Sunday Week 33 Year B

“Cheer up,” they tell you, “it’s not the end of the world.” When the horrible happens, when someone irreplaceable dies, when someone you love doesn’t love you, when illness strikes like lightning or wastes like acid. “Cheer up! It’s not the end of the world!”
But what do they know? It should be the end of the world. If the world had any decency it wouldn’t want to go on with this pain in it. It shouldn’t be able to just carry on a normal. The stars should fall from the sky. The earth should shake. The ground should open up. The darkness should fall. And then there might be an end to horror and loss and rejection and death.
When the pocketbook is empty, when the baby isn’t born, when the oncoming car isn’t going to miss, when the news reveals another heartbreak, when good people are killed for their goodness. Why doesn’t the world itself wind up its career, call it a day, pack its bags and be done with it. Bring on the darkness!
Today is the eighth anniversary of the killing of six of my brother Jesuits in El Salvador because they would not be silent about the evils done against the poor of that country. Not just killing – butchery and mutilation. And not just the priests but two women who worked with them. Some of the men who followed orders and did the killing had been trained in this country by the American army at the School of the Americas. A place that apparently knew of the use of torture and violence in El Salvador long before this tragedy.
Three weeks ago another Jesuit, this time in India, was beheaded at the hands of a rebel group because of his work with the untouchables; the poorest of the poor in Bihar province.
Here in quiet California, three days ago, the President of the Jesuit School of Theology, hardly a radical, was effectively removed from the job by a letter from Rome referring to an interview he gave years ago to an alumni magazine in which he spoke amongst other things, with measured words, about dissent within the church and about the ordination of women.
“Cheer up,” some have been saying, “it’s not the end of the world.” And maybe it’s not. No butchery; the beheading only symbolic; just bureaucratic abuse by those who should know better.
So it’s not the end of the world. The sun rose this morning. The moon will shine tonight. The stars will be where the stars always have been and the world will go on as if nothing had happened. As if my woes and yours were insignificant.
But the promise of Scripture today is that there will be a time when our troubles will bring on the end of the world. “After trials of every sort the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed its light, stars will fall from the skies, and the heavenly hosts will be shaken.” The world at last will begin to respond to the horrors we have experienced. And in the middle of all that, when evil is at last unmasked, then we will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory to vindicate his people; to vindicate you and me. It will be the beginning of the end, the end of all evil and hurt, but it will be more. It will be the end of the beginning. Because the end will not be the end. “Learn a lesson,” says Jesus, “learn a lesson from the fig tree. Once the sap of its branches runs high and it begins to sprout leaves you know that summer is near.” The fig tree, which is last to bud and last to green, which sits there looking as dead as winter while all the others bloom and ripen their way through spring. When all hope for petal and leaf is long lost, why, just then the fig tree opens up its heart and summer is here. That’s the lesson: the promise that all our pain and hurt and disappointment, that all the horror and evil and injustice in this world, that all this will bring on the end of the world, yes, but the beginning of a new one. That’s the promise — summer is coming, Jesus is coming.
When doesn’t matter: only why. Why? Because God cares. Because God has already sacrificed his own life for us. Because God feels our pain and wants to share our joy. Because “Cheer up” is never enough.