The year now, of course, has the sense of beginning to wind up. The delayed HSC exams are unfolding, the committees we might be on are having their final meetings for the year, the diaries are filling up with all the end of year social activities we try and fit in before Christmas.
So, too, the Church’s liturgical year is coming to its end. Next week it comes to its finality in the celebration of Christ the King, and then we begin a new year in the life of our Church with the season of Advent.
As we do come to the end of our liturgical year we are invited to look forward. In a marvellous way the readings in our liturgy speak of the ‘end times’. The Scriptures, however, speak of the end times only as they also speak of ‘new times, of times beginning.’ When ancient writers sought to give this paradox expression they would use the very particular technique of apocalyptic imagery – vivid imagery which spoke of both destruction and construction, darkness and light together. It is important for us to appreciate this so that we might avoid a fundamentalist interpretation of ancient texts. Indeed, the texts are not even speaking so much a future event in time that might in some way be predicted chronologically. Rather, they are speaking of what is happening now in and through our encounter with Jesus, for they realised that in the encounter with Jesus, in the experience of his death and resurrection, something had ended, something had begun.
In fact, we are the people of the ‘end time,’ those who because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus live in the intersection between something passing away and something new coming into being. Christian life is lived in the intersection of time. We are those who live between that which has already occurred in the event of Christ and, at the same time, is yet to come in its full realisation – those who live between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ This is why both our sense of memory and our sense of vision are so important for us, never one without the other. We look back, and at exactly the same time, we look forward. And it is this paradox that shapes our lives as Christians.
And that brings us to our memory today of San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod. We look back at them remembering their remarkable witness and their martyrdom for their faith. We remember them as Filipino but also as those who had left their native shores to bring the Faith into new contexts and countries. Your memory of them opens the memory of your own rich cultural identity. And yet your memory of them also opens for you your future as bearers of God’s love in a new country. Celebrating 500 years of Christian Faith in the Philippines, we look back, we look forward. And it is this tension that makes us come alive as a people of the Resurrection. We are never afforded the luxury of complacency, or passivity or of inertia. Our memory of S San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod spurs us onto something radical. And the bridge between memory and anticipation is always gratitude: gratitude for our culture; gratitude for those remarkable men and women who planted Christian faith in the soil of the Filipino archipelago; gratitude for those living communities of faith that introduced us into the mystery of God’s love in Jesus Christ; gratitude for the new opportunities that have presented in our lives, gratitude for the opportunities that are ours now to bear witness to the end times about which the Scriptures speak.
Let us remember. Let us celebrate. And let us hear the call into ever new beginnings so that the witness of San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod may not be in vain.
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