Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC

www.elizabeth-annestewart.com

SUNDAY BIBLETALK

November 13th, 2022

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

As most of you know, I spent the last month in my homeland, Malta. While I thoroughly enjoyed being back with family and friends, I was profoundly disturbed by what greed and self-serving interests have done to the archipelago. In some ways, my experience fits the "End of Times" readings for this Sunday, but, as of yet, I still have to find the "Good News." This is the letter I sent the Times of Malta:


To All Concerned:


As a Maltese-American who has returned to Malta at least 40 times over the last four decades, often bringing student groups from DePaul University, Chicago, I have witnessed both progress and ruin. While impressed by Malta's development as a cultural destination and by the care that has gone into the preservation of her archaeological heritage, I have been appalled by the lack of zoning -- or, too be more precise, by the total ignoring of zoning laws. As a child, I remember seeing photographs of blitzed buildings in both Floriana and Valletta; the wartime destruction, dreadful as it was, was nothing compared to the modern-day demolition of Malta's towns, villages and way of life. Because of the pandemic, I was unable to visit Malta for two years, but the Malta I found upon my return last month was unrecognizable. Across the island, one can see nothing but cranes, construction sites, concrete blocks of flats and towering hotels; add to the mix endless traffic jams and the constant roar of Bolt/ Wolt motor cycles and what is left is a descent into Dante's Inferno!


All this is precisely why I chose Mellieha as my destination. In the past, I have often stayed in Sliema, but now even walking along the sea front is stress-producing on account of the noise, scooters on the pavement and endless construction; naturally, I ruled out Bugibba, Qawra and St. Paul's Bay-- all of which are more like a sprawling holiday camp than a residential area-- as well as Marsalforn and Xlendi in Gozo. Mellieha, my family assured me, would be a much more peaceful alternative.  And so it was, until the end of my visit. Then, to my horror, I discovered that the Pergola Hotel has applied to build a three-storey addition on top of the existing structure at Triq Snajjin. Should this application be approved, this structure will not only dominate the skyline, but will also set a precedent for further development in the area. Inevitably, there will be more tourists, more traffic, more dust, more jack hammers, and one less bastion of peace and tranquility. 


Obviously, I am not a resident of Mellieha but what happens here affects me deeply. As my visits "home" become longer and more frequent, I would like to think of Mellieha as a sanctuary in every sense of the word -- as a place where I can rest, reflect and enjoy the incredible natural beauty that, at the present time, stretches as far as the eye can see. In my teens, I was an active member of Din L' Art Helwa; now, in my "golden years," I would like to leave a fair land for future generations.


Sincerely,


Elizabeth-Anne Stewart




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´╗┐Pray that

sanity will prevail and that all those suffering on account of the terrible conflict in Ukraine will find the comfort and resources they need.  





Greetings, SBT Readers!


This morning I spent a few moments chatting with my grandson and his friends as they gathered around the breakfast table. Vance celebrated his eighteenth birthday last Thursday and a few friends had come for the weekend in honor of this milestone. Now they were enjoying unhealthy muffins, scrambled "cage-free" organic eggs and organic chicken sausages.


"What do you think about the future?" I asked them, interrupting their lively conversation.


"Unpredictable." said one.


"No point planning," said another.


"But you have to be prepared," interjected Vance.


"Can't control the government and its policies," added the oldest in the group.


I share this with you because their comments are exactly what I would have expected. Like my iGen college students, Vance and his friends have been deeply affected by the unpredictability of today's world. Though their responses were brief, they reflect what I have witnessed in the classroom -- anxiety, disorientation, lack of motivation, lack of meaning, distrust of organizations. I would say that iGen is a generation in crisis and that every parent, grandparent, educator and minister needs to be aware of this.


What can each of us do to allay their fears, rekindle hope and present a world worth living in? Feel free to send me your responses!


Many Blessings!


Elizabeth



SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

Link to the Sunday Readings


Then they asked him,

"Teacher, when will this happen?

What sign will there be when these things are about to happen?"

Jesus answered,

"See that you are not deceived,

for many will come in my name, saying,

'I am he,' and 'The time has come.'

Do not follow them!

When you hear of wars and uprisings,

do not be frightened; these things must happen first,

but it will not immediately be the end."

Then he said to them,

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues in various places; and terrifying sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you,

they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,

and they will lead you before kings and governors

because of my name. And you will bear testimony to me."


Lk 21:5-19


The "signs of the times" surround us -- signs of natural disasters, human-made calamities, wars, plagues and famine. Sadly, we are so accustomed to hearing about these signs that we have become almost immune to their meaning. Global warming? We'll have to adapt! Covid-19? It's here to stay, just like the common cold! Famine? The poor will be with us always! We hear the unspeakable and barely blink because the terms have become an everyday part of our vocabulary; in fact, unless we are directly affected by flood, fire and famine, words are just words. Economic catastrophe means nothing to someone comfortably ensconced in a luxury house or apartment, but to those surviving in tattered tents under viaducts it is a lived experience. Similarly, we may flinch at images of war, but to Ukrainians who have survived vicious bombardments or the cruelties of Russian occupation, war now defines their experience of past, present and future. Just as Jesus' followers were so dazzled by the magnificence of the Temple that they couldn't imagine it in ruins, so we, too, take our reality for granted, incapable of comprehending that all things are impermanent-- until, that is, we ourselves are directly affected.


This was brought home to me by a recent NPR documentary on Senegal. Like other West African nations, Senegal's coastline has become so eroded by rising sea levels that whole villages have been swept away, along with the fishing industry, agriculture, and tourism. Children who once played in the sea now sit in make-shift classrooms far, far from the water's edge, unable to to see even a glimpse of blue. Almost overnight, it seems, their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents have been upended. Hearing first hand accounts of loss and desperation gave me a deeper understanding of "climate change" and its impact on real people. It also helped me understand the connection between forced migration and global warming as some of the men being interviewed were now making plans to embark on the dangerous crossing to Spain; once there, they reasoned, they would be able to find work and send money back to their families...


The reality is that "signs" are everywhere if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear. Our exploitation of the Earth manifests throughout nature, affecting every species, along with the land, the waters, the air we breathe. Greed leads to economic inequities, lack of access to vital resources, brutal manufacturing systems, human trafficking, the impoverishment of millions of people. And the desire for domination and control

has created societies of oppression, in addition to the horrors of war.


Despite all this, today's scriptures call us to be people of hope. "Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven," writes the prophet Malachi, "But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Mal 3:19-20a). Similarly, Jesus instructs his followers to live without fear. Despite persecution and hardship, they are to "bear testimony" to him. This message is as true now as it was 2,000 years ago. With so much assaulting us every conscious moment, we need to tell a different story, one that coexists with the "bad news," but provides an alternative perspective: that Jesus is the Lord of History and that through him, all time and space is already redeemed and can be redeemed, made whole again; that through the action of the Spirit, possibilities always exist and creative solutions will surface if we seek them; that God the Creator loves this planet we call our home, along with every inhabitant (human or otherwise) and that Love always has the final word-- in God's own time and in God's own way....



´╗┐QUESTIONS

FOR REFLECTION


* What does the "end of times" mean for YOU?


* What gives you hope, given the extreme times in which we are living?


* What message of hope do you have for future generations?


* How can you pray a new world into being?


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