Sunday, November 18, 2018


In every period of human history, but especially in times of rapid change and confusion, people have looked for prophecies and predictions and dubious private revelations to explain what was happening to their formerly familiar world. So when Jesus says to his disciples, “When you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates,” that might seem to encourage us to do just that. The masks so many are wearing as protection from the smoky air only add to the sense that we do certainly seem to be in living in times of rapid change and confusion. Between our changing climate with all the threats which that is increasingly and very obviously posing to our way of life, between that and all our many economic, social, and political problems and conflicts, we find ourselves in a world that may seem at times to be unravelling in front of us, a world coming apart in ways which are often difficult for us to understand. But then the same Jesus who told his hearers to be on the lookout and to recognize the signs of the end, also assures us that “of that day or hour, no one knows.”

Even so, Jesus challenges us to pay attention to what is happening in this world that is still very much on the way to becoming his kingdom.

In the Gospel we just heard [Mark 13:24-32] , Jesus made his ominous predictions just prior to Passover – so, in the springtime, when the fig tree sprouts leaves, a sure sign that summer is near. It is, however, in the autumn of the year that the Church annually repeats this message. Autumn is the long-awaited and hoped-for season of harvest, when the year’s work finds fulfillment in our holiday season of thanksgiving.

Autumn, however, also marks an end. In nature, November vividly anticipates both the eventual end of the natural world and the eventual end of each of us individually. The Church expresses that natural cyclical mood, as it recalls Christ’s warning words about the end, when the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

And so we wait – not knowing the day or the hour but confident that he is really near. And it is precisely how we wait in the meantime that identifies what following Jesus in the world is all about.

For following Jesus is not about pinpointing that day or hour, or predicting which of the many terrible calamities that keep occurring is going to be the decisive one. On the contrary, following Jesus is all about the how in the now – how we live and what we love in the here and now, what we make of this interval, whether it be long or short, until the end – in other words, the durability and quality of our commitment and our faithfulness to him and to one another for the duration. That’s what matters most over the long haul and will determine who we will be for all eternity. That is the wisdom which shall shine like the splendor of the firmament and lead many to justice [cf. Daniel 12:1-3].

Meanwhile, we are fortified for that long haul by the durability and quality of Jesus Christ’s own commitment and faithfulness to his Father, the same Christ who, in the words we just heard from the letter to the Hebrews [Hebrews 10:11-14, 18], has already taken his seat forever at the right hand of God, and has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Saint Anne's Church, Walnut Creek, CA, November 18, 2018.

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