November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015

 

The Apocalypse/the end of the world is quite a topic of fascination.  Over recent years we’ve had Y2K and the Mayan Calendar and December 21, 2012.  Hollywood and cable television channels just eat it up, especially, it seems, if it involves zombies.  Of course, even our Sacred Scriptures include prophecies and revelations about the end times.  “But,” Jesus says, “of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Maybe all of this makes us scared.  Or maybe, with an “it can’t get any worse” kind of attitude, we can sing with R.E.M., “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” and “it’s time I had some time alone.”

 

Yet the origin of the word “apocalypse” actually isn’t about destruction or calamity; rather, it has to do with an uncovering/unveiling or a revealing.  So it’s less R.E.M. and more, I suppose, Imagine Dragons: “this is it, the apocalypse…welcome to the new age.” [“Radioactive”]  For us, the real new age is the Lord gathering His people into the eternal Kingdom of God.

 

Still, while I don’t think there’s really any need to fear something like a zombie apocalypse, readings like the ones we have in our Mass today should shake us from any complacency.  We can get so caught up in day-to-day life sometimes that we forget, as we pray in every Mass, that “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” and that we offer to God the “holy and living sacrifice” of the Eucharist “as we look forward to His second coming.” 

 

The great season of Advent is around the corner, that time when we prepare in a special way for the Lord’s coming.  There should be no reason for Christians (for those who belong to Christ) to fear.  But I suppose the question, then, is are we really ready?  Jesus’ words today are an encouragement to be prepared.  Perhaps this is what makes us anxious—that at the end of the day, we’re not quite there.

 

So what makes us unready/unprepared?  These are unquestionably anxious and uncertain times that we live in, which can tempt us to weaken our trust in God.  But we also have to look at ourselves to see where in our own lives God might be left out.  The vast majority of Americans say they believe in God.  But what bearing does that have in our lives? in our thoughts and words and actions? in our decisions and commitments? in how we spend our time?  I’ve found that in our increasingly-hectic world, too many people slip into basically saying, “God is just going to have to understand that I’m too busy,” say, to go to Mass every Sunday. (This doesn’t include things like work schedules we have no control over.)

 

There are a lot of things that test our faithfulness and trust in God.  Our readings today were written in times of difficulty and trial.  They aren’t ultimately meant to spook us, but to encourage fidelity.  That was true when they were written, and it remains true for us today.  They are meant to bring us hope—hope fulfilled in the saving mission of Christ.  “For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”  This is a certainty in the midst of uncertainty.  We have the promise of new and eternal life in Christ.  In the Eucharist we celebrate today, we continue to participate in Christ’s victory over sin and death; through the Eucharist we continue to share in “the new and everlasting covenant” as we look to live the fullness of life forever with God in heaven.

 

A few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter Saved in Hope [Spe Salvi], wrote, “…we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well…The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” [SS 2]  Later on, he says, “So now we must ask explicitly: is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope? Is it ‘performative’ for us—is it a message which shapes our life in a new way, or is it just ‘information’ which, in the meantime, we have set aside and which now seems to us to have been superseded by more recent information?” [SS 10]

 

Brothers and sisters, in the readings of our Mass today, what we should hear is not ‘fire and brimstone’ but God’s eternal care for the people He has chosen as His own.  The great revelation is the One who died for our salvation and ushered in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that we’re called to help uncover/unveil.  What does this mean for us in our lives?  And what, then, is our response?