Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I think we all wonder what Jesus meant when he said, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”  Certainly the then-current generation has come and gone, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve come to the end of the world.  But the Church would pose two very important questions about the coming and going of that generation.

First, what constitutes that generation?  Did Jesus mean just the people that were alive at that time?  We tend to think not.  All of us who believe in Jesus and live the Gospel are the members of his generation.  Jesus came to create the world anew, and we are all creatures of that wonderful new creation.  We will all live, in some way, to see the end of days, either here on earth, or from the joy of heaven.

Secondly, what was it that generation was supposed to see?  They were to see the signs of a new creation.  Just like the first buds of the fig tree and other trees that Jesus spoke about, all of which signaled the beginning of summer, so the signs of the new creation are evident among us.  Sins are forgiven, people return to God, miracles happen.  Granted, all these are imperfect in some ways now, given that they happen to us fallen creatures, but one day they shall be brought to perfection in the kingdom of God.  Then, we will see “One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I really don’t like that over-used phrase “at the end of the day.”  You hear it all the time, and it’s one of my least favorite corporate-speak phrases.  But I can’t help but think about this tired old phrase when I read the Scriptures for the Liturgy in these last days of the Church year.  Because the Liturgy is calling our attention to the fact that the end of the year is near, and asking us to reflect on our experience in the year gone by.  Have we been changed?  Are we responding to the Gospel?  Is our relationship with God any different than it was this time last year?

God is always ready for the harvest, with the sickle at the ready.  But our Scriptures today take care to point out that we must not be overly-anxious to jump the gun.  We may hear of Nostradamus prophecies, or revelations from some very obscure mystic that lead us to fear the end is upon us.  Lots of people will misinterpret all of the things that are happening in the news all over the world.  But God wants us to know that he is still at work, redeeming the lost, calling those who have strayed, binding up those who are broken.  So much has to happen before the end of days, so many still need to be redeemed.  Even we ourselves can use conversion and repentance and a renewed relationship with our God, if we’re honest.

So at the end of the day, are we any different?  Have we been changed?  Are we responding to the Gospel?  Has our relationship with God grown?  If not, we need to take the opportunity that next week’s beginning of the new Church year affords us.  We can allow Christ to be the King of our hearts and our lives.  We can be intimately connected with God through prayer and acts of peace and justice.  Seeking the Lord, we need not fear all those powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues.  We can instead cling anew to our Lord who earnestly longs for everything to be made right, at the end of the day.

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Jesus says to us today, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” This includes all of us, past, present and future. We will all live, in some way, to see the end of days, either here on earth, or from the joy of heaven. We are all part of the new generation of God’s loving creation.

So what will we see; what things will take place? We will see the signs of a new creation. Just like the first buds of the fig tree and other trees that Jesus spoke about, all of which signaled the beginning of summer, so the signs of the new creation are evident among us. Sins are forgiven, people return to God, miracles happen. Granted, all these are imperfect in some ways now, given that they happen to us fallen creatures, but one day they shall be brought to perfection in the kingdom of God. Then, we will see “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” as our first reading promises.

And so, in these closing days of the Church year, we pray for the coming of the kingdom, and hope for the salvation of the world as Jesus promised.

The Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“My whole world is falling apart.” We’ve all heard someone say that, or maybe we’re the ones who have said that, at some point in our lives. I think today’s Gospel points to that kind of experience.

But to really get at the experience Luke’s Gospel was getting at, you have to imagine how we would feel if we came to Mass one day and found this beautiful Church demolished and in ruins. I think we’d all be devastated and feel hurt, abandoned, and lost in some ways. And that’s just exactly how the original readers of Luke’s Gospel felt. Luke’s Gospel was written somewhere between 80 and 100 AD, so 50 or more years after Jesus died. And at this point, the glorious Temple of Jerusalem, once stately and glimmering white and gold in the sunlight, now lay in ruins, having been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. For the Jews at that time, the Temple meant something more for them than the center of their worship, which was crucial. But in the Temple they also found the symbol of their identity as a nation. It was a sign that God favored them among all the nations on earth and had chosen them to be his own. Jerusalem was no more, and a world ended with it.

But as I mentioned at the start of this homily, we all go through something that makes it seem like the end of the world at some point in our lives. Family, friends and our communities experience various forms of dying and they are never easy. Cancer debilitates a formerly-vigorous and full-of-life friend or relative; a marriage breaks up; an injury makes it impossible to keep a job; aging diminishes a once-vibrant person. And more. Our churches offer more and more empty seats, our nation moves from one crisis to the next, we scratch our heads as legislatures seem incompetent or cantankerous or ineffective, perhaps we are dismayed by the recent election season, or are fearful at the growing violence in our major cities. We might even think of devastating natural disasters like the hurricanes and earthquakes that happen around the world. When we experience any of that, it can seem like the world is ending.

And when things like that happen, it’s hard to find words to express our sadness, fear, pain, and desertedness. It can even be hard to find words to speak in prayer. But Jesus knows this will happen to us and promises that if we persevere, we will gain our lives and that God himself will give us a wisdom in speaking that cannot be refuted. In Christ, we can find wisdom to make painful circumstances occasions for God’s grace. What we experience as difficulties and painful endings, he sees as opportunities to witness to our faith in him.

Very often when catastrophic things happen, people read it as the coming end of the world. Sometimes people even see these things as signs of God’s displeasure at the way humanity has been behaving. But today’s Gospel doesn’t support those kinds of ideas. God alone knows the time for the world’s ending, and he’s not going to provide definite signs. Not only that, but catastrophe is the symptom of evil in the world, and not necessarily a sign of God’s feelings.

As the Church year comes to a close, it may be well for us to look back at our lives over the past year and take stock of our growth in faith. Has our relationship with Christ led us to a place where we can weather the storms of life, and hear his voice even when the world is falling down around us? Have we grown in our ability to make God’s presence in our world known when the world around us seems rudderless and adrift? Have we been open to God giving us words to speak in witness to the faith, so that we stand up with integrity for what we believe? If this year has not been a solid experience of growth for us, that needs to be our prayer for the year to come.

On the second-to-last Sunday of the Church year, it would have been wonderful for the Liturgy to tie up all the loose ends and give us a happy ending. But that’s not what we have here is it? Why? Because life isn’t that way. Jesus tells us as much today. The message that we have is that, no matter how messy things may be, we can praise our God who is with us in good times and in bad, and promises to lift us up even when the world seems like it is coming to an end.

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Jesus says to us today, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”  This includes all of us, past, present and future.  We will all live, in some way, to see the end of days, either here on earth, or from the joy of heaven.

So what will we see; what things will take place?  We will see the signs of a new creation.  Just like the first buds of the fig tree and other trees that Jesus spoke about, all of which signaled the beginning of summer, so the signs of the new creation are evident among us.  Sins are forgiven, people return to God, miracles happen.  Granted, all these are imperfect in some ways now, given that they happen to us fallen creatures, but one day they shall be brought to perfection in the kingdom of God.  Then, we will see “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

And so, in these closing days of the Church year, we pray for the coming of the kingdom, and hope for the salvation of the world as Jesus promised.

Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe

Today’s readings

I think this Gospel reading is wonderful because of the rather vivid picture that it paints. When I hear it, I can’t help but picture the king separating the sheep from the goats, making known their good works, or lack thereof, and ushering them into their version of eternity. It would seem that the moral of the story is very clear: we are all put here to do some very important things for the Kingdom of God; we are called to use our time and talent to serve those in need. These are the corporal works of mercy, and we should all certainly know them and do them. They aren’t mere suggestions, they are, apparently, the way that we get into heaven.

And that would be a very good message, but I think Jesus is going for something else because that message would be a good one any time of the year. So, the question we have to ask ourselves is why this message at this point of the Church year? And perhaps just as poignantly, why this message so close to the end of Jesus’ life? This reading comes from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which is just twenty-eight chapters long. Indeed, in the very next chapter, Judas begins to conspire against Jesus. So here at the end of Jesus’ life, and on the very last Sunday of the Church year, why this particular parable?

Well, we don’t have to look very far for the answer. The very setting itself tells us what Jesus was getting at: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” So this is clearly a prediction of the end of time, particularly the day of judgment. And I think this setting makes that vivid picture even more vivid. Here our Lord has all of his creatures before him, and he begins to separate them out. There are two places that one might go: the kingdom or eternal fire.

I think we all know what line we’re supposed to get into. But just in case there was any doubt, the Gospel makes it very clear. The kingdom, he says, was “prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” For you. The eternal fire, on the other hand, was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” So not for you. And this echoes a truth that has been preached all along the way of this Church year. We were made for heaven, heaven is our true home, and we are just passing through this place.

But just because the kingdom was prepared for us doesn’t mean we can’t make the wrong choice. The devil and his angels have already made their choice, and they’re hoping to take as many of us with them as they can. They do that by convincing us that we can live our lives any way we choose. They try to convince us that morality isn’t really objective, that anything is okay as long as it works for me. What they want us to say is that we are in charge, that there isn’t any God. They want us to choose life outside the Kingdom of God – you know, that kingdom that was prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

And we can choose that if we want to, but it will be a lonely place, with more than our share of sadness. To get to the real Kingdom, all we have to do is to accept the wonderful sheep and shepherd imagery that we have in today’s readings. In our first reading, Ezekiel portrays our God as a shepherd who goes out of his way to seek out and save the ones who are lost. This is a shepherd who wants to heal our brokenness and make us fit for the Kingdom of God. In just the same way, the sheep who are destined for the Kingdom might recognize the Son of Man throughout the Church year and throughout the Gospel and respond to his call to live for the Kingdom and not just for today, to care about others and love as we have been loved, and let that Love take us to our rightful place.

Today, on the last Sunday of the Church year, we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. We proclaim boldly that our Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords and there is absolutely no other. We profess that one way of life isn’t just as good as another, that there is only One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is King of the Universe and King of our hearts and our lives. When we make the right choice to follow our King and do what he has commanded, we can follow him to that Kingdom that was prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Our worshipping in these last days of the Church year is often difficult, I think, because these readings are just hard to hear. The readings from Revelation this week have been confusing, to say the least, and maybe even a little frightening. And even if we could ignore the fright of the Revelation, well the Gospel is a bit more violent this morning than we’d like to experience at 7:00 in the morning, I think.

But there is a spiritual principle at work here. We are being called to mindfulness. If during this liturgical year we’ve been a little lax, or even have become complacent, these readings are calling us to wake up lest we miss what God is doing. God is bringing the whole of creation to its fulfillment, and we are called to be witnesses of it. We dare not be like those who missed the time of their visitation. We have been given the wonderful gift of Christ’s presence in our lives all year long, and we are asked to look back at where that wonderful gift has taken us.

And if we haven’t come as far as we should, then we are called to wake up and realize what’s slipping away from us. We must not be left out of the kingdom, all our hopes smashed to the ground, all because we didn’t recognize that our greatest hope was right in front of us all the time. We know the time is running short. The days are shorter, and night approaches more quickly than we’d like. The leaves have gone from the trees. The nip in the air has turned to cold and even frost; and we’ve even seen more than a few snowflakes. These are the physical manifestations of creation groaning to come to its fulfillment, at least for the meteorological year.

But if the encroaching winter leaves us empty and aching for warmth, then these final days of the Church year might find us also aching for the warmth of the kingdom, that kingdom we were created to live in all our days. Let us not be like Jerusalem; we dare not miss the time of our visitation!