Saturday, January 28, 2006

Voice from Afar

(4th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year; 28 January 2006. I am on vacation this week, but had the chance to write my first homily while being timed in an Internet cafe. Very interesting; I’ll send you the bill!.)

You have probably seen the cartoon series by Gary Larson called "The Far Side." It has that unique ability to capture both the comic and the bizzarre at the same time. One of my favorite Far Side cartoons shows a man sitting down with his children, reading a book. The faces of the children are frozen in terror, as the caption at the bottom explains the reason: Stephen King, reading a bedtime story!

Our first reading this week goes something like that. Moses is relating to the people of Israel their own previous experience at hearing the voice of the Lord back when He made Himself known. He says:

This is what you yourselves asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the Assembly. ¨Do not let me hear again the voice of the Lord, my God . . . or I shall die."
-Deuteronomy 18:16-17

They were literally scared to death to hear the voice of God! God’s voice, His power and majesty, is something we should all certainly be afraid of. His righteousness, His sovereignty is overwhelming.

But is not the voice of God also the voice of a father? Even the voices of earthly fathers often bring consolation and comfort to their children. Why should God’s voice be any different?

Which brings us back to Stephen King and his children. While his daughter Naomi was still young, Stephen King realized that she did not share the same interest in his horror fiction that many others did. He decided to write a story just for her, a fairy tale that a little girl would enjoy. He called it, "The Eyes of the Dragon," and naturally it was a best seller.

At first his daughter was a little reluctant. Yet soon she found herself engrossed in the novel that had been written for that very purpose. On his website, Stephen King tells how moved he was the day Naomi finished that book. He tells how she hugged him and said that the only problem she had with the book was that it eventually had to come to an end.

Towards the end of "The Eyes of the Dragon," there is a powerful scene in which Peter, one of the main characters, is finally freed from the tower where he has been a prisoner for so long. He had been framed for the murder of his father, the King. He was the rightful heir to the throne, but no one knew it.

As he is freed there is great chaos in the square, but Peter begins to give orders and commands the people around him, so as to bring order and guide their escape. The people, who do not recognize this young man by his shabby clothing or unkempt appearance, immediately recognize that this is no ordinary voice. This is the voice of a king. They follow that voice instinctively.

In the Gospel this weekend, we hear once again the voice of God. It’s the same voice that the people of Israel heard at Horeb, but this time it has a body to go with it! It is the voice of Christ teaching in the synagogue and the people are no less amazed. That voice is proclaiming the word of God and casting out unclean spirits, freeing those who had been enslaved by evil.

St. Mark relates the reaction of the people, that they were:

So astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. "Here is a teaching that is new," they said, "and with authority behind it."
-Mark 1:27

We live in a world that longs for that voice and desperately needs the freedom it calls forth. In our own personal lives, we also need to listen to that voice and follow it if we are to be the men and women of the Gospel God is calling us to be. It is the voice of power, the voice of authority, the voice that is calling us to a better life, a higher path.

Are we able to recognize that voice in our world and in our lives today? Christ still speaks to us, through the teaching authority of the Church. How do we receive such authority? Is it something to be feared or avoided, or do we recognize that the one who speaks to us today through His Church is the same one who is teaching in the synagogue and freeing His people in the Gospel.

This week, let us listen to that voice from afar, and come to realize that God´s teaching, His voice, and His presence among us is a lot closer than we could possibly imagine.