GOD’S INTERVENTION IN HUMAN PREDICAMENTS
First Reading: Lamentations 2:2,10-14,18-19
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 73(74):1-7,20-21
Gospel Reading: Matthew 8:5-17
One of the most devastating events ever recorded in the history of Nigeria was the Civil War (July 6, 1967 – January 15, 1970), leaving more than a million deaths as a result of its brutality. It could be said to be a scar in the nation’s history, a bitter and a life-defining event, leaving so many displaced without homes and properties. Indeed, the civil war was a phenomenon that readily connotes lamentations, especially on the part of the Igbos over all that was lost. Understanding this unpleasant event in Nigeria in the light of the suffering, hardship and brokenness felt, could help shed light on the lamentations of the Jews over their predicaments in exile, as reflected in today’s first reading.
The page of the book of Lamentations, which we read in today’s first reading is the reflection on the meaning of the events narrated in the books of the Kings. The book of Lamentations is attributed to Jeremiah, a prophet who experienced the dramatic moments of the siege, fall, destruction of Jerusalem, and the consequent departure of the Jews for Babylon. In the case of the Jews, the departure from the country dramatically symbolizes the departure from God, the God who dominates history and who, through his messengers, reveals its meaning. After recalling the unfortunate fate of the kings, the priests and ‘prophets,’ the song goes to remind Zion of her mistakes as a victim and invites her to weep her luck, as we hear in the first reading. Put differently, in describing the situation in Jerusalem destroyed and devastated by the Babylonians, the Book of Lamentations reveals the profound cause of this catastrophe, rooted in their incorrigibility towards repentance and their hesitation towards the truth. Indeed, the predicaments of the Jews at the period of the lamentations characterized by their loss of dignity, a life of sorrow, disgrace, sicknesses, hardships, loss of identity, etc., symbolize a rebelled humanity who deliberately chose to remain outside the grace of God.
Nevertheless, God continues to reveal his infinite mercy and love even in man’s outright disobedience and infidelity to the covenant, seeking ways to liberate man from his predicaments and disgrace and reconciling man to Himself. This He did ultimately in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Little wonder at the end of Christ’s miracles in today’s gospel; that is, after the cure of the centurion’s servant, the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and other hosts of miracles – liberating many who were possessed by the devil, the prophecy of Isaiah was said to be fulfilled: “He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.” Here, Matthew takes the opportunity to re-read Isaiah 53:4; while the prophet speaks of ‘suffering and pain’ in relation to the Jewish lamentations (as experienced in the time of exile), the evangelist speaks of sickness and disease – a symbol of a stricken and fallen humanity outside the grace of God. Christ’s miracles in today’s gospel reflect a liberating atonement, the result of God’s intervention and solidarity with fallen mankind (see also Luke 4:18-19).
Dear friends in Christ, we may have faced so many predicaments, hardships, difficulties, sicknesses, etc., symbolizing a life of sin outside the grace of God; today’s gospel reading invites us not to lose hope but focus on Christ our Redeemer and Saviour; one who has come to carry away our sicknesses, diseases, pain and sufferings. He offers us this solution through the saving power of the Sacraments; so that concentrating on his passion and resurrection, we might be consoled and strengthened in the daily crosses we bear. As we continue to journey in life amidst these experiences, may we continue to pray like the Psalmist: “Lord, forget not the life of your poor ones.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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