Not happy with the world around you? … Be the change you want to see.
“Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” This topic in the First Reading is a good point to start from. The kingdom the people asked about was one of power and wealth. Christ gently corrects them with a new vision of the Kingdom, but does not commit to a time line: why? Perhaps because the ‘time’ depends on us?
Perhaps I’ve said it before, but I believe our purpose is not so much to become perfect so we can enter Heaven “above” (wherever that will be); rather, our purpose is to be co-creators of heaven “here”: an environment and a state of mind/ acting = our relationships; then, it really will be just a matter of going through a doorway to the next Heaven “above”.
That’s why Jesus basically tells the Apostles, “God knows” [Mungu anajua]. Because only God knows what we are going to do, and how long it will take us!
The angels who questioned the Apostles question us today:
Then: “why are you men from Galilee standing here looking up into the sky?”
Today: Why are you waiting for someone else to make the world a better place?
Our Gospel concludes with these words: “…while they, going out, preached everywhere,
the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it…” Immediately I thought of St Francis of Assisi, who famously instructed his Franciscans: “preach the Gospel, and use words only if you have to.”
Unfortunately, too many of us get carried away with the instruction to preach the Gospel with our mouths, instead of our actions. To put it in a way our youth can understand:
When my mates and I graduated with our mining engineering degrees, we felt quite proud of ourselves: we were somebody! It was a great blessing, therefore, to be “forced” to work underground for three years as: general labourer; machine drilling; explosives; truck driver; carpenter repairing mine shafts; etc. Even breaking rocks with a large hammer!
If we didn’t, we would never get our Mine Manager’s Certificate of Competency. It was a blessing because we learnt: the miners were smarter than us; the work is hard; how to speak and gain respect; we understood the safety issues; we linked the theory to the practical.
Some of our youth are preparing for graduation with Degrees, Certificates, etc. But are they ready now to struggle and learn how to apply the theory? Are they ready for the hard knocks, failures and criticisms that will come? Perhaps this reflection will help them see it as part of the journey as they help God create heaven on earth.
As we share the Good News, we will encounter many situations where people struggle to live the teachings. Our task is walk with people not hit them over the head, especially with the Bible! How to approach, or speak, requires a bit of sweat and, sometimes, tears.
Most of all we have to be a good example for them – and JOYFUL. St Paul tried to support himself, gave good example by working and preaching, and was prepared to suffer for the Good News. People take more notice when we suffer and persevere.
To the parents worried about their children not going to Mass: worry more about your example:
1. Are you joyful when you leave Mass?
2. Do you talk about any good bits you heard in the homily?
3. Do you share when you are stressed and how the Eucharist took away the fear/ stress?
The Good News helps us rise above the stress of life and the selfishness of others. To rise above our fear of the future and even the shame we sometimes carry from the past.
But for the Good News to be Good, and not just background noise in our lives, we need to wrestle with it: to sit with it when nothing is happening. As Fr Henri Nouwen says:
Something Has Happened (Daily Meditation, 12-05-2021): One of the experiences of prayer is that it seems that nothing happens. But when you stay with it and look back over a long period of prayer, you suddenly realize that something has happened. What is most close, most intimate, most present often cannot be experienced directly but only with a certain distance. When I think I am only distracted, just wasting my time, something is happening too immediate for knowing, understanding, and experiencing. Only in retrospect do I realize that something very important has taken place. Isn’t this true of all really important events in life? When I am together with someone I love very much, we seldom talk about our relationship. The relationship, in fact, is too central to be a subject of talk. But later, after we have separated and write letters, we realize how much it all meant to us, and we even write about it.
Together, we can create heaven on earth, to keep alive the possibility of healing for all.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI