Summary: Our Lord forever is pouring out on us His grace and goodness so that we will learn to do the same thing for Him and for other people.
Feast of St. Lucy 2018
The constant temptation human beings face is to turn God’s intention for man upside down. Instead of us following the plan to be remade into God’s image, we are constantly trying the impossible. We attempt to remake God in our own image–venal and selfish and cruel and hopelessly centered on self. God is just the opposite. He forever is pouring out on us His grace and goodness so that we will learn to do the same thing for Him and for other people.
The people of Isaiah’s time had to learn that the hard way. It may very well be that nearly all of us have to learn that the hard way. We try everything else, fail and become miserable, and then think, “maybe I should try God’s way.” In this passage Isaiah calls the descendants of Jacob the patriarch “a worm.” It’s hard to think of a more apt phrase for a nation that has given up the grace of God for the trash of false gods. Earthworms essentially spend their lives eating decayed waste in the soil. The people of Israel had done that ever since they set foot in Palestine. God promises to turn them into what we would call a mechanical combine, preparing the earth and planting good seed. Moreover, God would take a dry land–much of Palestine is desert-like–and turn it into rich agricultural earth fit for all kinds of useful vegetation. We can read that as a promise to turn the dryness of our spiritual lives into fertile ground for evangelization. That promise has been fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus.
In the life of our Lord, John the Baptist was the one who finished the time of prophecy that led up to the birth of Jesus. He was like Elijah, who was raised up by God’s power in a prior time of apostasy. Just as Elijah called for a return to the worship of the true God, and to justice for the poor, so John did. John even called his listeners a “brood of vipers,” to get them to listen to the word of God.
Today we take a little break from our Advent discipline to celebrate the great festival of light, Santa Lucia of Syracuse. “According to the traditional story, Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283. Her father was of Roman origin, but died when she was five years old, leaving Lucy and her mother without a protective guardian.” We don’t have a well-documented biography of Lucy.
“Like many of the early martyrs, Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God, and she hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. However, Eutychia, not knowing of Lucy's promise, and suffering from a bleeding disorder, feared for Lucy's future. She arranged Lucy's marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Saint Agatha had been martyred 52 years before during the Decian persecution. . .Eutychia was persuaded to make a pilgrimage to her shrine, in hopes of a cure. While there, St. Agatha came to Lucy in a dream and told her that because of her faith her mother would be cured and that Lucy would be the glory of Syracuse, as [Agatha] was of Catania. With her mother cured, Lucy took the opportunity to persuade her mother to allow her to distribute a great part of her riches among the poor.”
“News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to Lucy's betrothed, who denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Paschasius ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image. When she refused Paschasius sentenced her to be defiled in a brothel. The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword.”
Into the legend at some point was introduced the idea that Lucy had her eyes gouged out, perhaps as part of her torture. But at her death and burial, her eyes had been restored. So Lucy is patron saint of the blind and of those who work with the blind.
Lucy is one of the eight women who are commemorated in the Canon of the Mass–the first Eucharistic prayer. She appears in many works of literature and art, and is invoked whenever there is any eye disease or loss of spiritual sight. A great saint for our era of spiritual blindness. St. Lucy, pray for us.