33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2019
Sr. Phyllis Jaszkowiak
If headlines were relevant in biblical times, today’s readings might have these headlines. All the proud and evildoers are stubble! Fire claims them! Neither root nor branch is left! The Jerusalem temple is destroyed! No stone upon a stone is left! Demagogues rule the earth, lies seem to be reality! War is declared again! Earthquakes, famines and plagues are rampant! Truth tellers are sent to prison! No one is safe anymore!
Our headlines scream: Deadly school shooting in Southern California – 30th this year! Cease fire in Middle East not working! People flee violence in their countries and become refugees in limbo! US President declares no more asylum seekers to be let into this country! Wildfires destroy much of central California! Deliberately set fires destroy the Amazon Forests! Indigenous people are killed as they protest the takeover of their lands for profit! And on it goes.
Sometimes I just quit reading or listening to the news just to be at peace for a while. But that does not stop the violence, the greed, the conquest to control and dominate. No, we need to act, to resist, to let love and compassion take over.
As I pondered today’s readings, when the world was also in turmoil, the only thing that will save us is God. Not the God of our imaginations who will come and conquer all evil with power and might. No, God comes with compassion, right judgment, looking out for the poor, the outcast, the vulnerable of this world. As Richard Rohr says, “God is the ultimate nonviolent one, so we dare not accept any theory of salvation that is based on violence, exclusion, social pressure, or moral coercion. God saves by loving and including, not by excluding or punishing.”
In 2016 Pope Francis named the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, this Sunday”, “World Day of the Poor.” The poor are the ones who suffer the most during times of chaos and change. The poor are also the ones God nudges and pushes us to help, to serve, to uplift.
This is a tall order. However, we do have help, if we dare enough to grow into it. Jesus says, “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”
As I was reading a meditation the other day a portion of a 2015 Facebook entry was there written by a man in France, Antoine, whose wife was killed in a terrorist attack in Paris. He wrote, addressing the terrorists, “On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person – the love of my life, the mother of my son – but you will not have my hatred. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.” Believing that love in the end is stronger even than death, Antoine closes his letter by saying, “My son and I are stronger than all the armies in the world… we are going to play as usual… You will not have his hatred either.”
Jesus will give us the wisdom, as he did this father and son, but we have to listen closely to be sure that what we hear is God speaking to us and not just our own biases or hatreds taking over. It takes deep thought, deep prayer, deep listening to speak, and live, God’s truth and love.
Pope Francis is experiencing attacks as he calls the church to be a poor Church for the poor, full of compassion and love. Those attacking him seem to be wealthy people whose god seems to be capitalism and money. However, St. Paul says, “Our Savior is Jesus Christ, who lived and died for us.”
This is the message we proclaim, Jesus Christ – God - is Savior of us all – poor, rich, all colors, all genders, all cultures, creation itself. God works through us to bring this love and compassion to birth. As Mary McGlone says, “The Gospel tells us that we can accept today’s crisis – from the personal to the cosmic – as a God-given occasion of grace and opportunities to give witness. Christ promises to be with us, if we will only rely – or rely only – on Christ.”
And as the Prophet Malachi says, “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”