Courage and Hope

The following is taken from a brief homily given at the noon Mass at Santa Clara Mission on Tuesday, November 27.  This is the week between the end of the liturgical year (last Sunday) and the start of Advent, this coming Sunday– a season of hope.  The church continues, however, to offer readings from the Book of Revelation and apocalyptic passages from the gospels.  “Apocalypse,” by the way, means “unveiling”-— and it is helpful to ponder what may be unveiled, or disclosed, in the darker moments of our lives, and of the age in which we live.

In these days leading up to Advent, we continue to be treated to explosive imagery, now in the gospels themselves.  Each of the Synoptic gospels has a “little apocalypse,” giving us a sense of the outlook of people in the wake of the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  These little apocalypses disclose the panic and fear that people were feeling at the time—perhaps not unlike the fear people today feel in the wake of mass shootings, megafires, hurricanes, climate change, ecological devastation, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and racism, the worldwide surging of refugees seeking safe haven from violence and death, the implosion of institutions and the moral instability of our elected leaders.  And each of us has our own “little apocalypses”— life-changing tragedies, losses, or impossibilities with which we must somehow cope.  In the Gospel today, the memory of Jesus is set within the context of such a wide amphitheater of suffering and fear.  Yet he counsels:  Do not be terrified; do not be afraid.  I am here; God remains present in the midst of all of this.

What this means is that we have good reason to enter into the present historical moment in a spirit of courage, even of hope.  And we can face our own “apocalypses” with courage, too. Yes we must always work against the forces of evil and falsehood in our midst; Jesus warns against false leaders who would manipulate fear with their lies (and of this we have ample evidence; there are Herods in every generation).  But, Jesus points out, the real sense of crisis we experience does not point to the end of the world in a literal sense—only to the end of the world as we know it.  For, in the eyes of a hope-filled faith, these crisis points, these signs, are oblique harbingers of a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21) that God is already bringing about, even though we cannot always see this happening because of our creaturely myopia and fear of change.  Yet we have the assurance that nothing whatsoever, no form of suffering and not even death itself, can stand between us and the love of God in Jesus Christ (Rom 8).  Love is the one thing that remains and upon which we can build a future.

In times of fear, then, and even in the face of death, we are not alone.  We can move forward in courage on a road paved by hope.

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