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The Arc of the Universe

November 25, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

November 25, 2018
Revelation 1:5-8
Fr. George Smiga

We all have a personal history. Then there is scientific history, and economic history, and American history, and world history. But above all of these we believe that there is God’s history, and that that history is supreme. This is why we can make the claim that we make today that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe. There is a very helpful image in today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation that centers on this point. God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. So, God is saying: I am the A and the Z. I am the beginning and the end of time.

We do not have much problem believing that God is the beginning of time. We accept God as the Creator of all things. But sometimes we forget that God is also the Omega, the end of time. This is an important truth to remember because it gives us optimism and hope. By seeing God as the Omega, the end of history, we are saying that everything that happens to us and everything that happens in our world is moving towards a point where God will be all in all. It is telling us that every step we take in history is a step towards God. It indicates that because we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we see ourselves approaching a moment where God’s goodness and justice will rule over all things.

Now this is a tremendously important part of our faith. It stands at the center of the gospel. But it is also a very difficult truth to believe, because as we experience our own lives and our own history, there are times when we seem to be taking a step forward, and then there are other times when we seem to be taking a step back. There are times when the world seems to be making great progress, and then there are other times when everything seems to be falling apart. In our own families there are moments when healing takes place and misunderstanding is healed among family members. Then there is another action, and old wounds are opened up again. We elect men and women to political office who seem to be people of integrity and committed to the common good, and we elect others who are erratic and an embarrassment. Our church leaders call us to serve the poor and the marginalized but at the same time fail to protect children from abuse. Some countries make great strides toward the protection of human rights, and yet new wars and incidents of terrorism emerge. So, it is difficult for us as Christians to believe that history is moving toward God, when all of these evils continue in our midst. How do we square our belief with reality?

There is a famous quote by Theodore Parker, an American minister who was active before the Civil War. Parker was strongly committed to the abolition of slavery, and as we know the fight to end slavery was a long and difficult one, with many setbacks along the way. In 1853 Parker gave a sermon in which he said: The arc of the universe is a long one, but I believe that it bends toward justice. What Parker is saying is that the history of our world is long and complex, and it does not always move in the same direction. It takes a few steps forward, and then it takes a step back. Its movement is more like a pendulum than a straight line. But here is the faith perspective: In that long history we believe that we are still moving in the right direction, that the pendulum swings more on God’s side than the other side, that history is still bending toward justice.

When we find ourselves in situations where everything seems to be falling apart, or where things are erratic and unjust, the gospel calls us not to give up hope. We must remember what we believe. We believe that the history of our world is long and complex. But we also know how the pendulum swings. And in the end, we believe that the arc of the universe bends toward justice, bends toward God.

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