Never Growing Tired
"My brothers and sisters, never grow tired of doing what is right." (2 Thess. 3:13).
The simplicity of that advice is quite striking. St Paul is wise in recognising the fragility of our resolutions, the wearing down and wearing out of our good intentions in the abrasiveness of daily living. It is the concluding line of St Paul's advice to the Thessalonians in today's second reading and it is strangely missing from the lectionary.
It actually takes the virtue of courage to stick at what is right over time. Courage and large-heartedness, - what used to be called magnanimity - being big-souled in putting up with the hassle, bustle, the inertia, and all the various frustrations of life, with a warm hearted, strong-minded, large souled perseverance.
Christians see this virtue as a divine gift coming from God and not from themselves. It flows from the divine gift of Hope. Hope in God and trust in the active presence of the risen Christ and His Holy Spirit; in the gifts of the sacraments, the Scriptures and the whole Christian life.
Although Christian Hope finds its fulfilment in the future its dynamic is a matter of the here and now of the present. The Kingdom yet to come has already been given to us, although not yet "on earth as it is in heaven." The hope and joy of the kingdom exists here and now in our common Christian life and in every individual Christian life.
Today's gospel opens with an evocation of the beauty of the Jerusalem temple. In the Passover spring sunlight the majesty of the architecture and the stonework of the House of God is praised. But like the prophet Jeremiah before him Jesus prophesies that "not a stone will be left upon a stone". He goes on to foretell of wars and the violence and civil unrest which will take place in the coming decades. (The temple will be destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70).
But the emphasis in his teaching is not on this stone temple at all, nor even, at this point, about the end of the world. The emphasis lies on his disciples' life in the world in the meantime before his return in glory. And this "meantime" is the crux – "but before all this happens...". His Christian disciples are to be women and men and children of hope and courage and joy, each in their own time and place.
In our own uncertain times now in 2016 there are wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes and disasters. Our Christian brothers and sisters are being brought before the tribunals, harassed and persecuted. The political and international situations are bewilderingly unstable.
In these disconsolate days, Christ calls us now, in our time, to become courageous–and even long-distance–bearers of hope and joy. The Christian vision does not deny the reality of evil, of brokenness, of suffering and sorrow and the fragility of goodness. But there is a transformative agenda to all Christian engagement. In the transfiguring light of the Risen Lord his disciples are called to confront evil and even to suffer under it, but also to curtail its power, to cherish signs of life and light and love and help them to flourish.
The heart of today's gospel is not about doom sayings or apocalyptic sign but a call by our Master to a significant (sign making) lifestyle of transfiguring Hope, large-heartedness, courage and joy. We are to avoid Utopian dreams on the one hand and cynical world weariness on the other. "My brothers and sisters never grow tired of doing what is right."
Fr John Farrell O.P.
Posted in Ordinary Time on Nov 12, 2016