Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2007
The end is coming indeed! The Parish Centre will be demolished beginning on the 10th December! We are committed. This is scary. I cannot even think about Christmas yet. Even though it is exciting to be involved in a new venture there is always a bit of fear about whether one has covered all the angles. There is a bit of the unknown about the new and what things will be like without the old. Last Friday we removed the heavy steel cross from the front ridge of the house. It has been there since 1926. It will be refurbished and re-erected on the new building.
The liturgy reflects on the end time, too, the Day of the Lord. There are elements of both fear and joy involved here too. "But for you who fear my name..." the prophet says in the first reading (Malachi 3:19-20).The fear that arises here is not the fear one has when watching a horror movie alone at night and then being unable to sleep! God is not a bogey man. The imagery used is strong but the reality is strong too. We fear God in a healthy way when we have that awe and wonder towards someone who is much greater than ourselves. The reverence of the creature before the creator. God does not exist just to make me happy and prevent any harm coming to me. We are not really the centre of God's universe. God is the centre of our universe. It is only when we have this kind of reverence for God that we will begin to understand how wonderful God's love for us really is.
So when we hear of all the terrible things that Jesus predicts in the Gospel and which are all around us in our world we could think that God does not really care. That is a common criticism of God from people who seem to think they know the mind of God. God just does not measure up for some! Jesus simply lists what will come. But they will come whether we believe in God or not. God is not God to keep us out of harms way, to get me the parking space instead of someone else or to save me from a flood or drought. Nor is religion about placating a despotic tyrant of a God for whom we are playthings.
Our discipleship of Jesus is a path of patient endurance, Jesus says. We do have times of pessimism and times of optimism. And there is no basis in the bible for the concept of inevitable progress in human affairs. We are not promised that things will get better and better. On the contrary, Jesus prepares us for things getting worse before they get better. In fact, his disciples seem to be in for a worse time than most. Pope John Paul II summed this up in one of his letters:
"In today's world, including the world of economics, the prevailing picture is one destined to lead us more quickly toward death rather than one of concern for true development which would lead all toward a more human life." John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, (On Social Concern) 1987, 24.
Yet we are people of hope not of despair even though at times we can be very depressed. We persevere with the support of those around us. We are confident that God is not just playing with us, nor just testing us. This is the life and the world God has given us. While we await the coming of the reign of God we do not sit in idleness as interfering busybodies. We have work to do, as St Paul tells the people of Thessaly (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the previous week had been a difficult time in the parish. Some who commented thought that I was referring to myself having a difficult time. That was true. But I was really speaking of the struggle that many people were having both in ministry and with life in general. I was thinking also of the struggle the Parish has in being true to it's mission with all the human foibles and frailties with which we all live. That is true in any human community, our families included. The Church is not any one person. It is all of us who are members of Christ. When one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers.
Our hope is in God who leaves us free to accept or reject his love. The prophet Malachi continues, " the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays". The day of the Lord is a day of healing and purifying for those who fear God's name.
It is good to remember that the "Day of the Lord" is also the name of Sunday, The Lord's Day. Time is not relevant here. We today celebrate what was, what is, and what is to come.
In the year 304AD in North Africa, in the midst of the persecutions of the time, some Christians were arrested for gathering to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday. When the leader was asked why he had allowed the people to gather in his house, he said that they were his brothers and sisters. When told he should not have done so he replied, "Without the day of the Lord, we cannot live."
We are brothers and sisters. This is the Day of the Lord.