This is the day

On 17 April 1980, we made our way to Rufaro Stadium to witness the birth of Zimbabwe as a free nation. It was a day many had yearned for, suffered for and died for. At midnight the flag was raised. 

It was a still night with no breeze to shake out its many colours; so it hung there limp as though uncertain of what it was supposed to do.  When the prayer and the brief speeches were over there was a frightening crush as people crowded the exits to get home.

It was a day of joy and hope for the future.  The real excitement was everywhere and we rode a crest of goodwill among the nations. Foreign governments trod on one another in the rush to come to help and old enmities were buried in the flow of words about turning swords into ploughshares.  But it was hard to hold on to the goodwill and joyful feelings.  We wondered just how all this promise could be fulfilled.

The poet, T.S. Eliot, once wrote, ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’.  Well, that day in 1980 was ‘reality’! Perhaps it was in a sense ‘unbearable’ in that it carried so much responsibility to fulfil the dreams and hopes of all the people of the new country.  Let’s not dwell on how it all soon began to go wrong and how here we are forty years on as far away as ever – at least for most citizens – from seeing those dreams realised.

Instead, we could think of this day in which we now live and how capable are we of living the promise it carries. We were unable to ‘bear’ our responsibilities then. Can we begin to do so now? When Jesus came to ‘dwell among us’ he announced that ‘the time is fulfilled’ (Mark 1:15), ‘today, even as you are listening’ (Luke 4:21). But they could not bear that reality.  It was too much and their response was to try to get rid of him.

Yet Jesus kept repeating the promise, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and hear what you hear’ (Luke 10:23). They could not bear it. It involved too much of a commitment. They would have to follow him in his confrontation with evil that would lead to Calvary. They weren’t ready for that. There was no way the fruits of 1980 could just be plucked from a tree.  All that day did was to open the way. Some followed it. Many didn’t. And now here we are, forty years on, wondering will we ever fulfil our dreams?

Malachy is pessimistic. ‘The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evildoers will be like stubble’ (3:19). It doesn’t have to be like that.  We just have to face reality and take up our task. ‘My yoke is easy’ (Matthew 11:30). It is quite bearable after all.

17 November 2019                 Sunday 33 C

Malachy 3:19-20                     2 Thessalonians 3:7-12                        Luke 21:5-19

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