Shepherd's Voice May 2018

WORDS THAT CANNOT BE FORGOTTEN

During this season of Eastertide, as we remember how the Lord completed his mission on earth and passed it on to the Church, the unforgettable words of Our Lord to his disciples ring in our hearts. In the Gospel of John: “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19); “Do not hold on to me …I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20: 17); “Do not be faithless but believing” (Jn. 20:27); “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn. 21:15). In the Gospel of Luke: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24: 25-26); “You are witnesses of these things” (Lk. 24:48); “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24: 49). In the Gospel of Mark: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16: 15); “he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). In the Gospel of Mathew: “Do not be afraid” (Mt. 28:10); “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt. 28:18); “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19); “and, lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28: 20). In the Acts of the Apostles: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).

On Maundy Thursday we remembered his commandment of love and service embodied in the Eucharist which is the sacrament of his infinite sacrifice for the salvation of the world and on Good Friday in particular we focused on his seven last words on the Cross in which his final testament of forgiveness and mercy shine out.

These are only few instances picked out to highlight the liturgical season we are in. In fact the entire Holy Bible is God’s word to us but the New Testament centered on the Gospels is powerfully Christ’s words of life and salvation to the whole of humanity.

On these words rests the entire edifice of the Church in her life and mission and will remain so until the Second Coming of the Lord in his power and glory. The Lord has shown us the importance of the words that we speak to one another and how they have to be life-giving.

The remark of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of the Resurrection summarizes the power of the words spoken by Christ: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk. 24: 32).

The model is always our Lord Jesus Christ who teaches us that every word we speak has to have this result in the hearts and minds of the hearers. Therefore St. Paul exhorts us: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:26-29)

As we progress in the journey of life we remember words that were spoken to us along life’s way and which are preserved in our hearts. There are words that we treasure and cherish – these have deeply influenced our life positively. There are also words that have hurt us and which we wouldn’t like to remember but sometimes do not go away from our memory – these also have influenced our life but usually negatively. The words – good or bad - which are preserved in our memory could be from parents, elders, relatives, teachers, friends, enemies and even strangers.

Words do matter because we communicate through words and the message they carry is indispensable to make life wholesome or to mar it. Ultimately of course God knows how to bring good out of evil if we cooperate with his grace and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.

In his book The Alchemist Paulo Coelho narrates a story:

“I want to tell you a story about dreams,” said the alchemist. The boy brought his horse closer. “In ancient Rome, at the time of Emperor Tiberius, there lived a good man who had two sons. One was in the military, and had been sent to the most distant regions of the empire. The other son was a poet, and delighted all of Rome with his beautiful verses.

One night, the father had a dream. An angel appeared to him, and told him that the words of one of his sons would be learned and repeated throughout the world for all generations to come. The father woke from his dream grateful and crying, because life was generous, and had revealed to him something any father would be proud to know.

Shortly thereafter, the father died as he tried to save a child who was about to be crushed by the wheels of a chariot. Since he had lived his entire life in a manner that was correct and fair, he went directly to heaven, where he met the angel that had appeared in his dream.

‘You were always a good man’, the angel said to him. ‘You lived your life in a loving way, and died with dignity. I can now grant you any wish you desire.’

‘Life was good to me,’ the man said. ‘When you appeared in my dream, I felt that all my efforts had been rewarded, because my son’s poems will be read by men for generations to come. I don’t want anything for myself. But any father would be proud of the fame achieved by one whom he had cared for as a child, and educated as he grew up. Sometime in the distant future, I would like to see my son’s words.’

The angel touched the man’s shoulder, and they were both projected far into the future. They were in an immense setting, surrounded by thousands of people speaking a strange language. The man wept with happiness.

‘I knew that my son’s poems were immortal,’ he said to the angel through his tears. ‘Can you please tell me which of my son’s poems these people are repeating?’

The angel came closer to the man, and, with tenderness, led him to a bench nearby, where they sat down.

‘The verses of your son who was the poet were very popular in Rome,’ the angel said. ‘Everyone loved them and enjoyed them. But when the reign of Tiberius ended, his poems were forgotten. The words you’re hearing now are those of your son in the military.’

The man looked at the angel in surprise.

‘Your son went to serve at a distant place, and became a centurion. He was just and good. One afternoon, one of his servants fell ill, and it appeared that he would die. Your son had heard of a rabbi who was able to cure illnesses, and he rode out for days and days in search of this man. Along the way, he learned that the man he was seeking was the Son of God. He met others who had been cured by him, and they instructed your son in the man’s teachings. And so, despite the fact that he was a Roman centurion, he converted to their faith. Shortly thereafter, he reached the place where the man he was looking for was visiting.’

‘He told the man that one of his servants was gravely ill, and the rabbi made ready to go to his house with him. But the centurion was a man of faith, and, looking into the eyes of the rabbi, he knew that he was surely in the presence of the Son of God.’

‘And this is what your son said,’ the angel told the man. These are the words he said to the rabbi at that point, and they have never been forgotten:
‘My Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.’

The alchemist said, ‘No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.’

The boy smiled. He had never imagined that questions about life would be of such importance to a shepherd

‘Good-bye,’ the alchemist said.
‘Good-bye,’ said the boy.’

Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to speak words that can never be forgotten not because they are most figuratively crafted for beautiful poetry but because they flow straight from the wellsprings created by the Holy Spirit within our hearts. This is the life of the Resurrection to which we are called. May we grow in it day by day until we attain it in all its fullness in Paradise.

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