November is a transitional time of year. Most all of the trees have lost their leaves, the weather is getting colder and more brisk, and we look to the rapidly approaching winter. In November, everything seems a bit quieter. It's supposed to be a good time to "take stock" - to think about being thankful for the events of the past year, and of looking forward in hope to the coming of a new year.
It doesn't always work out that way, and it certainly isn't that easy a thing to do. This November marks another year of unrest, of political division and uncertainty, a sense of powerlessness, fear and perhaps despair. Once again, it has not been the best of years for our nation and our broken world. One simply needs to turn on the television, to open the daily newspapers or check in with social media to know that it will be difficult - if not impossible - for many to find any source of joy and hope when this year comes to an end.
In the Gospel for this weekend, we are asked to think about some pretty difficult things: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky." The readings seem to be all about terrible loss, nightmare, and calamity. The message of the Gospel has never seemed more apropos. As the reading from Malachi says: “Behold, the day is coming!”
Although it is not pleasant to reflect on all of these images, it's important for us to do so.
Being a disciple implies that one has to make hard choices. We will not always get what we want. We may find ourselves at odds with others who do not share our values. It's not easy. It's never easy to do what needs to be done, to say what needs to be said, to work things out when it bothers us to compromise.
And then again, it's not easy to wait. It's not easy to be out of control, to be without power. It's not easy to allow another, even God, to have the final word. It is not easy to forgive those who wrong us. And yet Jesus tells us: "By your perseverance you will secure your lives."
Jesus lived His life fully, celebrating each moment, each encounter, and each relationship with joy. He embraced human experience, drank deeply of human emotions, was nourished and comforted by human love. But He was always looking into the eyes of His Father. He was always conscious of the circle of His human existence, leading Him from God back to God.
Jesus never lost His sense of direction and purpose - and in that sense He was prepared for whatever came. His love of the Father was integrated into all that He said and did and all that He became. There was no event, no person, and no circumstance that ever separated Him from His Father.
This is how we are supposed to live our lives. Through all of the trials and sufferings we experience in our broken world, we are called to celebrate life with joy. We are to bear faithful witness to the Gospel by our lives of hope and unselfish love. We are pilgrims on a journey and we are not always perfect. But we are filled with hope by our faith in the Jesus who lives and breathes among us.
Rather than concentrating on the final days - or the final coming in glory of the Son of Man - I prefer to think that Christ is more interested in the way we are conducting our lives now - in the present. I prefer thinking that our Lord wants us to realize the Second Coming should be happening right now and right here and that it is up to us to bring it about.
We should "look to the signs" not in terms of destruction and tragedy, but in the joyful hope of Christ's saving Love. We must continue to do our best to counter terror with courage, to work for peace even now at a time of war and a threat of war, to trust in God when so many good people have suffered and died. God is not asleep, nor indifferent to our world. Things may never be right with this world. But they are not hidden from God, even if God seems to be delaying in rescuing us..
As we approach the end of another event-filled year, we are again reminded that God has given us all we need to take hold of the Kingdom.