St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“Hope in the Midst of Fear”


December 3, 2017


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre 


Have you been watching the news lately? There are many events to inspire fear, worries and concerns. North Korea shooting missiles that can reach the USA, violence and terrorism here and there, wars and dissensions locally and abroad, volcanos threatening to destroy regions around them, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes killing thousands of people; in brief, we seem to be in the middle of the apocalypse.


The Gospel of Mark is asking us to stay AWAKE, to remain faithful in the midst of fear. Despite seeing the oppression, the injustices and persecution, we are called to being awake so that we don’t just look passively at what is unfolding, but we question the signs of time to discern our position into it. The end could come momentarily.


How do you prepare for something so imminent, so inevitable but not knowing how evident it is? These two apocalyptic traditions have been present in the early church. Some, like Paul, expected Jesus' return to be soon; others, in response to the already longer-than-expected delay and the death of many of the original eye-witnesses, had begun to cast Jesus’ return as the culmination of human history, an event that would occur at the end of time. Advent is that season of the year when we prepare for the coming of the child who came to save us already with the hope that he’ll come again.


When one reads Mark carefully, one cannot but ask: Was he just writing about Jesus’ passion or is it about end of time? Was it imminent or future eschatology? “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place.” What generation is Mark speaking about?


The end of time has been a preoccupation for human beings for centuries. Vigilance is highly recommended because many are out there trying to capitalize on the fear and panic of others. Sometimes they create or feed daily events to stir the pot and establish turmoil. I have heard a “preacher” asking people to bring their savings, their pets and their assets to him because on a certain doomsday, his god revealed to him only, that everything will be over. No one asked him why then should they bring him their goods. Will he not be affected by the end of time too? This is not faith; this is stupidity.


Beware of those false prophets! They are not around to provide us with hope; they are amplifying our fear and panic in order to benefit from us. The three times Mark says to stay awake is to highlight that we have no control over the end of times. We should be consistently in a state of preparedness and vigilance. Vigilance, because unintentionally we can be used by oppressive systems and perpetuate their dominion over the world. Vigilance, because we can become complicit in marginalizing people. Vigilance, because when we shut up in face of injustice, we have sided with oppressors.


We have the duty to live every day as if it were the last. It is not our duty to try to guess or find out when the end of time is coming. We must focus instead on what can we do and how can we act for the kingdom to start here and now. We can start by establishing transparency so that the darkness so prevalent in our modern world can dissipate. We can engage in the struggle for a more just distribution of God’s gifts. We can provide hope, a concrete hope to those in despair and darkness. Because the end is also a day of deliverance: deliverance of the oppressed; captivity will be over, enslavement will be over, the love of God will triumph over the hatred of evil. The end of time is a moment of victory not of judgment only. Sheep will follow their shepherd, but goats will be blinded and get lost by their judgments. It’s the day the child of Bethlehem, now a savior, will redeem those who trusted him and will bring them into the place he went to prepare for them. It will be a day for celebration because there will be equality for all children of God.


Can you wait for that day? We better be in constant and consistent preparation mode. The assurance that this day will come is none other than FAITH. Faith is that no matter the storms of life, God cares enough to rescue, redeem and restore us because he needs us as much as we need him. Let’s live today as the day, the day that the lord has made for us to rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.