The recent forest fires of California have reduced people’s tangible treasures to stubble, leaving them neither root nor branch. Fire came leaping across roads, hot spots reignited, the roar of fire was followed by complete devastation. That’s why Californians, engulfed in fire, can recognize today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi as describing their lives at this time. Yet beyond the description of engulfing fire, the reader can find hope to go on: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (3.20a) When things are at their worst, have hope.
Devastation leads some to panic, rather than to hope. Panic believes that all that is most important in life is in danger of being lost. Hope says “Yes, there will be losses, some of them monumental, but God is with us to heal and provide in unexpected ways.”
Panic is one response to catastrophe. Another response is lethargy – doing nothing. The Thessolonians we read about in today’s second reading were lethargic. They expected Jesus’ second coming at any moment, so they no longer carried their share of the workload of society. Paul condemned this attitude as unworthy of Christ’s followers. He urged them to keep on keeping on. Rather than cosmic panic or destructive lethargy in the face of all that threatens us, there is a third response – we’ve said it already - hope . Hope is the message of today’s Gospel when we experience today’s catastrophes as our own end times. When our jobs are phased out, when relationships fall apart or illness and death threaten to swamp us, we can say “It’s over!” But, in response, Jesus, in today’s Gospel says to us:
Give witness to the faith that is in you.
Endure in hope .
I will be with you to give you the strength you need.
I will give you the words to say.
“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21.19)
The difference between despair and hope during personal or societal calamities is measured by our openness to the stunning truth that we are:
beckoned by a faithful God who love us.
~Sister Joan Sobala