Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Do not be afraid. How often are we told this throughout Scripture? Even in the face of terrifying events, Jesus tells us not to fear. There are those of us reading this reflection right now who are in the midst of great suffering. There are those in the world we hear about in the news who are suffering in ways we struggle to comprehend. Yet Jesus says do not be afraid.
He tells us today that there are signs that will tell us that the Kingdom of God is near at hand. For some, as we have considered earlier in the week, this is a great comfort and for others it is a frightening thought. Scripture tells us of earthquakes, wars, signs in the sky; how could we not be afraid in the face of such things? Because the one who fashioned the earth and all in the sky, the one who created mankind and became one of us; this God reigns over it all and not simply by His sheer power, but every exercise of that power is done out of love for us, for our sake.
This is one way to understand Jesus’ words today: “…when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.” When we witness things that cause us to realize our smallness, our powerlessness, we are also realizing the enormity of God’s own greatness and strength and it is this God who is on our side. So fear not! These things speak more to the goodness of God rather than His wrath, His attentiveness to each one of us rather than His disregard.
To remind us of this He tells us that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Brothers and sisters, be not afraid! Jesus gives us His word, and because He is the Word of God, this means He gives not only a promise, but He gives us Himself as His promise. Our King not only gives us a word of assurance; He is our assurance. He not only tells us that we will not be alone; He makes certain of it.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.