Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tuesday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori
Two Faces of Terror
Readings: Jeremiah 14:17-22; Psalm 79:8, 9, 11 and 13; Matthew 13:36-43

There is terror and destruction in both readings today. In the first, the prophet laments the great destruction that he witnesses around him. In the gospel, Jesus describes the terrible fate that will befall the weeds: they will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. There are, however, crucial differences between these two faces of terror. The first is seen in time, the second at time’s end. Those who experience the first can still hope for a time of healing. Not so for those in the second. The first is reversible, the second is final.

Perhaps the natural first reaction to these two descriptions is one of fear and anxiety. Clearly, both readings present us with a warning. We must do what is necessary to avoid such horrors.

But deeper reflection makes another reaction possible. More than just a warning, the readings also celebrate something we all need, something for which we all yearn: the merciful compassion of God. They invite us, especially in times of trial, to turn our eyes to the One who makes His rain fall upon good and bad alike. They remind us that the terror at the end of time is still not yet. That it is precisely because of God’s compassion that we still live on this side of eternity. That whatever the trials that befall us in the present, there is still hope – not in any creaturely reality, but in God alone. It is still possible to turn our hearts to God, begging as the psalmist does that God's compassion (might) quickly come to us… (who) are brought very low.

On this feast of St. Alphonsus, we are also reminded of the hope that brings so many to the Novena Church on Thomson Road. We are reminded of the letters of petition and of thanksgiving. And we find reassurance that when our hopes are placed in God, we will ultimately not be disappointed.

Even so, we must not take God’s mercy for granted . We must not delay if there is something for which we need to repent. For the first reaction of fear and anxiety is not without basis. The end of time will ultimately come. And we know what awaits those who have been living the life of weeds instead of wheat. We need to do what is necessary to shine like the sun in the Kingdom.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.

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