16 November 2012

'My words will not pass away.' 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Mark 13:24-32 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to his disciples, "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”.

Connor Eberhard (left) with two friends after their graduation earlier this year at Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School, Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, earlier this year.

Connor Eberhard, 17, whose mother Cathy I have known since she was five, posted this on his Facebook last Tuesday, 13 November:

As some of you may well know, my family and I are battling through a very tough time. I have been diagnosed with a rare Liver Cancer. When I type it on a keyboard, it still doesn’t register. The past week has felt like a horrible nightmare, and I can’t wake up. Your thoughts and prayers have meant a lot to me, and I want to truly thank each and every one of you. Your continued support gives me the strength and courage I need to go on. Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. It is a word, not a sentence. 

Love always, 
Connor Eberhard

Connor's family are devastated. This Sunday's gospel speaks of such devastation affecting the whole community. Every experience of desolation in a community affects each family, each individual. The gospel speaks of Jesus coming again in judgment at an hour that 'only the Father' knows.

The gospel is one that can frighten us or that can encourage us to be always ready for an unexpected serious illness, for our death and for the return of the Lord at the end of time.

The texts for today's Mass are filled with joy and hope. The Collect reads:

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, 
the constant gladness of being devoted to you, 
for it is full and lasting happiness 
to serve with constancy 
the author of all that is good.

The response to the psalm reads, in the New American Bible lectionary, You are my inheritance, O Lord! and in the Jerusalem Bible lectionary, Preserve me, O God, I take refuge in you. The verses from Psalm 16 (15) are words of joy and hope: Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices . . . You will show me the path of life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever (NAB).

Jesus assures us in the gospel, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

I have been blessed on a number of occasions to have been with persons in a situation like that of Connor. One was when I was working in a hospital in the USA. Another was with a dear friend still in her 20s. Neither situation was one of gloom but of hope, joy and, with my friend, even of celebration.

I know too that a situation like this is a time of very special grace to the individual, of God's presence in a family and in the wider family and social circle.

The Entrance Antiphon of today's Mass give us words of hope from Jeremiah: The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place. Jeremiah is speaking to the Jewish people in a situation of calamity. But the word of God speaks to each of us, to our families, to our communities, in our particular form of 'captivity'.

Each Sunday Mass in Ordinary Time has two alternative Communion Antiphons, either of which may be used. The first is usually from the Old Testament and the second from the New. The first this Sunday is Psalm 72:28, a text of joy and hope: To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord.

That from the New Testament gives us words of Jesus himself encouraging us to pray in hope:

Communion Antiphon (Mark 11:23-24)

Amen, I say to you: Whatever you ask in prayer, 
believe that you will receive, 
and it shall be given to you, says the Lord.

Latin text:

Amen, dico vobis, quidquid orántes pétitis, 
crédite, quia accipiétis, 
et fiet vobis, (dicit Dominus).

Connor's family have asked for prayer through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II and sent this prayer which has the ecclesiastical approval of the Diocese of Rome:

O Blessed Trinity,
we thank you for having graced the Church with Blessed John Paul II
and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the Cross of Christ,
and the splendour of the Spirit of love,
to shine through him.

Trusting fully in your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life
and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.

Grant us, by his intercession,
And according to your will, the grace we implore:
Connor Eberhard's complete healing,
hoping that he, Blessed Pope John Paul II, 
will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

May I also suggest two other intercessors, both of them among the patrons for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901 - 1925), A Saint on Skis (above), and Blessed Chiara Luce Badano (1971 - 1990), The Saint Who Failed Math, an only child (below).

After the Way of the Cross on 19 August 2011 during World Youth Day in Madrid Pope Benedict said to the young people gathered:

Dear young friends, may Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion. The different forms of suffering that have unfolded before our eyes in the course of this Way of the Cross are the Lord’s way of summoning us to spend our lives following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation. “To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves — these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself” (ibid.).

Let us eagerly welcome these teachings and put them into practice. Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.

Both Blessed Pier Giorgio and Blessed Chiara Luce lived out these words joyfully through suffering. Blessed John Paul II had an extraordinary love for young persons. May the intercession of these three 'blesseds' obtain for Connor Eberhard the healing he and his family are asking for and a deepening and strengthening of their faith in Jesus Christ, a faith I have seen grow through many years of friendship.

Connor with his American cousin Caitlin Devlin. Caitlin's Dad, Peter, is a brother of Connor's Mom, Cathy.

1 comment:

Ruth Ann Pilney said...

I will definitely pray for Connor asking the intercession of the Blesseds John Paul II, Georgio Frassati, and Chiara Luce Badano. Thank you for writing about him in connection with Sundays Gospel.