Tuesday, 8 November 2016

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

The Extinction Protocol is a favourite website of mine. It documents all those phenomena which might threaten humanity. Here are a few recent headlines from the site, just to give you an example of what you might find there:
The interesting thing is that the ‘Categories’ sidebar on this website is remarkably similar to today’s Gospel which mentions: wars, revolutions, great earthquakes, plagues, famines, fearful sights and great signs from heaven. They are all there – but with one big difference.

Note a further headline from The Extinction Protocol:
  • New reality show highlights preppers preparing for doomsday
The article goes on to say: For some people, the end of the world as we know it is upon us, and there is no better time than now to start preparing. Such is the concept of National Geographic Channel’s new reality show Doomsday Preppers, which profiles Americans who have taken extreme measures to plan for a forthcoming apocalypse.

I’ve actually watched a couple of these shows and found myself more than a little uncomfortable with some aspects of what these folks are up to. Not only are they storing huge amounts of food, which seems praiseworthy enough, but they are also purchasing all kinds of deadly weapons to protect their stores.

The philosophy behind all this, of course, is the repugnant heresy and scourge of our modern age: the greatest good is life – my life, to be exact – survival at any cost – my survival, that is. Through the periscope of my bunker I will watch you and your children starve and then shoot you if you approach my storehouse of food and drink.

What they don’t seem to realise is that even now, already, they have retreated into their bunkers, already they are pointing a gun at me, already I am a threat to their survival, already I am their enemy and already their survival is more important than mine. For preppers with a gun we are already at war.

So what is the 'one big difference'? Acknowledging the same catastrophic scenarios Jesus simply counsels: do not be frightened.

Faced with the reality of wars, revolutions, great earthquakes, plagues, famines, fearful sights and great signs from heaven and even betrayal, persecution and death Jesus tells us: do not prepare your defence.

The critical difference, of course, the essential and irreconcilable difference between the preppers and Jesus is that they are wanting to keep their human life safe while Jesus wants us to keep our eternal life safe. This is what he means when he foretells that the Temple (everything) will be destroyed but: not a hair of your head will be lost.

Jesus does not advise us to build bunkers or store food or turn our backs on our neighbours. Jesus’ earnestly desires that we get our heads straight about one unchangeable truth which is that: everything will be destroyed; but that for those who listen to and keep his words: not a hair of your head will be lost.

Jesus relativises wars and earthquakes and persecution and humiliation and loss of life as things that must happen before the great moment of his appearing. He exhorts us to keep this carefully in mind because he himself will give us all that will be necessary at that time.

For those who believe physical safety, self-preservation, is the greatest goal of human life, the greatest enemy will be volcanoes and earthquakes, famines and floods. Anything which endangers their mindless clinging to the things of this world will be seen as an evil.

For those who believe the Good News all these terrible things are not the real enemy; in fact, they are a unique opportunity to give witness to faith in Christ.

So, as one priest blogger said recently: If you are frightened of the future, of the wars and storms and catastrophes that are coming, of gigantic meteors or plagues of viruses, of starvation in famines, of tsunamis or civil chaos or solar flares or any other horrible possibility – there is only one thing to do – find a priest and make a good confession.

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