Sunday, November 13, 2022

We Wait


"Teacher, when will this happen?”

In every period of human history, but especially in times of rapid change and confusion (not unlike our time), people have looked for prophecies and predictions and dubious private revelations to explain what was happening in and to their formerly familiar world. Jesus’ response to his disciples in today’s Gospel [Luke 21:5-19] appeared to be aimed at discouraging much of that.  

Even so, Jesus does challenge his followers to be alert to the signs of his kingdom.

So we need to ask ourselves what things do we see happening in the world right now?

We certainly do seem to be in one of those times of rapid change and confusion, characterized by civil conflict, political violence, and apocalyptic fears and worries, which increasingly frame even such mundane events as our national elections. Especially those of us who are older and can somewhat nostalgically remember a seemingly more stable time, we find ourselves constantly coping with new situations which pose new challenges, which, for us at times are difficult to understand.

In the Gospel which we just heard, Jesus made his ominous predictions just prior to Passover, in the springtime. 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 our season of thanksgiving.

Harvest, however, also marks an end. In nature, November vividly anticipates both the eventual end of the natural world and the eventual end of each individual. The Church recaptures for us that natural cyclical mood, as it recalls Christ’s apocalyptically warning words: Nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famine, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

And so we wait – not just for the end of the world, but for our own individual end. And it is precisely how we wait that identifies what following Jesus in the world is all about. By our perseverance we will secure our lives.

The point is not when Jesus will come but being ready for his coming – not as something to be put off to some far-off future, but as our present preoccupation. The future will indeed come – at its own time and on its own terms – but our task is the present, which is what, in fact, will determine who we will be in the future.

Following Jesus is all about the how in the now – not conducting ourselves in what Saint Paul [2 Thessalonians 3:7-12] calls a disorderly way, but how we live and what we love amid all the disorder around us 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.

There will be all sorts of problems along the way – an important reminder when so many Christians are tempted by the pursuit of short-term worldly political power.

Meanwhile, we are fortified for that long haul by the durability and quality of Jesus Christ’s commitment and faithfulness to his Father, the same Christ who, in the words we just heard from the Prophet [Malachi 3:19-20a], is rising among us as the sun of justice with his healing rays.

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Times, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, November 13, 2022.




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