Image: Tranquil evening on Trapper’s Lake
Over the past few months, we have been besieged by major changes in society and, at the moment, there does not seem to be a clear end in sight. We are faced with difficult issues raised by the pandemic, by racial inequalities, by faltering economies and simply by not knowing what the future holds and what our next steps should look like. There are no shortages of voices offering insight, but they seem to be crashing against each other, leaving us adrift in a sea of inharmonious noise.
We are in a time of transition, and though we may understand that there is a need for change, change is never easy. Both our readings speak to it in today’s liturgy. The prophet Amos lays out a reconstruction plan for the Kingdom of Israel and it looks beautiful. The time of injustice and discord is coming to an end and there is, on the horizon, an opportunity for peace, prosperity and unity for all that lies ahead. But the keyword is construction, and we all know what a renovation project looks like. Before we can appreciate something newly built, we must endure the hard work, the noise, the seeming chaos that is necessary to remove the old and make way for the new.
In the gospel we find ourselves at the in-between-time of the emissary of Christ, John the Baptist, and the Messiah himself, Jesus. John’s disciples are perplexed as they have heard the words of their mentor proclaim that he must decrease so that the new voice, the Son of Man, could increase. They wonder if all that they have sacrificed was for nothing? Would there be a place for them in this new order of things? Jesus tells them that what they have been doing in no longer necessary or even proper and they must be ready to leave old ways behind. Again, this is not easy to ask of someone who has, for so long, only known one way of doing things.
When we feel overwhelmed by the change that is going on around us it is good to step back and get some perspective. This is far from the first time that the future has been up in the air. In fact, it is more likely that times of peace and stability are actually what is rare. We might not feel like we have much to hold on to when the world is running amok, but our faith tells us that, at the end of the day, Jesus is the rock to whom we must cling. He will be our anchor in the stormy seas.
The Psalm today speaks of peace, not a time of peace which is to come, but peace which can be ours, now, despite what chaos might be taking place around us.
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.”
It is a time for new wine skins, a time to discard that which is rotten and to make way for what is fresh. But for this happen we must have the peace in our hearts which God offers us. This is the peace which the world needs so that calm heads and voices can prevail, and we can keep moving through fog. Peace is the bearing the keeps us on course while the difficult work is done until we can, at last, experience the Kingdom that God has in store for us.