There are times that I do procrastinate or avoid doing something. Maybe out of embarrassment, fear or to avoid conflict, I will delay doing or saying something that I know that I need to do. I suspect that each of us experience this in our life. A more dramatic example of this might be: do I continue to enable a loved one who is an alcoholic or who is depressed? OR do I make the intervention – however difficult and painful that might be for everyone – with the hope that the person will address their addiction or mental health issue and the get help they need. This may play out in more or less dramatic ways in our daily lives, like: confronting a spouse about a problem affecting your marriage; or ‘blowing the whistle’ at work regarding an illegal or unethical practice of your company; or standing up to a bully at school or work.
At some point in these situations, we will have to make a decision – what is better – to keep procrastinating and the consequences that follow by not doing what I need to do OR to experience the temporary embarrassment or conflict that I am trying to avoid in the short-term with the sure knowledge that there is a better outcome awaiting us in the future.
In a way, this is what today’s readings set up for us. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the readings focus our attention on the reality of our lives here on earth and our goal for eternal happiness. Our Catholic Faith teaches us that:
• Immediately after death, each person comes before God and is judged individually by how they have lived their life and then enter either heaven (perfect joy with God), Purgatory (a state of purification before entrance into Heaven), or hell (eternal separation from God).
• We believe in the resurrection of the dead – that our bodies will rise to new life, just Jesus did, and will be united with our soul.
• We believe that at the end of time Christ will return in glory over sin and death - this is the profession of faith we will make in a just a couple of minutes: “[Jesus] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end” and we will repeat when we pray in the Our Father: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
• And we believe that there will be a final judgment when all are assembled before God to receive eternal life or punishment – we must seek eternal life and avoid eternal punishment.
We are reminded of these truths by the strong, even harsh words, in today’s readings:
• We read in the First Reading that: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts.”
• In today's Gospel, we are told of the signs of the end: the appearance of false messiahs and false calculators of time and place; wars and international conflicts; and natural disasters with cosmic terror. And as Christians, we will be persecuted. Hatred, betrayal by relatives and friends, and even death awaits us.
However, and more important, today’s readings also remind us that our God is a God full of love and mercy – a God who “comes to rule the earth with justice,” as we just sung in the Responsorial Psalm. Our God wants nothing more than to share his love and mercy with us and to give us what ever we need to experience this love and mercy. In fact, it is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who promises us in today’s Gospel that if we enter into this relationship, he “shall give [us] a wisdom in speaking that all [our] adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute” and “not a hair on [our] head will be destroyed. By [our] perseverance [we] will secure [our] lives.” God does not want to destroy us but to save us, protect us and restore us in relationship with him – now and eternally!
So, we have a choice: do we persevere or not. Do we persevere in the face of challenge and difficulty in being a Catholic today as we await Jesus’ second coming or not? Do we continually give thanks and praise to God or not? Do we work hard to provide for our family and self (as St. Paul urges in today’s Second reading) or not? Do we uphold the life and dignity of every person or not? And do we protect and serve all people, especially the weak and the poor, or not? Jesus warns us in today’s Gospel that it will not be easy. But this is what we are called to do, made to do, and is required of us to obtain Heaven.
And so, I do believe and trust in exactly what Father Kavanagh preached last weekend – that is, in the virtue of Hope. It is with the virtue of Hope that we can persevere “to the end” in the face of great adversity AND obtain the joy of heaven. It is hope for the happiness, the joy, the peace of eternal life that sustains in times of abandonment, keeps us from discouragement, and focuses our actions and words away from selfishness and sin and towards loving and serving God.
Hope is a gift from God, through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. To be open to this gift we must root ourselves in the presence of God – in God’s love: by experiencing the sacraments, reading scripture, in fellowship and community with the Church. We have to continually grow deeper in our relationship with God. One wonderful and new way to do this in our parish is through the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in the Gathering Space. The kiosk contains CDs and brochures on topics of meaning and relevance to our daily faith lives. Take time to visit the kiosk or visit the parish website and join the CD of the month club. If not this, then find something or someone else to help you grow in your relationship with God – to strengthen your Hope in eternal life with Him.
Today’s first reading concludes with these words: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” My friends, fear God’s awesome power, which will destroy all evil and fear eternal separation from God. But love our God in whom alone we can have life and happiness! Experience the healing rays of God’s love and mercy now and eternally. Have hope!
May God bless you.