Fr John's Homily - 33rd Sunday, 18th November - Life Goes On

21 November 2018 | General Interest


Mk 13.24-32 (Dan 12.1-3, Hb 10.11-14.18) 

We could get quite scared about Jesus’ warning of the end coming, with a vision of universal chaos and collapse, with the distant stars spinning in the sky, the sun cooling, the moon fading, but the facts remain that the sun will expand into a red giant in about 5 billion years, after it burns up all the hydrogen at its core, having swallowed up Venus and Mars, and Earth will be long gone! But “don’t you worry about that”, as Joh of Kingaroy Qld, would once say!! Our life span, no matter how long or short, makes this irrelevant for us, but just a matter of academic interest!

(Play song: “I’m so worried” – Monty Python, worried, worried, worried - about Heathrow baggage retrieval and everything else, from the Middle East, the state of the world today (ca 1980 – what changes?), fashions to repeats on TV, hair falling out, being full of doubt, modern technology, the things they dump in the sea, what can go wrong, whether people like the song or to stop!)

What do Jesus’ frightening words mean? I’d suggest, get real, as they say. Live life now and well; make the most of our opportunities, accept and learn from our failures and celebrate the joys and successes. But, in particular, appreciate the lives we have and the people around us, in the normal routine of day to day life. Be thankful we are not surrounded by crises. As his disciples, look beyond ourselves, and see the needs of others, and appreciate our need for them. “No man (person) is an island”, as John Donne, 17th century priest and poet writes!

Anxiety or worry, and uncertainty are a natural part of the human condition, some of us suffering from it, or at least experiencing it more or less, in varying degrees. Mortality is our reality! All Souls month reminds us all of the great leveller and our challenge to live the dash between our dates (of birth and death) as well and productively as we can.

Some time ago, I referred to natural optimist NZ born British author and scriptwriter Richard Curtis, whose film “Love Actually” reflects the bright and positive side of human nature and loving relationships, being critical of the emphasis of news being the dark side of life, with tragedy, evil and death presented at the forefront.

For ourselves, an uncertain diagnosis, awaiting scans and biopsy results, pains in the chest, the ageing process (glasses, hearing aids, dentures, hips and knees!), not being what we used to be, just general angst about life. Then there is our worry about others, especially those close to us, sick children, parents, friends. Life could be seen to be full of trauma and worry.

Then there are the complications of life with difficulties and uncertainty in relationships, particularly intimate ones. There’s nothing worse than family conflict poisoning, or at least, clouding the love, warmth and concern that was once there, with the hope there is the possibility of reconciliation, forgiveness, overcoming misunderstanding and hurt, and another chance to move forward together. Life is too short, but so many fail to accept that fact, as we look back and wonder where time has gone for each of us!

Aren’t mothers a classic model of concern because of their nurturing self-sacrificing natures, wanting the best for their children, but having to let go, and face the fact that independence comes, and control is not healthy or possible in the longer term? This is the reality of life for all of us.

Just look at the Jesus and Mary model, as she saw her son face rejection and ultimate humiliation, with her in the background, although no doubt there were the celebratory moments, as in the Wedding feast at Cana, and the crowds gathering to hear his words, and witness his outreach in compassion and service to those in need!

With some amusement, I recall my Mum in April 1986 on phone to me in Ottawa, after I’d defended my doctoral thesis: “Be careful; there are terrorists in Europe!” Then, on my arrival in Holland, Scottish friends in Terneuzen said: “Did you hear about the bomb in Melbourne?!” There had been the tragedy of the Russell St bombing. Life’s a risk, wherever we are.

At times, our life goes before our eyes, as mine did on the night of 09/08/1987, when I drove home to East Preston, down Hoddle St, unaware of the shootings that had just occurred, as I heard the 10pm ABC news afterwards, with 7 dead and 19 injured. Then there was the Queen St Post Office shooting with 9 dead and 5 injured, Port Arthur 28/04/1996, with 35 dead and 23 wounded, the Lindt Café on 15-16/12/2014 with 3 dead and 4 injured (not to forget those traumatized longer term), when I was in Sydney, and then most recently, fresh in our minds, the Bourke St Mall 20/01/2017, with 6 dead and 25 injured and again 08/11/2018, with the very good man and bright spirit, Sisto Malaspina, dead and 2 injured. All for no good reason, apart from the evil intentions and acts of mad and bad individuals, whatever their motivation. It’s the random chance of life, being in the wrong place at wrong time

Leigh Sales is an insightful Australian author and journalist, who has written a book recently, titled “Any Ordinary Day”, based on the traumatic experiences of any number of individuals, including herself, for whom life had been relatively happy, successful, normal, and smooth sailing, until she suddenly and unexpectedly suffered a ruptured uterus, just prior to the birth of her second child, and both lives were suddenly critically endangered. Fortunately, for her, it was a happy outcome, with both recovering, but a reminder that so called ordinary things cannot be taken for granted, and that pregnancy and childbirth can be hazardous life processes. It made her look at life and its preciousness and fragility with a renewed vision, appreciating the goodness of normality, and the routine of day to day life.

Further, I take just one of her interviewees, in Walter Mikac, who lost his wife and 2 children at Port Arthur, his entire family, and who, said to Leigh, on distant reflection, that he coped in the end by thinking he was not as badly off as the person who lost family members, and was severely injured, such that there was ongoing physical suffering and a long road to recovery for the survivor, whereas he had escaped that added affliction.

Whilst agnostic herself, Leigh Sales speaks of the positive effects of faith in God and Jesus, on those who had suffered much, and yet were determined to live life well, despite their traumas and losses, added spiritual strength coming from their inner faith.

For me, at this time of year, I think of my late dear friend Audrey, a woman of deep faith, born in Sydney Nova Scotia, married to Barry, from Cornerbrook in Newfoundland, and their 3 young sons, whom I baptized at Manly. She suffered from a rare form of brain cancer, and after diagnosis, did her best to ensure a secure future for her sons, with Barry, determined to live life to the full, for them, as best she could, in the short time she had left. By the time she died at 44, 7 years ago this month, volunteers had raised money and renovated an old dilapidated house for the family, so that she could see the generosity and love of so many, to help her realize what was a fundraiser titled “Audrey’s Wish” for her family, despite the adversity and unfairness of it all. And she left letters written to her sons, about her wishes for them, to be read at their 21st birthdays in the future, in her physical absence. She even spoke to me in hospital of her spiritual experience of what she felt was the presence of Jesus reassuring her that all would be well, despite it all.

For all of us, life hasn’t been fair at some point or another. But the choice is to wallow in self-pity and anger, or to pick ourselves up, with the eyes of faith, and a little help from our friends (thanks Ringo!) and try to make the most of each day, knowing not what tomorrow might bring.

And so, as we approach the end of the Church’s year, Jesus encourages us to think about last things and face an uncertain future in the meanwhile, living our call as his disciples, in a spirit of hope, with a positive and optimistic attitude to doing our best, and not being weighed down with our anxieties and uncertainties, with which I began! Life goes on, whatever. What do you and I do about it? Make the most of the now we are in, with Good News/Gospel values in mind!


john hannon    17/11/2018


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