We are not far from one of my favourite times of year, the beautiful season of Advent with all its expectancy and joyful waiting. Before we get there we have the last few Sundays of the liturgical year including Christ the Universal King next week. However firstly, we have the readings for this
weekend. These readings, especially the Gospel, together with this week’s poem, The Good, by Brendan Kennelly shape this particular rant.
The readings at Mass in these days can indeed be very frightening with their hints of disaster and destruction. They point to terrible events. They herald end times. In the middle of these portents of the final days the sacred readings put a very sobering question to us: are we ready, how ready are we, in what ways are we ready? The suggestion is we need to be ready to be swept away. Not a very attractive thought. A reasonable question arises: where is God’s love in all this?
However before we come to the question of God’s love I think we should look at how we are preparing, or what are we preparing for. The people referred to in the Gospel seem to be continuing on regardless. For us as pilgrims on a journey it is appropriate to ask what are we preparing for or perhaps, what kind of future are we investing in?
Is my investment based on short term gain or am I a prudent saver? Indeed what am I investing in? We are all familiar with the little story about the three people who heard the world would end tomorrow at three o’clock and their varied reactions, from a mad frenzy to complete a ‘to do list’, to a very calm continuing on as presently going. I have in a previous rant spoken of the gap between these two, which is really the gap between our lives as we live them and our lives as we would like to live them, or is it how we ought to live them?
Kennelly’s beautiful poem, The Good, is at least thought provoking in this regard. The Good are most themselves when they are vulnerable, they are inclined to praise, are hard to see and have an endearing acceptance. Reading this poem a few times I found myself asking not only how do I define the good and indeed to what degree do I measure up to being good?
The more I reflect on this question, the question of what constitutes being good, the less sure my conclusions are. This in fact may be a sign of progress. Certainly a key part of being good is accepting that I do not have all the answers, I do not have it all sorted out, that I need others and that others need me. We are in this together. Sisters and Brothers. I think another part of being good is trying to be as real as possible though not using this as an excuse to hurt others. I like Kennelly’s notion that the good are ‘inclined to praise’. In a world increasingly fearful and negative we need the positivity of the good. The Good are hopeful. Which brings me back to those dark readings and the shuddering notion of the end times.
Do we believe in a God that swats at us as a giant might swat at a gnat? Are we no more than pesky little insects? So are we going to be swept away in a tsunami or scooped up into the arms of a loving Father? Which do you really believe? The truth is we live our present life based on the answer to this question. It is the difference between living in fear and living in joy.