33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time * Dan 12:1-3, Heb 10:11-25, Mk 13:1-8 * November 18, 2012
When the readings turn apocalyptic, we know Advent’s approaching; we’re completing one church year and preparing to start another. Fall turns to winter, which will turn to spring. Our faith turns on turning. Death is a hinge to resurrection, and every end turns to beginning.
This is good to remember as we hear about super-storms, climate change, spreading war in the Middle East, European debt crises, our own fiscal cliff … and, as my mom said, “Don’t look at the Mayan calendar!” It’s easy to feel a measure of despair, urgency—and powerlessness.
Today’s readings are a meditation on power. Human power: huge stone buildings created… and destroyed. Cosmic power: earthquakes, famines; the dead awakened. The power of divine justice: even the dead partake in the fruits of their actions. And a quieter, redemptive power, the power of the turning: consciences cleansed… covenant restored… conflict turned to communion… laws we once broke now written in our hearts.
Of course commandments writ in stone impressed us. Yet when we hear “thou shalt” as from outside, we easily rebel… and then we think that we can compensate with sacrifice.
This starts the endless cycle Paul describes. Transgression leads to guilt and the attempt to buy off God. We sense that it won’t work—and feel more guilt. Feeling more separate than ever from the voice of what is really our own conscience, we rebel again against our very selves – and then we try to compensate for that…
The one thing that would turn it all around, the one thing that we don’t dare to include, is inner honesty, or as Paul says, sincerity in our hearts… admitting that God’s voice comes from within.
Which takes more power? To tear down stone buildings, or take down the defenses of our egos, built brick by brick by brick over the years? What will it take to dislodge the idols we’ve built into our fortifications, each saying “I am the One” you need: physical safety, money, strength, appearance? What if the good news is… that of the fortresses around our hearts, not one stone will be left upon another?
Fear says it won’t be safe, and it’s too hard. Yet we don’t have to do it all ourselves. For we forget sometimes that we are creatures. And we forget also, so easily, that our Creator loves us and companions us. When we allow it, Christ walks us through the process, the structure of our egos comes apart… we stand in open space and realize that nothing separates us from the love of God.
Each crack in our false safety is to be welcomed. When walls of any kind come down around us, let us remember the One who is within, awaiting our consent to come to birth.
For the people of Syria, Israel and Gaza, that fear and violence may turn to peace, we pray…
For faith communities around the world, that they may lead us in turning to sustainable living…
For this community of Holy Wisdom, that holy wisdom may truly guide our steps, we pray…