With grateful hearts we say goodbye to St. Mark and his wonderful Gospel. Over the last year, we have sung Marks’ prayer-song that it will be ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We have nurtured this Sacred awareness of the presence of God in our lives, and have been pulled back to earth with Heavens Agenda. We are heavens children, with the earth in our hands, shaping it into the world God wants.
And now, as we begin 2022, we continue the journey in the company of St. Luke. Take his Gospel close to your heart now. Use it to nourish your prayer and understanding in the months ahead. The golden thread of Luke’s Gospel is his unashamed inclusion and exaltation of the poor. The Parable of the relentless widow – our theme for the year – captures beautifully the ebb and flow of justice and mercy hidden in every Parable, every encounter with Jesus.
On this first day of the new year – the first Sunday in Advent – I want to invite everyone to enjoy the Season of Advent. It is a precious time of preparation for the Great Feast and Feasts of Christmastide. If we start celebrating too early, we might lose some of the depth and resonance Advent wraps around the Christmas story, which contain the first hints of the Resurrection of the Beloved Son of God.
We don’t have to look very far to hear talk that our beautiful world is falling apart. In today’s Gospel, the lamps which God hung in the sky to give light are sending out alarm signals. The polluted waters are fighting back, and the earth which God raised up in the waters, to give us a place to stand, is being reclaimed by oceans which are roaring in pain. We are perhaps more frightened now than we ever were of the consequences of the sins we commit on the world. Perhaps we are reminded of Noah, and are looking for rainbows. Perhaps we are asking, ‘Will God keep His promise, even though we keep breaking ours?”
The answer is a resounding Yes! But it is a new Rainbow; and it is the Beloved Son of God. He appears when everything is falling apart. His Advent banishes fear and His strength empowers His disciples to stand up straight. The Beloved Son of God is the new earth, the new place to stand. The waters cannot drown Him. He offers Salvation in the midst of a perishing world.
The collapsing world weighs us down. It fills our hearts with anxiety and paralyses us with fear. There is no anaesthetic available for this pain. We try to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed. But perhaps more from being blinded to the deeper reality. If we do not do this we will be sucked in, dragged down, because alone we are too vulnerable.
The remedy offered by Jesus is prayer and vigilance. As we sink our roots into His spiritual landscape, we can reclaim that true self which cannot be destroyed. Hand in hand with the Beloved Son of God we can find a new courage, not just to survive but to engage with the endings that are to come. Far from cowering before the powers of destruction we lean into them. We hold one another through and beyond every ending which invades our lives.
It does not matter if the ending is present in Global terms, or Social Terms, Political Terms or even in Personal terms. All we know is that these things cannot be avoided. But Jesus teaches the supremacy of the spiritual because it survives whatever history can throw at it. A beautiful story from the Vedanta illustrates this.
Two birds of golden plumage sat in the same tree. The one above, serene, majestic, immersed in its own glory; the one below restless and eating the fruits of the tree, now sweet, now bitter. Once it ate an exceptionally bitter fruit, then it paused and looked up at the majestic bird above; but it soon forgot about the other bird and went on eating the fruits of the tree as before. Again, it ate a bitter fruit, and this time hopped up a few boughs nearer to the bird at the top. This happened many times until at last the lower bird came to the same branch as the higher bird and lost itself. She discovered, in an instant, that there had never been two birds; only one, serene, majestic immersed in glory.
The spiritual instinct at the heart of this Parable is easy to grasp. How all that flows and changes and how all that does not flow and change come together in the end. The absolute triumphs.
In the most threatening moments of our lives, the Beloved Son of God comes as a protecting shelter who will not allow final destruction. To sit with a pair of binoculars watching for ‘Him coming on the clouds of heaven’ is a wonderfully imaginative portrayal and study of Grace. But we should not forget, as we begin this new year, that He can only do this because earlier, and with a loud cry, ‘He breathed His last’ (Mark 15,37)