Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
I am beginning to find it very difficult to look at the many images we see of people and animals maimed, tortured, killed by other humans, and of the earth despoiled by greed and war. But I make myself look, hard at it is, because I have to confront the reality of what exactly is going on-and I have to say it is distressing!
Sometimes it is the smallest image that opens up the compassionate heart and the gift of tears. This week by accident I came across a short video of battery chickens in a lorry, on their way to slaughter, only one little bird had stuck his head out of the crate, and was being stroked by a kind person. They had written, 'he grew up without his mother, this is now the only time he has seen daylight, and the first time he has known human kindness', what was heart-breaking was the look on that little birds face, of what those of us who love animals can say is contentment and happiness. It's still with me as a symbol of so much that is terrible, yet even in the tears that came and still come, (for it is a powerful image of so much love that is badly needed).
I hope that the kind, good, Lord, who loved chickens now gathers all those chicks under his wings, unto the Eden of God in his Kingdom. I'm definitely a person who accepts all life and love is caught up in the glory yet to come!
So that awful story from Maccabees of the seven brothers and their mother tortured by the tyrant Antiochus, is one that resonates for me, with that small, powerful, painful image of a little bird going to death. These brothers and their mother endured torture, death and annihilation for what many would see as a useless cause, so why not compromise, why not simply keep quiet? But there it is, things are not always going to be easy, and people are asked and choose to give up their life for what they believe in, but, and here is where the scriptures also take us, sometimes they have no choice, that is simply what is going to happen, for people, innocent people, innocent creatures, are put to death for a variety of reasons, without their consent. It is for all of them that the words of the Mother to one of her sons, sings out across time, for you, for me , for all those innocent ones who have suffered and been killed, even that little chick:
"I do not know how you came to be in my womb; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law."(2 Mc 7: 22-23)
That cry, almost a psalm, is one of such hope in the face of the unimaginable mess we make, God in his mercy does not let this be an end! Jesus in the tale of the seven brothers and marriage is pushing us to a similar point, beyond our imaginings; beyond even the limitations of human hope, is the great compassion and eternal hope of God. Of course there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven, there is no need because we are in a 'new creation', as Jesus tells us clearly
:"…those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise" (Lk 20: 35-36)
So as we remember the dead in November, with Remembrance Sunday, as we protest and work to save our planet and give dignity to each other and the those living creatures we are supposed to care for, we too can hold fast to the example of the good ones, who in big and a small gestures, like the brothers and their mother and the unknown people who reach out to the smallest of living creatures and like that kind person comforting the little bird, so that we in our turn can ever be grateful for the hope given us in Christ, his unfailing promise that all will rise with him to life!
Fr Alexander Schmemann: For The Life of the World
"In the radiance of His light the world is not commonplace. The very floor we stand on is a miracle of atoms whizzing about in space. The darkness of sin is clarified, and its burden shouldered. Death is robbed of its finality, trampled down by Christ's death. In a world where everything that seems to be present is immediately past, everything in Christ is able to participate in the eternal present of God."
Psalm 145 v 8 to the end.
The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will praise you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
12 They will tell about your mighty deeds
and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule throughout all generations.
The Lord always keeps his promises;
he is gracious in all he does.
14 The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
but he destroys the wicked.
21 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever.
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