Pastoral Message – November 14, 2021
“Are we there yet?” Before there were TVs or phones or tablets in cars, this was a constant question from children on long car journeys because, no matter how often we were told to “look at the beautiful scenery,” riding in a car was boring. Today’s readings are asking the same question with regard to our earthly journey. Like children in a car, we have absolutely no idea when we will be personally called “home” to God or when Jesus will return to us at the end of time to take all of us home to our heavenly Father. As a result, we need to live as though the end is at hand but we also need to be prepared for the long haul.
In today’s Gospel passage, Mark stresses that we need to balance the uncertainty over when the “end” will come against an absolute assurance that the end will ultimately come. While it could be hundreds or millions of years from now, it could be today! Even though the timing is unknown, or maybe because the timing is unknown, we should think about it all the time! Mark promises that we will have to face eternity. It will be a time of great change for all (a time when “heaven and earth will pass away”), but for those who are ready, it will also be a time when fervent hope and focused preparation will be rewarded.
Whether this life is filled with sorrow or joy, we should never be complacent about the life to come. God’s promise to us is that there is more and it will be better! As Catholics, we believe in the presence of Christ through Word and Sacrament as well as in the fellowship of other believers who form the Body of Christ. However, we also recognize Mark’s point that Christ is not with us as he once was, and he is not with us as he will be!
We each spend a relatively short time on this earth. Even those who live for 100 years are on earth for a tiny fraction of eternity. Yet, many
of us are so immersed in the things of this world that we forget or try to forget that we will leave this world soon. This is very natural: life is a precious gift and our every inclination is to hold on to it at all costs. Even when our intelligence tells us that it can, despite our efforts, end very soon, we try to convince ourselves that “very soon” is really in the distant future. While it’s not for us to know when or how this world will end, we must admit that we shall all leave this world at some point and that we alone control our eternity. That’s why today’s Gospel message is so important: we must always be ready to face our judgement for we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called from this life.
If we live our lives so that we leave this world in a state of grace, our death on earth will not be the end but rather the beginning of the true life that will never end. As we pray in the Mass for the Dead: “Life is changed (by death), not taken away.” Our death is the doorway through which we pass into the unending life. God in his mercy is calling on each one of us to be ready when our call comes. We can do nothing about the when or the where of that call, but we can do much about the state of our relationship with God when death comes; in fact, aided by God’s grace we can absolutely ensure that all will be well with us. We cannot avoid the sudden end of times or a sudden death, but we can avoid an unprepared end by striving always to live in peace with God. This does not mean that we must be always on our knees praying to God or that we must take no interest in the joys of this world. Joy in this world is a gift from God. However, our joy must never hinder us on our journey toward eternity with Him.
A very practical way to see how we stand in relation to God and to the things of this world is for each one
of us to ask our self: “How would I fare if I were called to render an account of stewardship tonight?” If we find there are several things which have to be put right before facing our judge, we must put them right. Today’s readings are a warning. We may get another warning or we may not. As the Alleluia verse reminds us, “Be vigilant at all times.” If we value our eternal happiness we will take this warning; we will put our affairs in order; we will make peace with God and our neighbors. Then, with God’s grace, we will be prepared for a very happy, eternal ending in God’s kingdom.