Present even when it doesn’t seem so

lent2016

Reading: Luke 4

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’ 24 ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

 

Augustine told himself that he would grow happier the more thoroughly he studied the erroneous way of the Manichean. In fact, however, he began feeling the exact opposite: the anxiety in his heart grew and at times led him to despair. He realised that it was still his senses and not his intellect that influenced his actions the most, despite the Manichean promises of finding happiness through purely rational means.

Augustine
"By these stages I was led deeper into hell, labouring and chafing under the scarcity of truth, because I was seeking you, my God, not through that power of the mind by which you have chosen to rank me above the beasts, but only through human inclination. To you do I confess this, for you showed mercy to me before ever I could confess it. You were more intimately present to me than my innermost being, and higher than the highest peak of my spirit."

Augustine discovered that the road he had chosen led to nowhere. Above all he needed the light of God to see that he was going not toward but away from true happiness. A similar story took place centuries before in Nazareth. Jesus arrived at the city where he had spent his childhood and adolescence. When he accused the Jews gathered in the synagogue and their ancestors of a lack of faith, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

God was very close to both Augustine the Manichean and the people of Nazareth, but they turned away from him. Those in the synagogue who listened to Jesus were given an unbelievable opportunity to hear the words of the Messiah whom they had awaited for centuries. But of course "no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown."  Augustine, on the other hand, had searched endlessly for God and failed to discover him. Only years later when he analysed that experience could he confess to God: "You were more intimately present to me than my innermost being, and higher than the highest peak of my spirit."

Lord, how unique is each day, encounter, and situation.  May we see your presence in them, for you are closer to us than it may seem. Amen