There are only two weeks left of the liturgical year and so our readings are focused 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 and throughout every generation of human history, are experiencing division, polarization, abuse, and violence, such that it appears like our church, society, and government are coming apart at the seams. This reality is not an invitation for indifference, cynicism, despair, or to retaliate with more hatred 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.’
An answer to the growing division and polarization is not to curve in upon oneself, to hide in our shell, and/or to put our head in the sand.
Jesus built the Church one person, one relationship at a time. We are to do the same. At our parish of St Peter we have been inviting our parishioners to gather weekly in small groups. This practice has provided opportunities to come together to learn more about our faith and share our journey. One of the strengths of the small group JoAnn and I joined is that we respect the diversity of each of our viewpoints. We each see issues from our unique perspectives and often do not agree with each other but we afford one another the opportunity to share our viewpoints freely and openly, listen to each other, while respecting and loving each other in the process.
Even on the nights when we were too tired to attend, JoAnn and I felt blessed when we went. We grew closer over the years, so much so, that each person in our small group played a significant part in JoAnn’s funeral Mass. Even through this time of pandemic we continue to meet together through ZOOM, although I have only recently returned as I continue to recover from pneumonia. The latest blessing came on September 25, when I was able to bless Katie and Michael’s daughter Marcella!
Differences do not have to mean division. 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 can dismantle walls of division and dehumanization and instead build bridges of encounter by broadening our experiences and perspectives so to be more willing to listen to, care for, and serve one another.
Photo: Marcella, one of the newest members of St. Peter Catholic Church!