Sunday, November 18, 2012

The End is Near!!

HOMILY FOR THE 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 18, 2012:

Click here to listen to a Podcast of this homily: 33rd Sunday

Two priests were fishing on the side of the road one day. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn around now before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car.  One driver who drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”  The car sped by and then all of a sudden they heard a big splash.  They looked at each other and the one holding the sign said, “Maybe we should just write ‘Bridge Out’?”

This is one of those times of year when what is going on in nature and what is going on in the life of the Church match up pretty well.  Just think in nature – you can’t help but notice that just about all of the leaves have fallen off of the trees now, and we begin to engage in those annual rituals of digging out our warmer clothes as winter is close at hand.  This season of the year, in its grayness, its starkness, its cold, reminds us of endings. 

So, too, does our Church calendar remind us of endings.  We heard Jesus say this in our Gospel passage, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.”  In other words, learn the lesson that the natural world can teach you.  That is why we traditionally celebrate a month in honor of the dead during November.  The natural surroundings of November lend itself to such thoughts and prayers.  We also head into the final weeks of our Church year.  In just two weeks, on the First Sunday of Advent, we begin again the great cycle in which we recall the history of our salvation beginning with the prophets, leading on to the birth of our Savior, eventually recalling His death, His resurrection, His words and His saving deeds.  But, before we get there, we’ll spend these days reminding ourselves about endings.

The Church gives us this annual cycle for a reason – not just as a reminder; but in the hopes that we will unite ourselves to it.  We don’t simply, once again, tell the story of Jesus.  Instead, we’re meant to hear that story and notice ourselves within it.  We’re meant to live it.  In this way, not only do we recall Jesus birth, but Jesus becomes born again in us.  We not only recall Jesus suffering and death on the cross, but we see ourselves on that cross with Jesus, we find Him present in the midst of our own suffering.  We not only recall that Jesus rose from the dead and returned to the Father in Heaven, but we become resurrected people.  We feel the resurrection Jesus offers us in this life when we overcome the struggles of our own lives, we praise God for the gift of the ultimate resurrection when we too will join Him and all who have gone before us in the glory of Heaven. 

Hopefully, we have had moments of connection with that great story over course of the last year.  Today, our Scriptures call us to reflect on that.  Just like any journey when we reach our destination, we look back at where we’ve been and evaluate what kind of journey it has been.  Well, we are arriving today and over the next two weeks we should be asking ourselves: How has this year’s trip been?  Have our spiritual lives advanced in ways we could have never imagined?  Or do we, upon reflection, realize that perhaps we haven’t gone anywhere, still stuck in the same mud we found ourselves in last year? Have we become better people, holier people, more Christ-like people?  How has the power of God’s Word, the grace of the Body and Blood of Jesus changed and transformed us this year?

In our First Reading, the Prophet Daniel recalls some hard times for God’s people. Daniel is writing about 500 years before Christ.  Alexander the Great and others are ravaging the Middle East as he writes. Wars and distress are all around.  In the midst of this turmoil what do we hear?  That God will take care of His people, those whose names are in the Book of Life.  In the midst of challenge and distress, Daniel calls the people to trust their faith in God and live accordingly. Though wars and disasters whirl around them, God will send them the Michael, Prince and guardian to defend them.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus predicts the final fall of the Jerusalem Temple.  He speaks to His disciples about the end times.  Like Daniel, Jesus speaks of wars and distress everywhere.  In the midst of this destruction, the Son of God, like Michael the Archangel, will come with power and glory to offer salvation to God’s holy people. He uses that image of the fig tree pointing out that people pay attention to the signs from nature and adjust their lives accordingly; and so if we are willing to change our life because of the signs from nature, all the more should we do when we read the signs of our salvation.  We are called to be alert and active – to be readying ourselves so that when the end time comes, of which no one knows the day or hour, we will be ready, our names will be written in the Book of Life, we too will make our way to Heaven.  

We are called to trust in the Lord.  As we look back on the past year, we probably have experienced some joys and triumphs, as well as some storms and distress. Our trust in God tells us that ultimately – whatever the tribulation or the triumph, God is always present with us, God is always leading us and guiding us, and God will always in the end save us. 
As we move into the end of our Church year, as we are reminded of the end things, we are called to reflect – how has this year been?  Am I closer to God?  Do I experience God as closer to me?  My brothers and sisters, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.”  Read the signs of our own spiritual lives.  As we look forward to the new Church year, let us ready ourselves to begin again.  As we prayed in our Psalm today, “I set the LORD ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”

May God give you peace.

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