As the year winds down, you'd think we might get happier and more joyful readings. In the Gospel for this weekend, The Lord asks us to think about some pretty difficult things: "the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." The readings seem to be all about terrible loss, nightmare, and calamity.
Reading the texts for all of the cycles of the Gospels for this day, I get the message from the readings that Jesus has done his job; He has saved us, forgiven us and has been victorious - and now the rest is up to us.
Many of us miss the present moment and the opportunities that strengthen our faith in what Jesus has done for us. He reminds us that the present opportunity may not come again and that the best way to prepare for the future is to be alert to the present. He constantly shows us that life is a trip - a process which we take step after precious step. If our journey is magical, that's exactly what life will be for us, and we will never be a people who reach the end of life with regrets.
In a few weeks we will be celebrating the first Sunday of Advent. We will be preparing for the Coming of the Lord, our looking forward to Jesus' coming. And even in that, the Church has us always looking beyond the present moment, always anticipating, always looking with hope to when will He come. As rational beings, we have the wonderful ability to think ahead, to foresee several possible outcomes, and to prepare adequately for a number of probable situations.
The best way to prepare for what's ahead is by living in the NOW. Living the NOW's, and not missing the NOW's - because that's what life really is: a wonderful series of NOW's. Not tomorrow's, because they may never come. Not yesterdays, because they have already been.
How well do we live out our "NOW?" How aware are we of those who surround us? How open are we to express our compassion and forgiveness for one another NOW? What are we really doing for the poor and the vulnerable NOW? How are we actively fostering the protection of life? How willing are we to put our name and our reputation at risk for the sake of the social justice values of the Gospel.
Francis of Assisi was fond of saying: "Preach the Gospel always - if necessary use words!" The Christian life is a challenge to put into action the promise, the ideals and the vision which we have learned from Jesus himself. Just talking about it is not good enough.
Rather than concentrating on the final days - or the final coming in glory of the Son of Man - I think that Christ is more interested in the way we are conducting our lives now… in the present. I prefer to imagine that our Lord is more concerned that the Second Coming should be happening right now and right here. The Good News of Jesus Christ is not a series of unfulfilled campaign promises… it is the key to living in the NOW and taking that NOW into the future.
The Lord gives us a glimpse of his glorious and triumphant return. It doesn't matter that at times in history - especially in our own times - it appears that the forces of evil will overwhelm his people; the drama is not yet over until he returns and makes all things whole. This week's Gospel passage gives us just a hint of the final outcome.
We need look at our lives, and how open we are to His presence within them. We need to be attentive to the "awesome sights and mighty signs" of His presence around us. We need to focus on how His words affect our day-to-day lives and our relationships with one another. The signs are there… they are around us every day.