Sunday, November 18, 2012

Late November . . .

. . . is my favorite time of the year.  I love the skeletal nature of the trees against the sky and everything else about it.  The colors are lovely in October but it isn't really autumn until Thanksgiving is here.  

I celebrated the 10 AM Mass here at Campion this AM.  Given the change to Standard Time I found myself sitting in the celebrant's chair almost blind from the sun streaming in from the east windows.  No complaints just noting the fact.  

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  
Dn 12:1-3
Ps 16 5-11
Mk 13:24-32

The apocalyptic tenor of today's readings and Gospel tell us that the end of the liturgical year is rapidly approaching.  Next Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, marks the end of the year.  The following Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.  The Gospel of Mark will be replaced by Luke on Sundays.  Year I will replace Year II in the daily readings.

Apocalyptic is a genre that  strikes fear in the hearts of preachers, bizarre thinking in the minds of millennialists and perplexity in most of the rest of the faithful.   Apocalyptic is many things.   Ancient Near Eastern science fiction is not one of those things. 

Apocalyptic is a literature of hope.  However, it is a literature of hope that emerged during times of persecution.  The imagery is odd and, at times, plainly weird.  It is, however, neither bizarre nor odd to those for whom it was written.  Apocalyptic was a way of engendering hope in those suffering persecution while hiding the message from the persecutors.  Even today some of the symbolism and meaning in apocalyptic remains hidden from interpreters and commentators.

One of the unhealthy ways of meditating on readings such as these, readings that describe those who will be saved, and those who won't, is to assume oneself among the saved, then to make a list of family, friends, and co-religionists who will be among the elect, and then make the opposite list of co-workers, the date who stood you up for the prom, a particularly unhelpful provincial, and those whose religious thought is different from yours, and assign them among those not destined to be saved.  Dante, of course, created a masterpiece out of such thinking, but most of us are not Dante.  

The reading from Daniel, the first truly eschatological book in the Bible,  comes toward the end of the book.  It is less obscure than much of what precedes it.  But, for the time it was radical.  It was radical in its description of the resurrection of the dead and even more radical with the mention of life everlasting. 

Like the nature of the reading from Daniel, the Gospel, taken from what is called, Jesus' Eschatological Discourse, is not warm, cuddly, or consoling. The images are terrifying.  In the earlier verses of this discourse, Jesus described the earthly manifestations of the tribulation: wars, reports of wars, earthquake, famine and a general breakdown of society.  It reads like the headlines in today's papers.

In today's reading Jesus details the cosmic signs that will follow the earthly chaos of the tribulation.  The cosmic signs also sound as if they were taken from contemporary headlines, particularly the headlines a few weeks ago detailing the devastation of the tropical storm.  It wasn't bad here in Weston. Inconvenient is a good word.  But for the people of Queens, NY it appeared as if the tribulation was occurring.  And it was. 

The earthly and cosmic signs of Jesus coming have been happening for millennia. They will continue to happen in the millennia to come until time ceases to exist.  Just as the Church repeats the liturgical cycles from Advent to the Feast of Christ the King, the signs of end of times continue to cycle.  Thus we see the problem of time as we understand it.  Our time and God's time are not at all the same. 

The first words of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament are: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  The penultimate verse of Revelation the final book of the New Testament is:  "Surely I am coming soon."  All of Scripture is contained within a parenthesis of time: the beginning of time and the end of time.

God transcends both cosmic time, the rhythms of nature, the cycle of days and nights, of seasons and epochs.  But He also transcends historical time, the only concept of time with which we are truly comfortable.  The form of time we have superimposed over cosmic time.  Thus, most of us are preparing for Christmas 2012.  A 65th birthday may have passed or be on the horizon. Tomorrow afternoon is already booked.  The date on which one will die is a mystery.

Prognostication has been a fact of life since ancient times.  Nostradamus. Tarot cards and other pagan divinations. The Farmer's Almanac. The Weather Channel (highly suspect prognostications).  We want to know the how, the why, and the when.  It is not for us to know.  "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  Most of us will never be comfortable with that saying. 

Thus we heard in the Alleluia.  "Be vigilant at all times.  And pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man."
It is fun taking photos of abstract shapes, shadows and colors.  Things that both are and aren't figurative.  Thus today's shots.  They are the kind of photos upon which you can project anything you want.  

The first is balls at a kindergarten in Viet Nam in a rope basket.  They look a lot like mints. 

The next was down by the pond at Campion Center.  The color here was admittedly manipulated to within an inch of its life.   The rushes were, in fact, green.
The skylight of the elevator shaft at Campion is a study in light and dark as the sun is rising in the east. 
A poster at Wu-ling Mountain in Taiwan has definitely seen better days.  Rain and humidity (not too bad at that elevation) extracted quite a toll.  
 Finally, the view straight down from the roof at Campion of a rubber mat on the floor of a veranda overlooking the ambulatory.  It was partially dry from overnight dew.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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