“Molly, you in danger, girl.”
One of my favorite scenes from the old movie, Ghost, is when the Ghost, played by Patrick Swayze, tells the psychic (Whoopi Goldberg) to let his girlfriend (Demi Moore) know that she is the target of a psychopathic killer. Instead of the elaborate explanation that Swayze has given, Whoopi simply says “Molly, you in danger, girl.”
Sunday’s gospel lesson is Jesus’s version of just such a warning. The Message, a paraphrase of scripture puts it rather dramatically: “It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking. And then—then!—they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”
We Christians are warned to be prepared, alert to the signs of the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Just like gardeners can look at the plants and see signs that spring is coming, we are to be able to see the signs that the kingdom of God is near. And yet, most of us live as though the trials and tribulations of the Day of the Lord will pass us by unscathed. We live as though we will be able to dodge that bullet.
Some of us don’t dodge the bullet. Some of us get the diagnosis of terminal disease either for ourselves or our loved ones. Some of us get the news that we are not going to make it. Some of us have futures full of long slow loss of abilities and skills. The long slow progression of symptoms that are hard to bear, which flow in a thousand different orders and sequences depending on our particular illness and accumulate on top of each other. Words like malignant, progressive, pervasive, relentless, metastatic, terminal, sclerotic, haematoma, thrombosis, embolism, hemorrhage, aneurysm, occlusion, failure, and collapse echo in our heads as the doctors try to explain dispassionately that what is happening inside us is simply too horrible to grasp.
Behold the apocalyptic signs, Jesus warns, all around us in sun, moon, stars and earth. Notice when people faint from fear. Like the pigs in their trucks on the way to Smithfield, realize that something is desperately wrong. “Be afraid,” squeal the pigs. “Be very afraid.”
But Jesus tells us, that instead of trying to run away, instead of crawling in a hole and pulling the dirt on top of us, we should stand up and raise our heads because the Son of Man is coming and our redemption is near. F.D.R. tells us that we have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Ghandi tells us “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” And every angel that ever visited any human, always begins “Fear not!” Let anyone who has ears, listen.