In the new Trumpian presidential era, this Sunday’s readings seem to take an extra ominous tone. The prophet Malachi turns up the heat with this scorching observation: “The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble.” (I’m sure I heard something like that during the Presidential debates). The history books will analyse the election result but it now seems that we live in a world intent on turning-in on itself. Brexit, now the political rhetoric of Donald Trump, and not to mention some of our own home-grown agendas, tap into the deep sense of distrust, dis-enfranchisement and fragmentation simmering away in modern western society. In one way or another, many people sense that something isn’t quite right in the world, things seem unstable, and as a result, people come up with quite divergent answers to what they see as the most pressing problems.
Even Jesus comments today that what seems unshakeable in the present, might not be there in the future. Of the great and imposing Temple, Jesus says, “All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.” Jesus was right, of course; about four decades later the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans. But in the midst of all the chaotic rumblings, Jesus also says words of reassurance. The disciples – and we – might live in an age of many heated words and competing ideals, but Jesus says, “Keep the faith! Despite all the noise, I will give you an ‘eloquence and a wisdom’ that cannot be easily defeated.” It is a paradox that at a time in history when we are more prosperous, more educated, more healthy, and have more opportunities to flourish as human beings, we are also haunted by a deep sense of cultural emptiness and dis-satisfaction which entices us to turn towards isolationism and suspicion of the other. In the light of all the rhetorical flourishes of this year – at home and abroad – we are beholden to ask ourselves, “Which voices appeal to our imaginations? What vision of the world do we respond to?” Our contemporary world is awash with words and images, opinions and personalities. In such a world, how do we discover the “eloquence and wisdom” that Jesus promises? Certainly not in the people who yell the loudest, no matter how appealing they might sound. Perhaps this eloquence of which Jesus speaks is the inner whisper of God which we first need to notice, and then listen to with a sense of peaceful reassurance which runs counter to all the anxious agitation of those who can see things crumbling but don’t really know what to do about it. Jesus says that all the shouting of the world won’t help – that only destroys. Wisdom and eloquence born of God and grace are far more useful tools when it comes to re-building all that crumbles before our very eyes.
|Nov 15, 2016||33 Sunday in Ordinary Time 13.11.2016||Listen||Download|