Thursday, November 26, 2015

An Everlasting Dominion

By Colleen O’Sullivan

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and people of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.  (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus told his disciples a parable.  “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.  When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”  (Luke 21:29-31)

For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  (Romans 13:11)

“My husband wants to go out to eat and to a movie tomorrow night, but I don’t know...What if something happens?” 

“My daughter is expecting her first child, but what kind of world is this to bring a child into?”

“Do you think these are the end times?”

These are just a sampling of the comments I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances in the last week or so. In the midst of turbulent times, when we feel threatened and afraid, our instinct is to circle the wagons or close the shutters and hunker down. 

Daniel must have been frightened by the ferocity of the beasts in the vision he recounts in the beginning of today’s first reading. The beasts represented the kingdoms which had threatened and overcome God’s people. Maybe they were his equivalent of the bloody images we’ve seen from Paris and Mali, or the other unspeakable acts perpetrated by ISIS that have been in the news over the past year. Just as the forces of chaos and disruption seem at their strongest, Daniel has another vision. He sees God on his throne in heaven and he sees the son of man presented to the Ancient One. This is the one we know as Christ our King. His reign shall be from everlasting to everlasting.  Nothing will prevail against him. This King was born into our world in the shadow of the Roman Empire. From the moment the angels announced the good news and shepherds came to adore their Savior, Jesus’ life was threatened. He was persecuted, and ultimately seized and put to death.  But he rose from the dead and reigns eternal in heaven. His power is mightier than any evil Daniel, you or I could ever have to contend with.

In the Gospel reading, the disciples are feeling uneasy. Jesus has talked about the coming destruction of the Temple. He mentions the likelihood of persecution before the end of time as we know it. The disciples want to know how they will know when the end is imminent. In today’s verses, Jesus points to a fig tree and says they know that when the buds open, summer is upon them. In the same manner, the Lord tells them, they will know when he is about to return in glory. There will be no mistaking the signs. Don’t worry about it.

This is the last chapter in Luke’s Gospel before Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem. He must have been full of fear and foreboding himself. Yet several verses after our reading ends, Luke says Jesus went on teaching day after day in the Temple. In the evenings, he would retire to the Mount of Olives to seek his Father in prayer. Perhaps the way Jesus conducts himself is the most important sign he gives us. He’s about to lose his life, but he doesn’t go into hiding. He seeks the counsel of God.

When the works of darkness weigh us down, look around for signs of God’s presence. Juxtaposed with the images of broken glass, wounded people being transported to hospitals, and bodies being removed from scenes of carnage were accounts of Parisians opening their doors to strangers in need of safety and shelter, brave souls carrying bleeding men and women to ambulances and taxis so that they could get to emergency rooms, and a man explaining to his young, very frightened son that the flower memorials were there to fight against the guns, that he shouldn’t be afraid. God is always at work. We simply have to look for the Light.

Yesterday, we gathered with family and friends to give thanks for our blessings. Why not continue the thanks-giving today by looking around and noting all the places and people in whom we see the Lord’s presence. Most of what we find will never be broadcast on the news, but the assurance of God’s presence in our midst is the best news of all.

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