“Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…he comes to save you!” Isaiah 35:4-7a.
A friend of mine once told me that Ireland is a land of a thousand welcome, or maybe ten thousand welcomes.
In this Rosary Chapel, today we celebrate a particular Sunday at a table of welcome where we encounter the Lord in his word and the Eucharist.
Ours is a welcoming Sunday, most especially for those who have arrived at Santa Catalina and are just getting familiar with its class schedule, residents halls, customs, and yes, the cafeteria menu as well as meeting faculty and your classmates.
Let me provide insight into our religious and liturgical practice toward the end of Mass. But for the moment, welcome!
Every Christian asks this central question: who is the person of Jesus for us? Our replies may differ, but here’s mine. Jesus is the source of great hope even in a challenging world.
From today’s readings, we read of Jesus as a healer and a prophetic herald. So, let’s consider these themes of herald and healer.
Jesus & Isaiah, Heralds of a New Age
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks of a kinder, gentler, and even tender world.
Right now, we, too, await a transformed world. Isaiah comes to our rescue every time we read about his vision for hope. Any careful reading of Isaiah, you might say, tells us he was a troubadour, a singer of ballads, someone who resonated with the song of a new world that was coming.
If you exit our campus and go to the right on Mark Thomas Drive, only about a half-mile, you come to the Monterey Fair Grounds, once part of the Crocker Estate, and the Del Monte Hotel that included most of the land in this area.
Now, of course, you see the Monterey Fair Grounds, a venue for many events, including the yearly jazz festival but more remembered explicitly for the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Legendary singers like Janis Joplin, Otis Redding sang there. So too, Cass Elliot, a member of the Mamas & the Papas whose many hits, including “Monday, Monday” and “California Dreamin.” These days, during this recall election on September 14, we’re not so much dreaming.
One of Cass Elliot’s songs is “New World Coming,” a pronounced hope for a challenging time then and now. “Yes, a new world’s coming, the one we’ve had visions of – coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.”
Here are the lyrics:
There’s a New World Coming, and it’s just around the bend.
There’s a new world coming, this one’s coming to an end.
There’s a new voice calling, you can hear it if you try.
And it’s growing strong, with each day that passes by.
Yes, a new world’s coming, the one we’ve had visions of
Coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.
Isaiah reminds us: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…he comes to save you.”
Jesus, Healer of Souls
For the past few weeks, we have been reading Mark’s gospel, where Jesus and his band of followers go to the edges of their territory, bringing healing and hope to people in need.
Today, we read that Jesus is in the district of Decapolis as he reaches out and touches new people. Some scholars claim these souls may be Greek-speaking Gentiles. The non-Jews in this passage listened not only to Jesus’s words of encouragement but also were witnesses of his healing power, a sign of Jesus’s embrace beyond the boundaries of Israel.
Consider Jesus as an authentic healer of souls, someone who looked into people’s lives and took on those challenging health issues that afflicted them. As far as we can tell, so many centuries later, Jesus made an impact on people. He empowered them.
Central to Jesus’s message is this extraordinary healing power of his that defines his life. We celebrate in him how we must take notice of those in need around us. Taking note of those challenges and how to empower the best people may require us to make accommodations to advance their lives.
No better example of empowerment in these past few days is the Paralympics Games in Tokyo. These past two weeks witnessed 4,537 elite athletes from 163 countries who competed in 28 individual sports. Women and men with a range of physical and intellectual challenges, often the result of amputation or muscular dystrophy, post-polio, or spina bifida. These athletes competed in individual sports such as swimming and team sports such as volleyball, basketball, rugby in wheelchairs.
These women and men amaze us and remind us that even our physical trials can be made into our most significant assets with courage and resilience.
Those who watched Jesus from the shores of the Sea of Galilee were astonished and said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Jesus noticed those in need, and so must we address inequities in the workplace or our schools and public transport.
Courage in the face of life’s challenges and the healing work of Jesus continues in us.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School Monterey, CA.