Sunday, June 11, 2017

From No-Man’s-Land to Path of Life


Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (A)


My dear sisters and brothers, have you watched the new Wonder Woman movie? The one that’s showing in local cinemas now? Those who have will know that there is a particular scene, somewhere in the middle of the movie, where Wonder Woman crosses a battlefield. Well, it’s actually more of a no-man’s-land. A strip of disputed territory separating two warring armies that have been deadlocked for more than a month. A place of great violence and terrible danger. Where no one has been able to make it across alive.

Which may not be a problem, except that there is a small village trapped within this fearsome place. Its food has run out. And the violence is preventing fresh supplies from getting in. The way things are going, these poor people will probably not survive much longer. Into the scene steps our hero, Wonder Woman. Without a second thought, she propels herself into the danger. She braves heavy machine gun fire, in a daring attempt to cross the deadly stretch of ground. To blaze a life-giving pathway for supplies to get through. To save the suffering people. Does she make it to the other side? I guess I should leave you to find that out for yourself…

To cross a no-man’s-land, transforming it into a path of life. This is what Wonder Woman tries to do in the movie. And this is also what we find God doing in our readings today.

It may not be so obvious, sisters and brothers, but that place that is mentioned in the first reading, the mountain of Sinai, should really be a no-man’s-land. For this is not the first time that Moses is going up this mountain. He has done it before. And, as you know, it was while he was up on this mountain, receiving the Ten Commandments from God for the first time, that the people of Israel, who remained below, effectively declared war on God. By manufacturing and worshipping a golden calf. So that, at this point in the story, Sinai should really be a scary place separating two parties in conflict.

And yet, what should be a dangerous boundary between enemies, becomes instead a meeting place between friends. Sinai is where God warmly welcomes Moses. How does this happen? It happens only because of the kind of God we have. Not a God of vengeance and retribution. But rather a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness. A God who chooses to descend from the highest heavens to save a defiant and undeserving people. A people marked for death by their own sins. Whom God still sees fit to adopt as His very own.

Nor is Sinai the only piece of no-man’s-land. The whole world should be the same as well. Wherever there are those who defy God. Who disobey God’s commands. Who turn to the worship of idols. Wherever sin reigns in human hearts, we should find a dangerous no-man’s-land, impossible to cross.

But, the gospel tells us that God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. Sent Him to cross over into our world of sin and selfishness, of conflict and division, of danger and death. Sent him not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. So that everyone who believes in him, everyone who follows him, may have eternal life. In other words, God sent his Son into the world to do what Wonder Woman seeks to do in the movie. To transform what should be a no-man’s-land into a pathway to life.

And it’s important for us to remember how this happens. How Mary comes to conceive and to bear her Son. It is not through the seed of any ordinary man, but through the overshadowing of the Spirit of God. The same Spirit who descends upon the Lord when he is baptised by John in the Jordan. The same Spirit who then drives Him into the desert to be prepared for public ministry by being tempted by the devil. The same Spirit whom Jesus then breathes onto the world from the Cross, and again after He has risen from the dead.

This is how God crosses into a dangerous world in order to save a sinful humanity. This is how God transforms what should be a desolate boundary separating enemies into a fruitful meeting place joining friends. A path that leads to the fullness of life. A way that we are all called to walk. That the second reading calls us to walk, when it tells us to try to grow perfect… To help one another… To be united… To live in peace… So that the God of love and peace might be with us. This is the way that Christ himself walked, in the power of the Spirit. The path that leads through the passion of the Cross, into the loving arms of the heavenly Father.

This, my dear friends, is the meaning of the solemn feast we celebrate today. A celebration not just of any ordinary holy man or holy woman. Not even of a Wonder Woman. But a celebration of nothing less than an all-powerful yet ever-merciful God. A Trinity in Unity of Father, Son, and Spirit. Who continually crosses barren wastelands to gather lost children to Himself. And who calls us to walk His way. To follow His steps. To enjoy His life. A God who keeps transforming the no-man’s-land of our divided world into a precious pathway to life.

And what a consoling thing it is for us to have a God like this. Especially when we see around us, in our world today, so many examples of people being separated by ever-widening divides. By ever-hardening borders. By boundaries between right and left… between conservative and liberal… between religious and secular… Where general elections intended to unite a nation, end up dividing it all the more. And, while this is happening, people continue to suffer as a result. Not unlike those villagers in the movie. Innocent civilians trapped by war and conflict. Fleeing refugees pitifully searching for safety. Hopeful migrants anxiously seeking a better life. Retrenched workers desperately trying to make a living. Struggling families heroically coping with the ordinary stresses of daily living…

Isn’t it an encouraging thought that, across each of these many and different stretches of dangerous ground, our loving God continues to dash? Braving the dangers. Seeking to rescue those who feel  helpless and alone. And challenging us to do the same. To follow in the footsteps of the Son. In the power of the Spirit. Into the warmth of the Father’s embrace.

Sisters and brothers, how is our merciful and compassionate God transforming no-man’s-lands into pathways-to-life for you and through you today?

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