It is early Saturday morning and I have just looked at the Sunday readings for the first time. Normally I begin the homily preparation mid-week. But nothing is normal in Christchurch these days.
I began my homily in Darfield and at OLV last Sunday saying that this was one day when everyone would hang on every word of the readings: ‘do not worry about what you are to wear…..’ where you are to live…
The reason that we heard the Gospel last Sunday, is that we were all worried. In moments we were even terrified. And here God was telling us not to worry. How could we not worry? Even our confidence in God’s gift of solid earth had been shaken. In today’s Gospel we hear that the man who builds his house on solid rock is the wise one. And yet even the rock around our city was unstable. Does God not know about earthquakes?
At Masses this weekend we respond to the first reading praying: “Lord, be my rock of safety.” In these days since last month’s earthquake we have seen so many of our usual ‘rocks of safety’ collapse around us. Even the solid symbols of our tradition and our city built in rock on rock have been reduced to rubble. We have seen that nothing is secure. Nothing is stable. Not only are our material securities taken from us, but we know from our personal experience that even the most promising relationship is too often later experienced as less than ideal.
So where can we find security? What is stable?
We turn to God. In every age of human history healthy people have known that God is our only security. God also provides our ultimate security. I was reminded of this in the Liturgy this week: Wednesday’s Office of Readings when one of the most beautiful passages of our Christian tradition was read:
Late have I loved you,
Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
St. Augustine, the writer of this prayer of passionate yearning for God, lived over 1500 years ago. Even this fact indicates that the reality the readings lead us to reflect on today, is a timeless reality. Only God can give us what we seek. At best the wonderful experiences of human intimacy and physical security are little more than signs that point us to the ultimate reality of God’s presence and God’s generous, practical and all-satisfying love.
This reality is the heart of human existence: If we live every breath in relationship with God, we will experience ALL that we seek. The fruit of this divine relationship is human security and human intimacy.
I think we taste this in a remarkable way in these days of tragedy and trauma. We see people caring for one another without counting the cost. Almost everyone I know has opened their home and resources to friends, family, strangers and even enemies in need. This is one of the greatest miracles I have every witnessed.
I see strangers meeting in neighbourhood groups every evening to share food, friendship, bathrooms and bedrooms. I have even heard someone who has returned to their own home missing the company of the neighbours. Now they are back in front of their own plasma screen and they miss the company around the neighbours cook-out where they cried and laughed over sausages and chardonnay into each homeless night.
In these days we have been reminded of what is essential. We have tasted the beauty of this different way of living. This vulnerabilty and openness is more reflective of human need than our usual independence and self-reliance.
This is what Augustine is writing about. We are not created to build our own successful kingdoms. Such projects are exhausting and ultimately futile. Only an intimacy with God breathed in every moment, can satisfy our human need.
The success of our human endeavours is in fact a veneer of stability. Today the ultimate home on the Cashmere hill is uninhabitable. Even our stable and secure Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is reduced to rubble. The Cathedral is a sign that points us to the reality of God. The Cathedral is in ruins. But God is alive and present.
Lord, help us to know that you are our only “rock of safety.”