There are only two weeks left of the liturgical year, and so our readings will focus on the eschatological or end times. These writings are also called apocalyptic because they unveil or reveal hope to a people in dark times of oppression. They are addressing the issue of where is God in the midst of our suffering.
Their focus is not that we are to know the exact time and hour of the end, as Jesus revealed in the Gospel: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32).
The focus instead is, as recorded in our first reading from Daniel: whose name is written in the book (Daniel 12:1)? and in Hebrews10:12, that Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God forever.
What our readings reveal for us today is that what is important is relationship. We are not written in the book of life by some predestined oracle such that we are merely pawns on God’s chessboard. We are written in the book of life because we have been saying yes to the invitation of building our relationship with Jesus and his Father through the love of the Holy Spirt.
Today, we, as have those in the times of the Bible, are experiencing division, polarization, abuse, and violence, such that it appears like our church, society, and government are coming apart at the seams.
Yet we do not have to give in to indifference, cynicism, despair, or retaliate with hate or violence. We need to remember our first love. We need to deepen our relationship with Jesus who conquered death and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. We need to be open to building relationships with each other.
Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning wrote:
“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in numbers but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’
The answer to the growing and present darkness is not to curve in on oneself, to hide in our shell, to put our head in the sand. We can choose to reach out, be present and accompany one another.
Jesus built the Church one person, one relationship at a time. We are to do the same. At our parish, St Peter, for the past two years we have been implementing this model of building small groups of relationships. In these small weekly groups, we come together to learn more about our faith and share our journey together.
A strength of our small group is that we respect the diversity of our own viewpoints. We each see issues in our unique perspectives and do not always agree with each other but we afford one another the opportunity to share our various viewpoints freely and openly, while respecting and loving each other in the process.
By engaging in authentic and respectful dialogue, we can vent, listen, encourage, provide support, share advice, and lean on each other with each of the struggles that we face and the joys we experience. As we do so, we dismantle walls of division and dehumanization and instead build bridges of encounter by broadening our experience, vision and perspective. Daniel shared in our first reading:
“the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
We shine like stars in the growing darkness of division and polarization by living out our baptismal call, by listening to, caring for and serving one another, by building relationships of love and support.
Photo: Engaged in dialogue with my brother, mentor and friend Dr. Sixto Garcia.