Her words effectively conveyed the good news of God’s Presence even in the midst of an unfavourable situation.
“He Comes With Good Tidings” (2 Samuel 18:27)
It is good to introspect on this important aspect of our faith. Do we really believe in God, particularly when things go wrong? The gospels describe a faith crisis that the disciples of Jesus faced when everything went against their calculations. Two disciples of Jesus, Cleophas and his companion were on their way to Emmaus. They were greatly discouraged and in fact had slipped into despair. Their entire conversation was about the tragic events surrounding the Arrest, Condemnation, and Crucifixion of Jesus. All their hopes were ended with the death of Jesus All that Jesus had spoken to them seemed meaningless now. They could not see God anywhere in what had passed. They had abandoned the community in Jerusalem and were heading back to their former life and their hometown.
In that moment of utter hopelessness, the Risen Lord joined them in their walk. Listening to their woes, He spoke to them words of comfort and hope. He explained to them the Promise of Scriptures that through the Crucifixion of Jesus, God was working the ultimate salvation for all humankind. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) At that instant, they experienced hope stirring in their hearts. Their faith was renewed and they began to believe in the goodness of God and His infinite love for humankind. Later they would recount, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24: 32) When faith and hope entered their hearts, it dispelled the darkness from their mind and heart.
In our families, elders can speak hope into every situation, however adverse, only when there is faith in the Goodness of God. When something upsetting or stressful happens, one can react to the situation with anger, frustration, sadness, or a similar negative emotion. But the one who believes in God will continue to cling to hope in God, confident that He will see them through it and no matter what happens He will work out everything for their best. A person who has deep genuine faith and firm trust in God will always speak words of hope. Whoever we are, whatever may be our profession, if we identify ourselves as disciples of Jesus, we are vested with the responsibility to always speak the Good News. We are meant to be prophets who declare the hope in a God who is good and who turns everything for the good.
Mother Mary is exemplary in her marvelous response to the call of faith. The angel of God greeted Mary and told her that she would bear the Son of God. She was perplexed wondering how it could all come about. When the angel explained her that it would be through the Power of God, she humbly submitted to God’s Will in her life without any hesitation, “Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) This was possible because she implicitly believed and trusted in the Goodness of God. Following this, when she went to the house of Zechariah to minister to her cousin, Elizabeth who was also pregnant, Mary’s very greeting filled the baby in Elizabeth’s womb with joy. This is the effect of the words of one who believes in the Mercy and Goodness of God, the very Power of God flows through them when they speak. Elizabeth recognized the Power of God at work in Mary and exclaimed, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)
When one is reconciled to every circumstance and situation in life, one can see God’s hand at work, transforming everything for the higher purpose of salvation for all. The degree to which one accepts and submits to the Will of God is proportionate to the joy one experiences in His Comforting and Reassuring Presence. That is why Mother Mary could sing with joy, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-48)
“The Good News Of Faith” (I Thessalonians 3:6)
When faith is strong, no matter what adversities arise, one will continue to be hopeful in God - confident in a positive outcome. For this is what God is always pointing us to, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) When a person of faith gives expression to his thoughts and feelings, it will always be with belief and hope in God’s Goodness, Love, and Mercy. For what we believe in is what we will speak. The words of such men and women will always be a blessing to others, leading others to turn to God in times of need. This is the faith we are called to possess, a faith that generates faith. The psalmist expresses this, “I believed therefore have I spoken.” (Psalm 116:10) St. Paul echoes this, “Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13)
What does living out of such faith mean? Even when friends and loved ones abandon us, the deep conviction that God loves us and is with us, should remain embedded in our heart. “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32) Even when all the problems around crush us and everything seems to be going wrong in life, our confidence in God will remain unshaken because we know that “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) In the adverse and painful circumstances of life, God can never leave us alone. We will continue to trust in His Love. In such faith, we shall never be disappointed for we shall be firmly set on the path that leads to victory.
Let Us Pray:
Lord God, we praise You for Your Unfailing Love that will hold us up even when all else should pass away. As we meditate on Your Goodness, we pray that our faith may be strengthened, our lives be blessed and our words bring blessing to this world. In the moments of trial and temptation, may your Spirit remind us to hold on to the sure hope we have in You.