Calamity engulfs each generation with a relentless, dispassionate cruelty. For each generation, each person, it is something extraordinary, intense, incredible. Now, on the edge of a new liturgical year and in the wake of midterm elections and the global conference on climate change, now is a moment to pause and consider who we are, why we are here and how we proceed. Tucked into the lines of the readings for this Sunday are ideas and points worth notice. The first promises calamity; Psalm 98 promises equity and justice in response, a God who provides that. The letter to the Thessalonians focuses on models, on how to choose to live: to work with dignity, to collaborate with respect, to live with confidence. Luke’s Gospel wrestles again with the suffering that engulfs ordinary lives, allays fear and promotes perseverance. Fast forward two thousand years. Take a deep breath. Dive in!
There is a calming resonance in the echo of this scenario, of the uncertainty inherent in human life. But there is also a fullness to the generosity of the words for they mirror the swirling, changing world we live in and advocate a saving simplicity with the reminder that humans have dealt with this since the beginning of time. Further social and technological evolution does not dissolve the essential fragility and attendant fears that frame human existence. The Elon Musks among us roar with power and influencers shape choices and possibilities, but they too are subject to the whirlwinds of Mother Nature and the whims of Father Time. Nothing changes the fact that life is difficult and so often pain-filled.
Relief is not a secret, and it is not inaccessible. It is about perseverance in being ourselves, in trying to do the right thing. It is about remembering who is really in charge and trusting in the reality of a tender, compassionate God. It is about knowing that change and evolution are inevitable, and what really matters is relationship, purpose, kindness and connections. We become the conduits of a God who cares and we find meaning in being part of something greater than self. Because we ARE part of something greater than self.
So as the liturgical year comes to a close, taking stock of wins and losses, plans and promises, it is also time to look past the calamity to the miracle moments. Those moments are nestled snugly in the brilliance of a shimmering moon, radiating from a child’s infectious laughter, layered in the determined, cane assisted steps of a senior citizen. Simplicity surrounds us, waits for us in unexpected ways and enables us to navigate the calamities with realism, counter the suffering with strength and trust that there is something more to be known and discovered. Faith furnishes some with that comfort and peace. This Sunday invites us to provide that comfort and peace to one another no matter who we are or what we believe. Being human is the common denominator that builds and binds us one to the other; realizing that there is more than we can see and know, that suffering is part of life but not the only part is what frees us. That matters.