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Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14,18; Mk 13:24-32
Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14,18; Mk 13:24-32
Someone once said, tongue in cheek, “It is the very people who do not know what to do with this life who are anxious and worried about the next life”. While at first glance, the readings of today might seem to be referring to the next life, a deeper reading shows that what they are really referring to is the present; the life lived here and now.
It is, therefore, apt that on the Sunday before we celebrate the feast of Christ the Eternal King, the Church has chosen readings that call us to reflect on our preparedness and readiness to receive him, not in the future, but now. This is because he “comes, comes ever comes”. The theme of the readings today may be summarized in one word: Watch. Watchfulness is indeed the key word and that message is made explicitly clear in the last verse of the Gospel. In it, Jesus states, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” This means that no one can expect any advance warning about the day, the date or the time. This lack of knowledge has a number of consequences.
The first of these cannot but strike us in the face: It is the temporariness of all that is. Though this is so simple to understand and so true without a doubt, we need to be constantly reminded of it. We keep forgetting that we are living in a passing and transient world. Though we do not need any kind of special grace or enlightenment to realize that this is true, the manner in which many of us live our lives belies this fact. That we are of flesh and blood necessarily means that we, who have had a beginning, will also have an end. Our time here on earth is limited. Yet, when we look around us, we find so many who live as if this were not true. The numerous things we accumulate, our possessiveness, and the hurt, resentment, and bitterness we harbour, without the slightest desire to let them go, are indications that we think that we are going to be here forever. The truth, however, is that we are not.
Secondly, because we are not going to be here forever, we must concern ourselves, not with apocalyptic speculation but, with living fully here and now. We have but one life to live and we must live it as best we can. Our one concern, at all times, ought to be to do what God wills. This means being the kind of person that God wants each of us to be. Each one of us is unique and special. Each of us has a particular role to play in the world. No one else can play our role for us. No one can take our place. If we do not do what we have to do, it will be forever left undone. Since we do not know when our time on earth will end, the best time to do what we are required to do is not tomorrow, or the day after. The best time is now.
Thirdly, the coming of the Son of man will not be to scatter but to gather. Since we will be doing what is required of us, we will not have to worry about being gathered. Our response to God’s grace will ensure that we are in the number gathered. Thus, our actions will be motivated not by hope of reward or by fear of punishment. Our actions will be motivated, instead, by a conviction that it is good to be good. The reward of our action is in the doing of the action itself. It invigorates, revitalizes, and refreshes. It contents and satisfies the heart. We will, thus, live fearless lives.
This kind of selfless action and fearlessness is what the second reading of today points to. It is the action and fearlessness exhibited by Jesus on the Cross. When he offered himself for the whole of humanity, he did not do it because he wanted to gain something for himself. As a matter of fact, he could gain nothing through his death because he already had everything. Thus, he did it for one reason and one reason alone. He did it to save humanity from the sin of selfishness and egocentricity. He did it because he wanted to show us the way. He did it because he wanted us to do as he had done. His death on the Cross, however, was only a culmination of how Jesus had lived his life. It was a summation of all that he had been and all that he had done. It was a perfect example of unconditional love, in action. In his death and resurrection, he remains, for each of us, the model and inspiration that we are challenged to imitate and to follow.
Thus, whether it is Michael, the protector, who will come to deliver the people, or Jesus, our Saviour, who has already come and keeps coming through his spirit, we concern ourselves not with a future coming but with the fact they are here and now. We, therefore, must also be here and now.