Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 1, 2015
If you listened closely to the Second Reading last Sunday, which we all should certainly do, (1 Cor 7:29-31 just in case) you might have found yourself a bit unnerved, and rightly so. The passage begins with the startling warning: TIME IS RUNNING OUT! It almost sounds like the headline from a tabloid. Paul goes on: “FOR THE WORLD IN ITS PRESENT FORM IS PASSING AWAY.” This week’s Second Reading is more of the same; a continuation of a dire warning. Not very cheery. Paul actually seems to be suggesting there is no point in marrying and having a family. The message is along the line: “Use all of your energy for saving yourself…because TIME IS RUNNING OUT!” Two thousand years later, we can safely say, it would seem: “Well, he was wrong!” But imagine the impact he must have had on his contemporaries.
It’s easy to do that…to imagine the effect his letter had on the Corinthian community who heard this warning for the first time. In order to put yourself in their sandals, read the recent report in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Last week, they moved their famed Doomsday Clock, which started ticking after World War II, two minutes closer to Midnight. Now at 23:57, this clock attempts to help us imagine how close we are to a global catastrophe due to EITHER natural disasters that these scientists believe are caused by global warming, or as a consequence of a nuclear war. It’s not as easy to dismiss this report as it is to put aside St. Paul’s cautionary lesson. Concurrent with, and in large part motivating the “Doomsday Bulletin” are the graphic videos of men in orange jump suits with a menacing figure shrouded completely in black standing behind them with a dagger in his hand. And then there is the increase in earth tremors in states that have never before been considered at risk, melting glaciers, and drought in the areas of the globe where most of our food is grown. These are undeniable realities.
Unnerving…to say the least!
But the world has always been an unnerving, violent, dangerous place for us fragile human beings to inhabit. We are literally, every moment of our lives, surrounded by danger. We are on HIGH ALERT from cradle to grave…or at least we should be. And, as it turns out…St. Paul is right…“our world,” in its present form, is passing away. Our time in this world is limited. We have just so many heartbeats within our frail bodies. All of this is not speculation; rather, it is based on our experiences. And all of this is unnerving to most people.
That is why God sent Jesus into this hostile environment. We are in desperate need of Good News! The dramatic encounter between The Lord and the man possessed with evil spirits, which occurs early on in Jesus’s public ministry, is just that…Good News…not just for the man liberated from a force that overpowered his free will, but for our entire universe.
Much more than helping one desperate individual, what Jesus did in the synagogue in Capernaum was to interject Himself into salvation history in a powerful and dramatic way, introducing Himself as The One Who commands authority over all that threatens us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The story of this exorcism that so astounded and amazed the eye witnesses is sort of a preview of what will happen when the “clock strikes Midnight”…whether for us as individuals…or when “time is up” for “the world in its present form.” Then Jesus will say to all that is unclean, evil, violent, all that is opposed to goodness and love…all that is contrary to the will of God…BE QUIET! COME OUT! And the Peace of Christ will prevail.
In the meantime, we can’t be too hasty to dismiss St. Paul. Although sometimes unnerving and maybe even extreme, he reminds us of the power that Christ shares with us through our Baptism. We are called to join our voices to that of the Lord, facing off against all that is evil…and shouting out…BE QUIET! COME OUT! Sometimes even in front of the mirror, always confident The Peace of Christ will prevail.