Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
The Gospel at first glance does not seem to resonate with ‘good news.’ It is filled with doom – ‘nations will rise against nations,’ ‘there will be great earthquakes,’ ‘they will arrest you and persecute you,’ ‘you will be betrayed even by your parents.’ Hard to see much about good news in any of this. As I write this reflection we are a day before the United States elects a new president. Regardless of the outcome, the strife which has appeared to consume arguably the most powerful nation on earth in the months leading up to this election, may well contribute to the sense of foreboding. If media coverage is accurate, it will take time to mend the divisions which have surfaced during the campaign. The Gospel speaks what we are presently living.
Yet, with all of that, there are glimpses of hope. ‘Do not be terrified,’ ‘I will give you words and a wisdom,’ ‘not a hair of your head will perish,’ Jesus tells us. It is, Jesuit priest John Kavanaugh says, as though Christ is “counseling us not to be alarmed at our condition,” because this is the condition of every time. War and disaster, much as we would want it to be otherwise, appears to be part of the human state. There is nothing new under the sun the writer of Ecclesiastes has told us. The world is always in the midst of upheaval, disaster, war, uncertainty. And every day brings death. “Each day is the last. Each time is the end time. Each human being faces the end of the world in the span of a life, whether it reach eight minutes or eighty years. The world, its opportunities and losses, passes away for us each night. Every sunset announces a closing of a day that will never come again,” Kavanaugh reminds us.
It is easy to hear the voices of hate; it is easy to be corrupted by fear; it is easy to let our fear lead us to hate. When we learn to hear instead the voice of the one who loves us, the one who brings us comfort, the one who assures us he is with us always, then we feel differently. Then reason, trust, hope prevail and can bring peace and harmony, respect and tolerance. This takes faith … and it also takes patience. Because it is hard to be a voice of love in a climate of hatred.
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy draws to its conclusion on November 20th with the Feast of Christ the King. This year of mercy, however, is not a one of … we are tasked to live every year as a year of mercy. Mercy, Pope Francis says, “is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace.” (MV#2) It is the bridge that connects us to God, and in so doing “opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever.” (MV#2) Mercy, therefore, benefits not only the person to whom we extend mercy; it benefits us who are merciful as well, by helping us to become joyful and serene.
I learned long ago, that the only actions I could control were my own. If I can hear, and believe, the words of Jesus when he says ‘do not be terrified,’ maybe then I can become the person of mercy I am meant to be. And through that, gain my soul.