“There is a lament rising in Gilead, and it will not quiet for some time.”
With modern communications and in such an emotional, corrupt, divisive, and spiritually exhausting period, there has never been a time in human history when it was possible to communicate the gospel as effectively as it is today. In our present troubling context and systemic evil that threaten to bring us to ruins, it is easy to despair in the face of Brexit, in California where thousands of acres of land are burning and from massive wildfires. Many are starving in the shadow of relentless war, racial or sexual violence. In our present lamentations, Jesus promises a new birth and what God births blossom. In essence, we are called to witness in our ruins and barrenness like Hannah in assurance that what God births will end in joy (I Sam 1).
In Mark 13, Jesus was speaking to our generation as much as to his disciples 2000 years ago because we live in the interim between ascension and Christ’s return. The reflection is that, today, in this ‘interim we experience the same circumstances that Jesus promised his disciples.’ We are already experiencing false prophets, false preachers, fake news, wars and rumours of wars, natural calamities and persecution of believers.
We are in a time when the followers are not seeing the same things as the leaders sees, just as the disciples were not seeing the same things as Jesus did. In Mark 13, the disciples in their senses of awe and comfort wanted to impress Jesus, instead Jesus’ response and question to them was disappointing and unexpected. Jesus asked: “Do you see these great buildings?” It is unclear why ‘Jesus ask the disciple if he can see what the disciple has just invited Jesus to see.’ The reflection is that the two of them are not seeing the same thing at all just as many are not seeing the same things with our leaders.
All thing works together for good for those who loves the Lord. There is opportunity in our catastrophes, including when our “great building” come tumbling down. Our catastrophes, our disappointments and persecutions invites us to enter into apocalyptic time, when we trust in the Holy Spirit when things are falling apart all around us. For example, our Brexit turmoil and other catastrophes of life summons us to envision ourselves in other to lose the lies we have mistaken for the truth.
In 1 Samuel chapter 1, Hannah did not mistake the lies of Elkannah her husband, “Am I not better to you than ten sons” for the truth. May be Elkannah would have said, “Are you (Hannah) not better to me than ten children”? Again, Hannah did not mistake the lies of Eli the priest who said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” for the truth. In an age and culture of fake news, fake preachers and fake leaders, there are many lies and illusions we mistake for truth hence, wars and rumours of wars. Jesus promises new birth beyond our personal struggle, pride, traditions, comfort zones, secular, and democratic edifices and structures we pin our hope and prosperity.
While the disciple were clinging to the permanence of their wealth, Jesus was inviting them to evolve, to be on the move. Nothing in this temporal world is permanent. Using the title of the first novel of Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and the winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2007, Things Fall Apart, we are called to embrace a journey of faith when things we love or want are falling apart. When we walk with the Lord, when we dare to see what Jesus sees, things will get uncovered, including Brexit and other First World policies that are causing global divisions and turmoils. Nations make war when truth is shaken. Let us pray and overcome the lies of the imposers and social media through fake news of fear and despair that incite suspicion, hasty and kee-jerk judgements:
O Lord help me to be agent of peace, choose hope, cultivate patience, and incarnate love as the world reels and changes. O Lord, help me to overcome the attraction of what large stones represent – power and wealth, achievement and ease of life, accomplishment and attention.
Deliver me from the present perceptions of secular and ecclesial success settles in on numbers, money, grants, new and shiny programs, and membership – the measures of might and the gauges of greatness set by society. O Lord, help us to find meaning for our nations and churches within the mandate of the Gospel.