As I sit down to write this week’s reflection, I am struck by one overwhelming feeling: exhaustion. The year that we are in has been and continues to be a year that has offered little in the way of rejuvenation. It has been a year of continuous challenges, and it has been a year in which we have had to do things so very differently. On top of all of that, we find ourselves inside a moment of further uncertainty with the results of Election Day still waiting to be finalized. We are in a moment in which we are less than certain about the future that is in front of us, and to make matters even more challenging, we are not able to gather in our parishes in the ways that we wish to do so. We have to maintain social distancing, sign-up for when we wish to worship, and bring our own chairs with us for outside worship. It all adds up to be a moment in which one more thing added on the top of the pile finds us throwing our hands up in the air in pleas of resignation. Will we find an end to this exile? How do we find the hope that does not disappoint, that lifts our spirits, and that grants rejuvenation to our souls?
Over the next four weeks of Gospel readings, we will hear readings that have a very different tone to them than we have been hearing for the earlier months of the fall. Each year in November, the readings shift towards a more apocalyptic tone as we are encouraged to prepare for the parousia, the return, of Christ. The readings are peppered with messages about keeping awake, about using one’s talents wisely, and about not knowing the hour in which the Son of Man will return. To our more modern ears, they do not seem like they are hope-filled messages. If anything, they might sound a bit doom and gloom as we hear them read aloud in worship on Sunday mornings.
The readings that have this more apocalyptic tone to them arise out of communities that were looking for a hopefulness that would not disappoint them. They arise out of a worldview that understood that God was bigger than the powers and principalities swirling around them, and they are readings that arose out of communities that were seeking ways to break through the messages of the powers and principalities in order to hear the message of God’s hope, of God’s love, and of God’s faithfulness. The apocalyptic worldview arose not out of a feeling of despair but out of a feeling of hopefulness that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. The readings are meant to create and inspire that kind of hopefulness in the listeners of the readings – including us!
Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join us for worship in the way that is most comfortable for you – in-person or online. I invite you to listen to the Gospel with an ear of hopefulness and of curiosity about where the readings come from and how they can also be a source of hope for us in a time that is exhausting and draining to our souls. Even in this moment in which things feel volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, we can hold onto the hope that God offers to us in the person of God’s son, Christ Jesus. We are encouraged to stay awake not simply for the end of times but also for those smaller moments in which Christ comes to us.
“Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit. … Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.C.S. Lews – The Weight of Glory
The quote from C.S. Lewis above reminds us that the practice of loving our neighbors as holy subjects allows us to hold on to the hope that does not disappoint. We are able to experience a lifting of the exile that we are feeling in our hearts. Through phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook posts, and old fashioned hand-written notes, we can create a communion that cannot be broken by the powers and principalities of this world. We can share in the love of God made known in Christ Jesus as we hear these apocalyptic readings in the weeks to come, and we can know in our hearts that in the midst of all of this is God – present to us in the holiest subjects we can know: our neighbors.