“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Yes, it is true. Heaven as it is now and Earth as it is now will pass away. As we draw close to the end of this liturgical year, we are reminded of this fact. We are reminded that Jesus will return in splendour and glory and will make all things new. The world as we know it will be made anew, and Heaven will be joined to this new Earth, and all will be one. Jesus will reign in this new world as the glorious King of all.
But, for the next 7 minutes let’s pretend that there is no global pandemic, no travel advisories, and no shortage of money. Let’s plan that perfect trip. Let’s get packed! What is the thing we most need to put in our suitcase for that trip?
Today’s Gospel is about a trip we will all take one day. What is it that we would like God to find in our suitcase when we arrive at our final destination and open that suitcase? I am talking about things that would make a difference in our lives today and then. I am asking about things we need to be reminded of that would awaken and reconnect us in a way that is life giving for us, others, and the world.
Maybe it’s a suitcase of Christmas gifts. There are only 41 shopping days until Christmas! What are we doing to get ready? Traditionally there are three types of Christmas shoppers: Ones that finished shopping last July; those that are heading to the malls after Mass and those that do their shopping Christmas Eve or morning at the Esso station. If you get windshield washer fluid as a gift you know one of those people.
There are also three types of Catholic ways to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ: Some are here today listening to the Gospel and planning to prepare for the blessings of Advent; some wait two more weeks for Advent to inspire them, and some prepare by arriving late for Christmas Eve Mass.
This Sunday’s gospel nails the spirit of the coming season. Jesus tells us to snap out of it. Get our priorities straight. Stay awake. Get ready. Get packing. The Lord is coming. Being serenely, confidently prepared… being as one with Christ… that’s what’s important in life.
As we approach the end of the liturgical year the readings remind us of this aspect of Jesus’ teaching: his insistence on the urgency of our situation and the need to decide in the light of the impending judgement. He will be the judge who will come in all his power and glory to see what’s in our suitcases when we stand before Him.
Jesus does not say these things to frighten us but to convince us of the need to be vigilant, to be prepared. Pack our suitcases carefully! The day of his coming heralds the salvation and vindication of the righteous, a day of joy rather than fear. So don’t take today’s Gospel literally. Jesus is not predicting the future or giving us signs to look for so that we can predict the future. He’s describing a present reality.
But let’s not wait for God to knock. Invite him in every morning. Start the day with a greeting. Praise the Lord. Thank him. Ask Jesus to stay with you through the day. Then check back as the day goes on: before meals, between tasks, in breaks, on errands. Make Jesus an integral part of your routines. It’s the very best thing you can do with your day. Then end the day with Jesus. Tell him your problems. He’ll help sort them out. Get up the next day and do it all again. Keep at it. And pretty soon you’ll find far greater peace and purpose in all you do. Soon you’ll be able to say: “I’m ready Lord”… and really mean it, because you will be.
What is the thing we most need to be packing in our suitcases today? I hope it’s a suitcase full of good deeds! And what if we accumulated more good deeds and carried them ever so lightly through this Season of Advent? I don’t mean you go on a quest or make this just another task to be accomplished. I mean you take that one thing we need to be reminded of, that one thing we need to awaken to, and you let it guide our decisions, help choose the words we speak, be the lens through which we see life, others, ourselves. Can you image the possibilities that might create for you on Christmas Day? Let a suitcase of good deeds be your doorway into Advent.
-Dcn. Terry Murphy