We are at the end of the liturgical Year – next week we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King the last Sunday of the year.
Throughout the whole year we have walked with Holy Mother Church through God’s revelation of Himself to us. We have walked the path of Jesus and we have heard His Gospel proclaimed. We have heard His plan for our salvation and have been given the means to follow His path and the surety that if we do we will be with Him in Heaven.
Today we hear a rather ominous prophecy from both the Old Testament and from Jesus – a sort of biblical special effects extravaganza. Truth be told – and it is – this will happen – you can make book on that. But as with everything in the Bible this prophecy has multiple meanings. The most obvious of which, as I just said, is that Heaven and Earth, as we know it, will end; God will not, and we will be judged.
But another and equally important meaning of these readings, indeed the whole Gospel is: the end of times is here, has been since Christ walked among us. Remember St John the Baptist in Matthew proclaimed “Repent, – for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and after John had been arrested Jesus, God Himself, went about Galilee proclaiming “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” We are living in God’s Kingdom we are living in these end-times. The end-times started with Christ coming to earth and will be completed when… well… Christ tells us today: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
So, if you are looking forward to entering eternal life, don’t – eternity has already started. Pope Benedict in his second volume of Jesus of Nazareth says ‘‘‘Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death.” In John’s Gospel Christ Himself proclaims, in His high-priestly prayer: “This is eternal life; that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Christ’s prayer is not a statement of the future but the present.
This fact is both challenging and encouraging.
It is challenging because we are called to Repent, and believe in the Gospel, the whole Gospel, not just favorite sections. We are called to live the teachings of Christ. Do battle with our sinful nature and, as our reading from Daniel says ‘shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament’… we … ‘shall be like the stars forever’.
But this means that we have to decide daily to follow this path. Each minute of each day our actions determine how we will continue. Are we accepting Christ, making the decision to change as we should; or are we, as it seems with our elected officials in their governance, just kicking the can down the road and hoping something will pop up to fix this mess hoping that there is always enough time.
But I mentioned that today’s readings are encouraging. The apocalyptic vision that Christ describes to His disciples not only explains the very end of times but, if we look deeper we can see another more immanent meaning.
Those who pray the liturgy of the hours might remember this prayer:
“Your power is awesome, Father, and wonderful is your holiness. In your presence the earth both trembles and stands still, for you shattered death’s power by the cross. Rise to help your people: give your light, and grant salvation to the meek of the earth, that they may praise your name in heaven.”
Christ is describing the gift of Himself, the Eucharist, our source of strength. At each and every Mass the whole of creation stops, and trembles at the greatness of the event. The Heavenly Hosts, Angels, and Saints watch the greatness of God come to those of us here. In awe they watch as the Son of Man comes through clouds of this existence ‘with great power and glory’ to help us. The Universe stops to witness Love of its King. We are not only given the gift of Holy Mother Church with her teachings and liturgical year to help us with our journey through eternity – but God gives us Himself. So I constantly have to ask myself, and I hope each of you will do the same ‘Am I giving myself to Him?’