Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday of the 34th Week (I)

Daniel 7:15-27 / Luke 21:34-36

However different our vision, however keen our eyes, things are generally most readily seen neither close up or at a distance, but rather in the middle ground. Hold something right up near the eye and it will either all be a blur or be so partial a view that we have no clue as to what it is we are looking at. Put something out at a distance and, even for a keen eye, it loses much of its specificity. In other words, when the focus is too close or too distant, we simply cannot say what it is that we are seeing. Sight is most comfortable at the middle distance.

We can see that our spiritual sight is not so unlike that. Unaided, the prophet Daniel was not simply perplexed by his vision of the future, but rather he found his spirit anguished within its covering of flesh, and he was terrified by the visions of his mind. What was to come was seen by him as terrible beasts with iron teeth and claws of bronze, as horns, one of which spoke in arrogance. It was only when one of those present ... made known to him the meaning of the things that Daniel could receive his vision of things far off as a message of hope and not a source of terror.

In the Gospel, we are warned against just the opposite tendency. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of the dangers of carousing and drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life. Whether pleasures or worries, these things share in common the fact of being immediate, of being experienced directly by us here and now. Yet, the Lord warns us that indulging in them will make our hearts become drowsy. Our vision will, like the eyes of a sleepy man, become blurry, and we will not notice the coming of the Day which will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. It is only in being vigilant, which is to say keeping our gaze beyond what is immediately around us, but looking up to see what it coming, that we will be able to stand before the Son of Man with fearful joy rather than loathing and terror.

How, then, to we find the right distance? How to we know where to focus? How do we escape the terror that comes from the unintelligible future on the one hand and the terror that will strike us from having been to caught up in the insistent present on the other hand?

The answer, which we knew all along, is to see through the eyes of the Scriptures as read in prayer from the heart of the Church. It is Jesus Christ who, like those with Daniel, is present to us, and it is his voice alone that can transform the terrifying visions of what is to come into Good News and a message of hope. Likewise it is Jesus Christ who, being more present to us than our own bodily pleasures, more pressing on us than our daily cares, who along can liberate us from the tyranny of the present and face the future coming without alarm. What our eyes cannot see for being too close or too far away, we nonetheless can see with clarity by keeping our focus on the middle ground who is the Lord Jesus, our Lord and God, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

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