By Fr. William Reynolds
For The Catholic Messenger
(Editor’s note: The following column is a reflection on a homily Father Bill Reynolds gave during Masses Nov. 14-15 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newton.)
Both our passages from Daniel and from Mark’s Gospel this week are examples of apocalyptic images. Sometimes in the Scriptures it seems like the author was writing while in the midst of a bad experience on illegal drugs.
Often cosmic images are employed, as indeed the intended audience is frequently experience suffering of a cosmic proportion. Apocalyptic writing sometimes refers to events surrounding the end of time, or sometimes it refers to a situation which is so encompassing that it might seem to be life-shattering experience.
Apocalyptic writing is directed to an audience which is suffering persecution, and the common message is one of perseverance; remain hopeful, have faith, and know that your persecution will eventually end.
We certainly know about persecution. In the early church the faithful frequently were persecuted by numerous Roman emperors.
We know in this country of the persecution that visited us on 9/11 from Al Qaeda. More recently, this has been experienced from the terrible actions of ISIS.
We know of children bullied in their schools or neighborhoods.
Christians in many parts of the world are currently being persecuted due to their faith.
The unborn are subject to persecution in this country; the unborn can be killed at the mere whim of their mother. Consider how many national leaders — and politicians who seek leadership positions in our land — believe that abortion on demand is an entirely acceptable public policy. This is a matter of shame! We ought not to have to tolerate a national leadership which believes that abortion on demand is acceptable public policy. The womb should be a place of safety and security. In the USA, the womb is a place of persecution.
In recent months we have heard the cry “Black lives matter.” Of course they do. We’ve heard, “Cops lives’ matter.” Of course they do, along with the lives of all those who legitimately exercise public authority.
Unborn life matters. Of course it does, from conception to natural death all human life bears the imprint of God. And the more vulnerable that human life is, the greater is the duty of the state to offer protection to that life. A 3-year old boy who is threatened by an unjust aggressor might flee to save his life. A 1-year old girl might cry out in pain or fear from the attack of an unjust aggressor, and someone might come to her aid and protection. But the unborn child can neither cry out in pain nor flee from the unjust aggression of the abortionist’s instruments of death and destruction.
The lives of those dining in a restaurant in Paris matter. The lives of those caught up in human trafficking — who often are subjected to forced labor in the commercial sex industry — matter.
The lives of those on an airplane returning to their homeland from a vacation in Egypt matter.
The lives of political or religious refugees fleeing for their lives from North Africa and the Middle East matter.
The lives of immigrants matter.
All human life matters.
It can be tough these days to find hope.
Certainly what we can do individually against Al Qaeda or ISIS would seem to be almost nothing. Those problems exist at such a scale that an individual can do little about them. We can pray. And we can talk to our children about what is just and what is unjust in multiple spheres of human life. Parents, have those conversations with your children.
But some of the other persecutions we know about do require our ongoing efforts to eradicate. We must not be complacent against the injustice from which innocent people in our nation and in our world suffer. And sometimes this is not a matter merely of suffering, but a matter of the very loss of entirely innocent human life. And if we are complacent in the face of such evil, are we perhaps not also complicit in that evil?
May God have mercy on our souls.