33rd Sunday of the Year

Heaven and earth will pass away

I read in the newspaper last week that there is someone alive already in the world who is likely to live to be 200 years old. Just imagine that; perhaps my young grandson will still be around in 2215! Golly what a prospect.

Of course in the grand scheme of things 200 years is not that long. When you think that the world has been around for a few billion, we immediately recognise that time is relative and that comparisons of longevity don’t really make a lot of sense. So in a way today’s gospel isn’t trying to frighten us into thinking that the end of the world is nigh and that we’re all doomed, (although it might be and we may be). More realistically
Jesus is providing us with a reality check. Read the signs of the times, he’s saying, and begin to interpret what is happening, but do so in the light of what your faith tells you. The time to act is now and so what does our faith tell us? Well we have his words which he assures us will never pass away even if situations change and civilisations fall and new ones rise.

I think this is the great comfort of the gospel. It encourages us to be alive and active, to see our world and our environs as something generative and affirming. When Jesus teaches us, he does so in order to enhance our lives with his love and goodness. His whole response to human suffering and tragedy is to hold up to us the prospect of something better, something more meaningful which will emerge from whatever difficulty we experience. When we think of the people in the gospel whose lives have been damaged or blighted and who subsequently encounter Jesus, their response towards him is always viewed from the point of view of their faith: “Go on your way, your faith has saved you”.

Now of course this isn’t to say that every problem or every mess is going to be neatly resolved following a last minute plea or a desperate prayer – it’s not blind faith we’re talking about here. Rather it is the action of love and goodness which transcends the seemingly impossibility of making good a hopeless situation, and turning it into something positive. It is a process of conversion which asks that we look at our lives from a different perspective: one of faith. This is a challenge because it asks us to be brave and to see our afflictions and our baggage as a type of prefiguring of the moment of crisis which brings about the onset of a new beginning, the commencement of a new path. As a result heaven and earth i.e. our old way of assessing and looking at things, will pass away and the new order of Chris will come to pass and remain.

I think in a way, that Pope Francis is looking towards such new horizons with his calling us, the Church, to live lives of mercy. He wants to re-form the Church as the instrument or sacrament of God’s mercy in the image of Jesus, walking his pathway of compassion and love in a world where the images we see and the signs we read seem to convey a hardening of hearts. Maybe the time for this is coming and the hour has begun and we know that clocks don’t tick in eternity.

The Year of Mercy is about to unfold amongst us and may it bring many blessings. As we live through it we will do so accompanied by St Luke as our evangelist. He will recount once more the compassion of the Good Samaritan along with the mercy of the forgiving Father. Let us strive to make its effects alive amongst us, bringing about a conversion hearts and minds to the love of God.

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