The good tends to disperse itself in all directions.
Yesterday I received a very funny and enjoyable email which I sent on to as many of my friends as I could manage. It was good. The more good it is the more I want to share it. When my favorite team wins I want to read all about it in the local paper and on the net. When they lose, bad news, I become disenchanted and distance my spirit and reading.
The gooder it is the more it insists to be revealed. God is totally and infinitely good. Loving Goodness is God’s very and only essence. The ever-expanding universe seems to be a perfect example and sacrament of the ever-expanding gooderness of God in all directions. Each of us is part of the dispersing love, or goodness of the ever-revealing essence of God. Our lives continue that dispersal, if we believe and receive.
To understand fully these verses from our First Reading, you might wish to read the previous chapter of the prophet Daniel. It is a war story of kings battling against each other. Power and domination drive for supremacy. It is distressing and relentless.
Our First Reading is the three short verses which begin this, the next chapter. They are full of hope, redemption and resurrection. The prophet speaks of hope to those who belong to God. There is the exact and explicit promise of a recovery of life for those who lie in the dust. There is a forever to that life given to those whose names are in the “Book”.
Those who are wise by living justly will be the holy, brightly shining like the stars. Actually, it was believed that the stars were where the holy existed after their lying in the earth. The planets were the symbols of orderliness and therefore godliness and hence, holiness.
This same celestial theme centers the Gospel for this liturgy. The word “gospel” is known as the Good News. Today’s Good News sounds very much like the bad news we hear and see in the media. The whole chapter from which these verses are taken reads like a futuristic science-fiction novel. Where’s the grace? Where’s the hope? Where’s the invitation to God’s being faithful?
Earlier in the thirteenth verse of this same chapter we hear Jesus say that the one who stays firm to the end will be saved. This is right in the midst of doomier and gloomiest warnings. This begins the better news, but there is more. As in the First Reading, Jesus is Lord of the earth and sky. While we desire to know the date and place of the final ending or “second coming”, Jesus encourages us to keep living towards our eternal existence. The “when” is “now”.
We know there is going to be an end to our individual lives. Jesus is saying that we should live today as if we knew that later today is the beginning of our final ending. We would love to be able to read the signs of the time and get ready and be prepared and looking good when the Lord comes collecting. We are encouraged rather to read the signs of our minds and hearts. How sacred it all is and how wonderfully mysterious it all is. There are new leaves and growth in bush and tree and field. The fall of the leaves is not the beginning of the end, but the beginning of the beginning. We are encouraged to watch, but live the sacredness of our lives every day.
It is a strange thing, this on-coming of God. In five weeks we will celebrate a first-coming. It will be a birth of a Baby, the Prince of Peace. Shepherds and Wise Men will come in humble awe. We will kneel with them fearlessly joyful while the stars of the heavens keep watch. Now the Liturgical Year seems to be ending with Jesus casting joyless fearful bolts at His listeners and those same stars will be falling from the skies. Where’s the Good News!!
Allow me to make a quite bold statement here. God is not merely a “Mercy-Machine”. God, as revealed in the fullness of revelation in Jesus, remains as in the beginning, is now, and will be for all ages, the God of Creation! Mercy, in the minds and hearts of many believers, is more a legal concept and recall, Jesus gave battle to the legal-eagles of His day. Mercy is but a fractional part of God’s creative love. Sin is our personal de-creation of ourselves, others and our relationship with God.
If we have an image of God that centers around God’s being legalistically just/merciful, then we push Jesus to the sidelines and stand in midfield shivering like the naked trees of winter, fear and frightened that the sky is going to fall upon us with wrath and vengeance. With that image, would we, could we ever look forward to the “second coming” of the Prince of Peace! What God asks of us is “mercy not sacrifice”, mercy towards ourselves from ourselves. God is always at work, laboring to bring all of us into harmony within and around us. We can worry about whether we will be ready. The more important reality is whether or not we believe we belong to God, by God’s creation of us from the beginning and leading up to our final ending, which of course, is only the beginning of what’s always new.
Let me say it clearly once more. God is not merciful! God is more than what we mean by that lazy word. God is always coming to make more of us than we can make of ourselves.
“It is good for me to be with the Lord and to put my hope in him.” Ps. 73, 28
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