Today’s reading can be unsettling and disturbing. We hear about the disintegration of the world in the most graphic of terms. As usual we have to put these readings into context. Daniel wrote about 200 years before the birth of Jesus. At that time, the Greeks occupied the land and they were trying to unify their empire by imposing Greek thinking and beliefs on everyone. In Daniel’s time, it was a crime to practice the Jewish faith and many died for doing so. We know this from the Book of Maccabees and the story of the mother of seven sons whom she encouraged to die rather than deny their faith. Though Daniel writes of a future time what he is trying to do is encourage the people of his time to be faithful to the teaching and traditions of their ancestors. Those who are faithful would be vindicated.
The same is true of Mark – the people of his time were suffering under the persecution of Nero and many were dying for the faith and so Mark too points to a time of deliverance when all will be made right and good and faithful people would be vindicated by the victorious Christ.
We’ve all experienced occasions in our lives when we felt our world was fall apart – we couldn’t cope with what was happening around us – we were swamped with anxieties. It may have been the shattering news of serious illness, the sudden death of a spouse or a child – the loss of a job and career, the ending of a marriage or an important relationship or it could be a sense of being betrayed or let down by someone in whom we really trusted. And yet when we look back we see that we’ve come through these hard times and have moved on, better persons for having endured them.
In a way it’s the make up of the very process of life itself – death and resurrection. There was a book out years ago called ‘Passages’ and it dealt with the different critical phases we go through in life – times of crisis which can become times of growth. The author uses the example of the lobster to make her point. For a lobster to grow it has to shed the very shell that protects it because that shell is hampering its growth – and as its new shell grows to fit its growing body the lobster is in a state of total vulnerability – but unless it sheds its old protective shell and faces that time of danger – it will die, crushed by its old shell. Its very vulnerability is its source of growth and life. When we reflect on our lives we can see how our personal crises image this example of the lobster. We are strong and have the ability to move on in and thru times of vulnerability and struggle.
Today’s readings are very fitting for our parish family – we’ve had our own cataclysmic events. We’ve grieved over the loss of a church that was our home for over 50 years, a church in which we celebrated countless baptisms, wedding and funerals, a church in which we gathered for Sunday Mass for years. It was hard to say good bye – I know many in the parish felt uprooted, some told me of how they cried when they saw our old church demolished – it hurt them to see this happen. I understand this. As I mentioned before, it was traumatic to celebrate the morning Masses and see, even as I celebrated, the demolition of a church and monastery that have part and parcel of my life since 1960. It was truly an “ending”.
But today we celebrate a new day and a new church. Cardinal Ambrozic will dedicate our new church this afternoon. It’s a new beginning but with links to our past – we still celebrate at the same altar, baptize at the same baptismal font, reverence to the same tabernacle, sit in the same pews and most importantly pray and praise with the same good people.
In this new space and place we will try, as we did in our old place, to believe, belong and become. We will struggle together to grow to full maturity in Christ and come to a deeper reverence for the beauty of God’s good creation and grow in our awareness of our place within the life communities of Earth and do what we can by simplifying our life styles to bring about the healing of the Earth.
So as we continue this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that, in an attitude of gratitude, we will give thanks to God for bringing our parish family to this day and this space.