32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | November 10, 2019
You know, these readings for this weekend are not exactly the most uplifting.
In fact, the first reading is pretty dark.
7 sons all martyred in front of their mother.
A rather gruesome tale.
And one, frankly, that I used to have a hard time believing was true.
Because I just couldn’t fathom the mother in this tale.
See, we do not get to hear her voice proclaimed in this reading. But she does speak. And her words were baffling to me as a young man in seminary listening to these readings.
For her words were full of power. Unafraid of death, she stood before the authorities and exhorted her sons to remain true to what they believed. To have courage. To be not afraid.
And I just didn’t believe that was possible. To experience such loss and not be shattered by it. To refuse to surrender who you are and what you believed in the face of such violence and cruelty.
But over the last few years, I have come to believe in this reading in a whole new way.
For I have met mothers who have done this. Women who have lived the Gospel in a way that I have so often failed to do.
I watched Clare stand in front of packed courtroom and look at the man who killed her son and speak words of compassion, not vengeance.
I watched Tiffany outside of a funeral home, after looking at her 15 year-old murdered son, crying out to God to deliver her from her anger. For she was determined to keep loving and she believed in a God who would not let her fall into the pit of despair.
I watched Bridget stand in front of an entire church full of people at her son’s funeral and exhort them to stop the cycles of violence. And she did so with a voice that was calm and collected, radiating an inner peace
Even as I was afraid. Even as I doubted. Even as my heart swelled with rage.
For in the darkest moments, they allowed Christ’s light to shine through. Guiding me through the dark valley.
And in each of these women, I cannot help but think of this reading.
For they have incarnated for me what true faith is all about.
See, my friends, I believe that the darkness is very much real.
Each and everyone of us has some darkness that we must confront each day.
It can be the small moments.
The gossip that someone utters about us over lunch.
The temptation that creeps into our daily routines
The jealousy that seeps into our relationship
The darkness of defeat. Of failure. Of stress that seems overwhelming
Or it can be the terrible darkness that crashes on us like a wave
Devastating grief over the loss of our marriage, our job, someone we love
An addiction or mental illness that robs us of our sense of self
The forces of poverty and violence, war and oppression that we can seem powerless before.
But like the women of Maccabees. Like the mothers I have come to know. We have a choice in what we do when faced with this darkness.
We can choose differently from what the world demands.
When the world cries vengeance, we can forgive.
When the world cries there is no God, we can choose to believe.
When the world cries out in judgment and condemnation, we can stand before our God as one redeemed.
When the world cries out in fear, we can stand with courage.
When the world cries out in despair, we can choose to hope.
When the world cries out in hatred, we can choose love.
I do not pretend that this path is easy. For the darkness has power. It can wound and break and wear down.
But at the end of the day, it is powerless before the light.
Clare knew that
Tiffany knew that
Bridget knew that.
Be the light my friends. Be the light our world needs this day.
May God be Praised.