Monday, November 25, 2013

Advent: A Reminder That It Is We Who Are On Our Way Back Home To God . . .

December 1st is the first day of Advent. Traditionally we have seen Advent as a time of waiting for God to come to us. But Advent is really a reminder that it is we who are on our way back home to God; and that when our time on earth comes to an end, we will have to account for what we did and what we failed to do along the way.

The readings and gospels during Advent call us to wake up, to snap out of it and pay attention to our own readiness to stand before God. In the first reading on December 1st, the Prophet Isaiah tells us to put away the weapons of anger and bitterness and to walk in the light of the Lord. In the second reading Saint Paul tells us to awake from sleep, to stop kidding ourselves, lying to ourselves about what’s important in life, and to throw off the works of darkness. In Saint Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls us to remember and not repeat the mistakes of the people in Noah’s time. They were so preoccupied with their own wants and needs; they didn’t believe anything bad would ever happen, that they would ever be called to account. And then one day out of nowhere the flood came and wiped out their work, their preoccupations and their lives.

The Church uses the readings and gospels during Advent to help us recognize the transitory nature of much of what preoccupies and consumes us. None of it will last. This doesn’t mean that we become piously detached from everyday life and its responsibilities. We can still plow the fields and commute to work; we can still grind the flour and raise our families. But we can do all this in a mindful way that carries God’s love and mercy into all the circles of our life.

While most of what preoccupies and consumes us will not last, the one thing that will last is love. Throughout the gospel Jesus tells us that we must love and forgive others unconditionally: this includes those who are most in need, and those whom we may not like very much, and even those whom we have a hard time forgiving or embracing. This is the measure against which we will be held accountable.

Advent is our reminder that one day when we least expect it, we will stand before God to account for how much we really did love and forgive other people. Let’s not be like those people in the time of Noah. Let’s stay awake and be ready for that day. There can be no unfinished business.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Jesus said, "All that you see here — the day will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.”Will you and I be ready to face that day when it comes?

Next weekend we will celebrate the feast of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday in the Liturgical calendar and it marks the end of the Church year. The Church has been preparing us for this over the last few weeks with readings and gospels that speak about the last days, the end of time as we know it. 

We can look at today’s gospel as a prophecy about the end of the world. We can see it as foretelling a cataclysmic moment in human history when the righteous will be swept up to heaven in rapture, and the not-so-righteous will be swallowed up into hell. Or, we can see it as a wake up call, a reminder that, through our Baptism, each one of us has been hired by Jesus to be a construction worker, a builder, of the Kingdom of God — and time is running out.

No one knows how and when the world will end. What we do know is that time, our own unique individual time, will end some day. The end of the world will come for each of us at the moment we cross the threshold of life into death. And when our end time does come, we will be asked to account for what we did with the precious time we were given.

I believe that when we die each one of us will sit alone in a little room with God and watch the movie of our life. And in that movie we will see where we loved and where we failed to love. And sitting there next to God, the source of all goodness and love, we will judge ourselves on how much we loved, really loved; how much we forgave, really forgave; how much we helped others to find goodness and wholeness and healing in their own lives, their own unique circumstances.

The Church, in preparing us for the end of the year with these readings, is helping us call to mind our own mortality, our own inevitable end time. None of us knows how much time we have left. Each new morning, as we open our eyes, God gives us 1,440 brand new minutes to use. We can use them with love to heal our world and cherish our relationships with others; or we can waste them in bitterness and anger.

The great thing about the end of the Church year and the reminder about the end times, is that we still do have time — time to love, time to forgive, time to come outside of ourselves and be present to others. We have this gift of time to fix whatever is still broken in our lives; to heal any damaged relationships; to make ourselves whole.

Like Jesus says in today's gospel, "All that you see here — the day will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone." We don't know when the end of the world will come; but we do know that it will come for each of us. And when that day does come, all that will remain for eternity is the love we gave while we still had time.