Reflection: 18th November 2012

A Reflection for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 13: 24-32 (

The November days inIrelandare short, the nights are long. There is little light. The darkness is great. This time prompts us to think of the shortness of life enveloped by the great darkness of all that is beyond us. When I was young I feared the dark of the night. Stories were told, lullabies sung, lights dimmed until sleep would come. Snuggled up in my favourite blanket I escaped the limitations of the day and entered into the world of dream to explore the mysterious world of goblins, and monsters, and all kinds of sticky things. In the safety of dream the limitations of the day were put to rest and the fears of life calmed. ‘To sleep, perchance to dream!’ How can we live without the freedom afforded by sleep?

Jesus warns us of great distress and days to come when the sun is darkened, and nights when the moon will lose its brightness and the stars will come falling from Heaven. In the midst of this Armageddon the Son of Man comes with angels gathering the chosen from the four winds. Good and evil are locked in mortal combat. The end is in sight and victory is assured.  Enemies are vanquished and peace is restored.

The child awakes from sleep with the assurance needed to begin a new day. The triumph of the night sustains the struggle of the day.   Growing up is not an easy thing! Life is complicated. There is much to learn. Parents do not understand, friends tease and brothers bully. There is no place to hide. But wait just a moment. If winter comes, can spring be far behind? There is a dream that does come true. God’s word speaks life and hope and love.

‘Take the fig tree’, Jesus says. It is so ordinary and part of every day. Look at it. Its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out. Summer is near. Darkness gives way to light. In the depths of our own emptiness we discover the love of God at work in us. Stirrings of new life evoke hope and sustain the wonder of the child. All is made new, all is good. God is in his heaven and all is well.

In these November days Church liturgy echoes the natural order reminding us of loss and death. With glimmering candle and whispered prayer we name those loved and lost and fumble about in our own mortality. There is pain and suffering. The burden of years, the fears and doubts torment and tease. Surely there is more to life than this!  The victories of my childhood dreaming assure me. The rhythm of life is inscribed deep within. Good vanquishes evil. All this passes away. But God’s word will not pass away.  And this word is life, and goodness and beauty and truth. We know not the day, nor the hour. But God knows, and God is good. The dreams of childhood give way to a faith that gobbles up the monster that is death and assures the victory that is eternal life.

Let me conclude with the wonderful words of the English fourteenth century Mystic, Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.

The prayer I was taught in childhood comes back to me most nights as sleep beckons and I enter the magical world of dream:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Billy Cleary C.S.Sp. – Fr. Billy was ordained in 1982 and went on mission to the Gambia. On his return to Ireland he was involved in education in Spiritan schools, and in vocation ministry. His most recent overseas mission has been to Zimbabwe. Now returned to Ireland, he will lead the Province’s ‘MissionIreland’ activities.