Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: Can It Be My Story?




            The grace of God has brought my faith to that level of hopefulness in the Lord to the extent that, I believe that no matter the darkened, ugly, horrific, and hopeless situation of a person or a nation, Jesus can turn things beautifully around. Please trust me, there is nothing impossible in the sight of God and so I would like to encourage you to walk by faith and not by sight. The miraculous testimony you read about Zebulun and Naphtali, can also be your testimony.

            Our elders say: “the one who has chewed an iron bar, if (s)he tells you (s)he can chew a wooden stick should not call for doubt.” What is a wooden stick if the person can chew an iron bar? If Jesus rose from the dead, tell me what is it that he cannot turn around.

            Jesus comes to us with a rich record when it comes to making impossible things  possible. Remember his own mother knew no man and yet conceived him and even after his birth kept her virginity. During his public ministry people brought some impossible cases to him and yet he was able to solve them all. As young as twelve years old instead of Jesus sitting at the feet of a Rabbi to listen and learn, the Rabbis rather “sat” at his feet to listen and learn. Even when he was not commissioned to start working, he gave an introduction of what he could do at a wedding feast at Cana when he changed water into wine. It was there and then that people began to spread the news. Wonder working was part and parcel of every day’s happenings in Palestine but the people themselves testified that certain miracles that Jesus worked could not be done by their own miracle workers. Do you remember what the people said when Jesus healed the man born blind (cf. John 9)? After the healing, the people testified: “never had it been known that restoration of sight will come to a man born blind.” Healing of Bartimaeus also created big news in Palestine. Do not forget the raising of Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and the son of the widow from Nain from the dead. Now tell me, are your impossible situations greater than the above mentioned?

            Jesus continues in our times to bring healing and breakthrough to the lives of many people each day. There are stories of people who have lived way beyond the time doctors predicted for them – in fact some of them don’t have any medical reason to live and yet the reason for having life has been their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the author and source of life and he alone can give it and take it. He also made everything and so if anything loses its substance of goodness he alone can restore it and that is the miracle story of Zebulun and Naphtali in today first and gospel readings.

            When I read and reflected on today’s first reading and Gospel passage on the miraculous transformation of the towns of Zebulun and Naphtali, many such stories come to mind. Before we can relate the stories of the two towns to ours, let us briefly try to understand the transformative stories of Zebulun and Naphtali of which the Prophet Isaiah and Jesus were so proud to tell us.

            The two towns are believed to have been named after two sons of Jacob. Those two towns were seen by many as cursed because of the horrific things people saw there.  One of the things that made life rough for the people of Zebulun and Naphtali was that soldiers from other nations turned the fields of the two towns into battle grounds. The land became known as the land of darkness.

            If some people live in darkness for a long time, at times they develop the belief

 that their situation can never change and so today’s prophetic message from the Prophet Isaiah may have come as a big sigh of relief. The inspired writer chose his words very well to tell the turnaround story of the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. He wrote: “First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Gentiles. Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing…For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.”

            The above was the prophetic statement that Isaiah gave concerning Zebulun and Naphtali. The actualization of the prophecy wasn’t instant but it came to pass. The actualization of the prophecy came during the time of Jesus. “On the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus came to dwell in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali and this made Matthew to write: “…he left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen…” As the arrest of John the Baptist brought Jesus to live with the people of Zebulun and Naphtali and changed their lives so also something will bring Jesus into your life and he will turn your sad story into a joyous one.

            Jesus at times comes in the physical presence of people he brings to our lives. The letter to the Hebrews even goes a step further by stating that at times Jesus sends Angels to guide and help us in the form of some human agents. As you read this reflection, I pray that God will send the right people your way to turn your sadness into joy. I have heard of people who tell their stories of a change of fortunes that a husband, wife, a friend or a sweet life’s companion brought to them since they crossed paths.

            Remember the homily I brought to you two weeks ago on the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. It only takes the Lord to bless the life of a person or a nation with a single individual to turn things around. For example, every doctor you have met keep on telling you the same sad news but you are about to meet the “Angelic doctor” God may bring your way. Have you heard stories of people who say many doctors kept giving the same diagnosis until they met a doctor who gave a different diagnosis that changed their health’s story. Or your own case has to do with other of life’s impossible cases? Please do not give up yet, for Jesus is about to send a helper your way. The people of Zebulun and Naphtali never dreamt that Jesus will come and stay on their land and bring them light and happiness.

            A helper is on his/her way and so don’t throw in the towel yet. Before I draw the curtain on today’s reflection permit me to end with the story of Rwanda. In the early 1990s Rwanda was turned into a grave yard because of an ethnic war. On every street and in almost every home, there was mourning. This was a Catholic country that failed to be united by a creed of faith. Ethnic tensions made a Catholic brother/sister turn against the other in the same Church. After the war ended, many people did not give them the chance to pick up the pieces immediately because we have similar stories of war-torn countries in Africa. But the Rwandan case has been different. A country no one wished to visit has now turned to be one of the most sought out holiday destinations for westerners in Africa. Big soccer clubs like Arsenal and PSG have become big promoters of the Rwandan dream by advertising for people to visit Rwanda. I hear it is the land to visit at the moment in Africa. Another turn-around story is the once Apartheid South Africa. A grave yard during apartheid era turned out to be arguably the best developed land in Africa. These two black Africa lands, their transformation from a grave yard into a prosperous nation have taken roughly about three decades.

            With the grace of God, this can also be your story and so do not give up no matter what because help in coming your way soon. And for others on the other side of the storyline allow God to use you to bring joy, light and happiness to the saddened lives of others. Remember it took Jesus to enter the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali to bring them joy, Jesus can use you to do same for others. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.



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