Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The writing's on the wall

     In today's reading from Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures we hear of the great banquet thrown by King Balshazzar for his court and the extraordinary occurrence that day.  In the midst of the festivities a hand suddenly appeared and began writing on the wall.  It wrote three words: MENE, TEKEL and PERES.  Fearful, the king called for the Hebrew Daniel to interpret, which he did,
     MENE, he said, meant that the God of Abraham had numbered the king's kingdom and put an end to it.
     TEKEL meant that the king had been weighed upon the scales and been found wanting.
     PERES, he said, meant that the kingdom would be divided and given away.
     That very night King Balshazzar was killed and the Persians took over the kingdom.

     There is an old saying that "The writing's (or handwriting's) on the wall."  It is an idiom that generally means "imminent doom or misfortune".  It finds it's origins here in Daniel, but has been used in a number of places in literature and music.  It can be used like: "Things are looking bad.  The handwriting is on the wall".  Whether it is a prophetic prediction or simply a moment of insight in a particular situation, it usually implies that there is a greater wisdom, a great power, a stronger force at play in this moment of reality.

     Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us an Apostolic Exhortation entitled "Evangelii Gaudium" or "The Joy of the Gospel".  He presented it to a representative group at the final Mass for the Year of Faith on Sunday, November 24th, a group that represented all of the Church and the world as well.  He begins with these words:

"The JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives
of all who encounter Jesus.  Those who accept his offer
of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness
and loneliness.  With Christ joy is constantly born anew.
In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful
to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy,
while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey
for years to come."

     He then begins to lay a foundation of thought and a course of action that, while rooted in the joy of the gospel, must be a wake up call to all of us, a moment of "the handwriting is on the wall" that we see, understand and integrate in our lives, and which, like Daniel of old, we can interpret for the kings and kingdoms and peoples of the world.  It may not be a prediction that doom is imminent, but it is a clear call that the world in which we place our trust and hope, our very existence, has been "weighed upon the scales and found wanting."  I would like to hopefully share a few of Pope Francis' insights and teaching in this important aspect of our new and renewed self awareness and new evangelization.

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