Sunday Reflection - Rejoicing Sunday

An old man lived in New Guinea.  He made his living by cutting firewood for the mission hospital.  Everybody called him One Tooth, because his upper jaw contained just one tooth.  Besides cutting wood, the old man also spent a part of each day reading the Gospel to outpatients sitting in the hospital's waiting room.  Day after day, he shared his faith in Jesus with these suffering people.

Then one day something happened.  One Tooth began to have trouble reading.  At first, he thought it was something that would get better, but it didn't.  So, One Tooth went to see the hospital doctor.  After examining the old woodcutter, the doctor put his arm around the old man and said, "I have something difficult to tell you.  You're going blind, and there's nothing we can do."  "Oh no!" said One Tooth. "I'm already old. Now I'll be blind and useless, too." 

The next day One Tooth didn't show up at the hospital.  Nor did he show up the day after that.  One Tooth had vanished.  Later the doctor learned that One Tooth was living alone in a deserted part of the Island.  A boy who brought the old man food told the doctor where he was.  So, the doctor went to see One Tooth.  "What are you doing here?" the doctor asked.  One Tooth replied, "Ever since you told me I was going blind, I've been reading and memorizing the most important part of the Gospel.  I've already memorized Jesus' birth, several of his miracles and parables, and his death and resurrection.  "I've been repeating these over and over to the boy, to make sure I've got them right.  In about a week I'll be back at the hospital again, Doctor, telling the outpatients about Jesus."

Telling others about Jesus - that was what motivated old One Tooth to begin the difficult task of setting to memory the great Gospel stories.  Telling others about Jesus - that is what St. Paul was urging his early converts in Thessalonica to do.  Telling others about Jesus - that is what John the Baptist gave his life to, even to death, in the Gospel of today.

As Christians, we are all too painfully aware that we are not immune to the tragedies of life.  A young boy innocently riding in his parents’ car is killed instantly as a plane skids off an icy runway and crashes into the car.    Soldiers are taken from their loved ones in an instant of suicide bombing insanity.  A mother is presented with a life-threatening diagnosis by her physician.    No wonder, then, that Scott Peck in his now famous book, The Road Less Traveled, begins with the line, "Life is difficult".    Yes, life is difficult, yet for those whose lives are deeply rooted in the Gospel, for those whose minds and hearts have been fashioned by the promise and hope that Jesus Christ is in our lives,  then the pain and sorrow, the challenges and difficulties in life need not and will not have the final say.

The journey that began for Jesus in the backwater town of Bethlehem would lead him on a road that all of us have traveled at times.  He was loved by family and friends, but he also was misunderstood and misjudged.  He was consumed with passion in bringing the message of His Father to the world only to be crucified in the end like a common criminal.  But the darkness of this world could not hold him.  Through the transforming power of His Resurrection he opens a highway for all of us to face the darkness and pain of life with courage and hope.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us; He has sent us to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

As we prayed in our Opening Prayer, in these final weeks of the Advent Season let us ask the Lord, "To prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow on us" now and in all the Seasons of our Life.