Reflections 17th November 2019

A Reflection for the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 21:  5-19 ( )

Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The end is in sight. The journey’s hardest part is often its last. Yes, there is anticipation of conclusion. But also, anxiety. Tired, and running almost on empty I fear not making it across the finishing line.

This was my actual experience some years ago when driving the mission car to get petrol during a shortage in the country when every drop was precious. With the indicator hovering on “E” and fifteen miles to go, I started out confident that I would make it. The first five miles were the easiest. Then, suddenly, the indicator moved – slightly. For the next six miles I advanced slowly, one eye on the road, the other on the gauge.  I heard somewhere that going slowly conserved fuel. I hoped so! The last four miles were the hardest. Then I turned off the main road and chugged my way to the petrol pump, getting in line to part – willingly – with precious money for more precious fuel.

I learned a lesson that day. The final lap is the hardest, the last mile the longest. There is great joy in fighting the odds and coming up trumps. The anxiety quickly gave way to satisfaction; fear to joy; doubt to confidence. The onward journey was sweet.

We have all learned the importance of perseverance. We heard it, if not at our mother’s knee, then very near to it. “If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again!” There is much in our world, our lives and our Church that disappoints. We can even feel let down by God.

The prophet Malachi tells us that the day of the Lord is coming when the proud and the evil-doers will face their comeuppance. Still waiting! The psalm tells us that the Lord is coming to rule the earth with justice. Still waiting! Perhaps the Christians at Thessalonica, tired waiting, took to being idle and interfering in others’ lives. Is that why Paul urges them to go on with their daily lives working quietly and doing what was right?

Sometimes we may feel that we are running on empty. The naysayers about are only too willing to bring us down.  It is easy to find fault with ourselves, the world and the Church, concluding that there is little to be joyful about and not much to hope for. But have we mis-placed our hope?

The wisdom of today’s gospel is that in persevering we secure our lives. We are not to worry about what to say, or what to do. Rather, we are called to persevere in faith, trusting that God’s spirit is at work in our world and in ourselves.  All that concerns us now passes. But the love that is eternal holds us and brings us into a joy beyond our wildest dreams. What a great journey we are on!

Awaken your spirit to adventure,

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in new rhythm

For your soul sense the world that awaits you.

(John O’Donohue in ‘For a New Beginning’ from To Bless the Space Between Us2008)

Billy Cleary C.S.Sp. – Ordained in 1982, Fr. Billy has served in the Gambia, Ireland, Liberia and Zimbabwe. He is currently one of three Irish Spiritans attached to Duquesne University