Sunday, 3 December 2017
The fair was in town once again with all its amusement stalls and tents pitched in the park opposite St Vincent Church. The lights were shining bright on the big wheel, the round-about and other rides, whilst the music blared for miles around.
Father Ignatius was in the church’s car park when he overheard some youngsters talking loudly:
“I’ve had my fortune told by Mystic Matilda. She looked into the glass ball and it turned all full of smoke inside.”
“What did she tell you? You’re a loser and will always be a loser …”
And somehow, just these words, a snip of an overheard conversation became the basis of Father Ignatius’ sermon on Sunday.
He approached the lectern and asked: “Did anybody here go to the fair last night?”
A few nods and yeses greeted his unusual question.
“I hear there was a fortune teller there. Did anyone go to check their fortune?”
Not many volunteers this time.
“Interesting thing telling peoples’ future … it’s all nonsense of course; but then you all know that, don’t you?” asked the priest with a smile.
“Let’s suppose for a minute that it is not nonsense at all. Let’s suppose that the fortune-teller in the park opposite can really tell your future.
“Let’s suppose Mystic Matilda, for that is her name I believe, can really foretell your future and it is really accurate every time. Every little detail of it. And unfortunately for you she predicts a bad future.
“She says that you’ll lose your job within six months. You’ll suffer a terrible painful illness. You’ll have an accident … I’m sure you know what I mean ….
“And you’re certain the fortune-teller is always accurate and these things will happen. There’s no escaping your fate. How do you feel about that?”
Total silence greeted his piercing question; so Father Ignatius pointed to the children sitting up front, “How about you … you look very intelligent to me. Can anyone tell me how you would feel if you knew your future will be bad?”
A young girl raised her hand and said, “I’d feel terrible and very frightened.”
“Yes Louise … you’re right. You’d feel terrible and very frightened indeed. You’d be terrified and most likely want to change your future at all costs.
“Now let me tell you about someone who knew His future well in advance. Probably from the age of twelve; just the same age as you sitting here up front. When He was found by His parents in the temple in Jerusalem.
“He knew then what was going to happen to Him all His life. He knew He would be betrayed by His own follower. He would be arrested. Beaten, spat upon, mocked and tortured. A crown of thorns put on His head. Made to carry His own Cross and then die a most horrible painful death Crucified between two thieves.
“He knew all that throughout His life. Being human He must have shared the same human emotions we have. He would have been very frightened and terrified just like young Louise said.
“Being human He most probably had nightmares about His whole future. How often I wonder as a young teenager did He wake up in the night having seen His future in His dreams. Can you imagine how terrible this must have been? Knowing what would happen to you and there’s no escape?
“Daily His future must have been on His mind. Just seeing the terrible suffering that He had to face must have been in itself a daily torture for Him. All that evil that is to come His way at our hands!
“But did He give up? Did He try to run away from it? Did He try to change His future?
“When He prayed in the garden before His arrest the devil did tempt Him. Jesus did ask God His Father to make it all go away … but then accepted His terrible terrible fate just for us.
“He was both God and man, and as man He suffered all that pain and that horrible death on the Cross, just for us.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a few seconds, then continued.
“And now I want to address you mothers … how would you feel if you knew for certain what would happen to your children? Your loved ones. And you were told for certain that the future would be terrible for them.
“Can you imagine for a moment how Mary felt throughout her life?
“She knew from the moment she presented the baby Jesus in the temple when Simeon told her sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart. She knew then what would happen to her Son.
“Can you imagine that? Raising a little child, hugging Him, loving Him and caring for Him. Teaching Him to take His first faltering steps, teaching Him to talk, feeding Him and looking after Him every day like a devoted loving mother does.
“And knowing every moment she does these loving things what is to happen to her precious child. Knowing every detail that is to happen to Him. How did she cope with her own Cross to carry throughout her life?
“Not only did she carry this terrible pain in her heart throughout her life, but she lived to witness it as well. For she was there, at the foot of the Cross, when her Son breathed His last breath. She held His dead body in her arms. My heart breaks just thinking about it …."
The priest stopped for a while and silently thanked our Lady for accepting her ordeal on our behalf.
“Now what are we to learn from all this?” asked Father Ignatius in a soothing voice.
“Our future is uncertain; we may be concerned, frightened even, about what is to happen to us and to our children. The financial situation in this town is in a very bad state with many losing their jobs. Prospects are none too good, and it is understandable if we sometimes feel a little apprehensive and doubtful.
“Let us learn from Jesus and Mary and take courage. God was always with them and at no time did He abandon them. Nor will He abandon us.
“When we’re feeling anxious and worried let us turn to Mary and ask her help. Let’s implore her to come to our aid. She has lived through terrible times and she’ll know exactly how we feel. And I’m certain she’ll console us and help us to go on; just like she did all those years ago.
“Let’s honour her right now by reciting the Hail Mary …”