32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Mac 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38
This time of year lends itself to thoughts of time and eternity, to thoughts of death and an afterlife. The vibrancy of summer is giving way to the dormancy of winter. The falling leaves remind us that we too someday will fall to the earth and rot. This past week we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day – two feasts with a very strong theme of death and an afterlife. Our readings this morning give testimony to our Judeo-Christian belief in a happy eternity.
Time marches on. We can get caught up in the pressing concerns of the moment and become somewhat myopic, but those concerns pale when we enlarge the spotlight and consider the bigger scheme of things. We don’t have to look very far for reminders of just how insignificant our little lifespan is. Take for instance the stones and boulders you see in the walls of this church. They are all rounded and smooth because they were part of a glacier. They were all gathered from our property, but they made quite a journey to get here. There are no deposits of granite within a couple hundred miles of us. These stones originated up in Canada. It took them thousands of years to get here, rolling along in the glacier so slowly that you would not have been able to detect their movement with the naked eye. They were bumping into one another and having their sharp edges ground off. Behind the Abbey to the west is a ridge. It is actually a moraine. All the debris that the glacier was pushing along ahead of it got deposited there because that’s where the glacier ended at one point in time. There was a big lake stretching out to the east and huge chunks of the glacier would calve and fall into the lake. That glacier would have been active tens of thousands of years ago. It is said that the present position of the Genesee River dates back 29,000 years, and was evidently due to the glacier melting.
Also on our property we have tetra-coral fossils. These date back 375 million years. Isn’t that amazing?! Some look like horns or cornucopias, others like sponges. They date back to the Devonian period, and were abundant in the Middle Ordovician to Late Permian seas. In other words, this area was the bed of a sea 375 million years ago, and covered with corals. During the time when we were still farming our own land we would periodically turn up a rock with these fossils. One rather large one we gave to the University in Geneseo to put on display. It’s probably not still there because it wasn’t a very impressive specimen. Salt Creek meanders through our land and at one point behind the moraine I mentioned earlier it has cut down to uncover a strata of these fossils, packed in petrified mud. It really is quite mind-boggling to learn how long the stars have been around and the stones and things we see around us.
Millennia have come and millennia have gone. Species have come and gone, like the dinosaurs and these tetra-corals. Stones and boulders have rolled, glaciers have advanced and retreated. Even seas have come and gone. Time marches on, and our 90-year lifespan is next to nothing in the big scheme.And yet, the whole concept of time is insignificant when compared with eternity. The two are not even worthy of comparison. We have been privileged to share in eternity. Our bodies might pass away with the leaves and the dinosaurs and the glaciers, but our souls will live on forever. We will have individual consciousness and retain our person-hood. Our readings this morning beautifully testify to this. What a tremendously comforting belief this is of our religion. How futile it would all seem if this life was all there was.
And of course our belief in a loving God and an afterlife has bearing on the choices we make in our everyday lives. The Maccabean martyrs in our first reading were willing to undergo torture and even death rather than deny their faith.
Let us, therefore, always be extremely grateful for our participation in eternity, and let us do all in our power to nourish our faith and weed out all that undermines it.