The road was a dusty one, the sun scorching. My destination was miles away. My traveling companions were slumbering. Ahead I saw the checkpoint, a single metal triangle emblazoned with black bold capitals stating “POLICE STOP” As I got closer I saw the two police officers sitting under a low bush to the side of the road. I slowed the Land Rover as we approached coming to a stop a few meters from the stop sign. A sleepy police officer emerged from the bush and beckoned me forward. His eyes scanned the interior of the vehicle, walking all round it peering through the windows. Suddenly he was back at my window greeting me. Stony faced, peering at me through black sunglasses he asked for documentation. I passed it to him. He stepped back, looked at the documents, looked at me, looked at the documents again. The glasses came off and his expression changed from the stony faced bored police man to a big smile and an out-stretched hand, grasping my hand with a warm handshake. “welcome, welcome.” He said. “Are you from Ireland”. He continued. “I am”, I replied. “Do you know Fr. Carroll”, he asked. I replied that I had not met him but heard of him. I told him that he is now back in Ireland. “Ah!”. He said. He went on to tell me about the day this tall Irish man came to his village. How as a child he ran after the small car and this man made his way to the meet village Alkalo (Chief). He recounted how they all sat under a tree as this man dressed in a long white robe spoke to them. He spoke in their own language. He told them of the Christian faith, of school, of development projects, of hope and newness. That evening they all sat and ate together. Their talk was of new things, of something that promised to be good for their community.
In the simplest ways, in small gathering, in speaking of hope and newness, in listening to the dreams of young and old. It was in these instances that the word of God was spoken to people we all heard of when we were growing up in Ireland, people from far away countries and continents, form exotic sounding places. In many instances those who heard the Word did not follow the Christian way, yet the kindness of these men and women who went to help them lived forever in their memories and hearts. Their teaching and the example of their lives made a deep impression on them.
In the scriptures for today Ezra opens the Book of the Law and reads for the people. He made a deep impression on them. They feasted having heard the Word. He made a deep impression on them. In the gospel passage for today’s Mass Jesus visits his home village and there he proclaims the word of God to the people who gather for prayer in the synagogue. “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”. His teaching made a deep impression on the people. His love, compassion and healing touched the lives of those he encountered.
Maybe you are reading this reflection without first having read the reading allocated for Mass today. I invite you to take a little quiet time, time alone to read slowly and thoughtfully the Word of God for today. (Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10. 1 Cor. 12:12-30 and Luke1:1-4, 4:14-21). Let his word come to you, speak to you like Ezra did for the people, like the Irish priest coming to the rural Gambian village, like Jesus speaking to the hearts of the people in the synagogue. Only when we allow God to speak to our hearts can we really begin to accept that God calls each one of us to be an announcer of his word in our daily lives.
“Your words are Spirit, Lord, and they are life. Speak to me today, Lord. Open my ears to listen, my heart to accept and my hands to share your word through deeds of kindness, love and compassion.”