In the First Reading (2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23) we find the great themes of salvation history – themes that are always unfolding as humankind stumbles with ever more sophistication from one crisis to the next!
We’re told that the whole of society was busy adding “infidelity after infidelity” and that God sent messengers repeatedly “since he wished to spare his people” but the people wouldn’t listen, their responses varied from ridicule, to despising, to laughing at both the messenger and the message. Same old, same old, isn’t it? There’s a sense in which nothing changes at all. We know best, we’ll do it our way, and where does it end? We stumble with ever more sophistication from one crisis to another!
The Gospel makes it clear that Jesus of Nazareth is the Saviour of the world, and that his purpose is not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:14-21). How will he save the world? He’ll draw the world to himself one heart at a time. This of course means that Christianity and Catholicism can’t be private.
But what happens if the world refuses to come to Jesus Christ? Is there a flip side? Absolutely. Initially nothing happens that’s immediately perceptible. In other words the claim that the sky doesn’t fall down holds true. There’s no sudden crash! Instead, cut off from God the human heart is slowly desensitized over a period of a century, more or less, one small step at a time, each step facilitating the next, which in turn facilitates individuals, sometimes groups of people, and sometimes even a particular nation to wreak havoc. Ultimately, the world can find itself facing horrors such as those that unfolded during World War II.
In the bible this is what’s known as God’s punishment. God’s punishment comes in the form of social, political and economic policies, policies that arise from hearts divorced from God. It’s what we’re doing. What I do matters, it might influence you to do the same, and you might influence somebody else – eventually everybody is doing it! Then the world is changed and the path is cleared for the next change. The world is changed one heart at a time. This means that God is the God of history but that each one of us is contributing to and determining the future of all. History doesn’t happen by chance or just bad luck, history is determined by the relationship of the human heart to God.
While this slow descent is occurring God will send messengers but the messengers are almost always ridiculed, despised and laughed at – or simply ignored. Only when life is so bad that there’s nowhere perceived as ‘better’ to go do people begin to listen to these messengers. The point I want you to note is that this process is happening now. There’s never a point in history when it’s not happening.
Pope Francis greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In a surprise move Pope Francis has declared a Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 08th 2015 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)
So, what do these messengers look like? How do we recognize them? The answer is; with great difficulty!
In Fatima almost one hundred years ago these messengers came as 3 children. But what do we know about Fatima? How much attention have we given it? A little later there’s St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy – what do we know about that? We’re now in the time of Mercy – we’ve been there for quite some time. It’ll be followed by Justice. Divine Mercy always precedes Divine Justice. Later there’s Padre Pio? We might know a little about Pio. Later again, there’s Pope John Paul II, then Benedict XVI, but how much attention have we given apart from what the media has told us? Now we have Pope Francis – who has just declared 2016 to be a Holy Year of Divine Mercy.
It’s not difficult to see that the great themes of salvation history also apply to us, right here, right now, that they’re unfolding even as I speak and that we’re all caught up in it.
We’ll summarize everything I’m saying when we come to pray the Our Father. We don’t pray; thy kingdom come, thy will be done in heaven only. No! We pray; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s kingdom, God’s rule over the human heart is for the future of the earth. Heaven is well able to look after itself!