As winter approaches and the Church liturgical year comes to an end next week, our readings raise the question of when will Christ come again to judge the living and the dead. This article of faith we will affirm in a few moments when we profess it in the recitation of the Creed. When it will happen has been a matter of speculation for many centuries.
With the multitude of tragedies in the world, some believe that the end must be coming soon. There are wars and insurrections, volcanoes rumbling and earthquakes shaking, famines and floods, fires and health epidemics, and violence in its many forms that feed such speculation.
With humility we must not confuse any specific problems or catastrophes of our day as signals of the end of the world. It is not in our power to know when Christ will come again. There have been such catastrophes throughout history. Jesus in the Gospel warned, “But of the day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In other words we are not supposed to know, we are only supposed to be prepared for when it will happen and in the way God the Father wills it. What should concern us is savoring each day as a gift not a burden and remaining steadfast in trust of God’s love and mercy. Then we will be ready.
To do so we should seek to live each day with hope based on the promise of eternal life Christ won on the cross for those who persevere in faith. I must admit that after spending the past week at the national bishops meeting I am tempted to become discouraged by the harsh realities of our day in and out of the Church. Yet I am encouraged and sustained by the knowledge that she us Christ’s church, and he remains in charge despite her sinful human instruments including me.
How, we might ask, can we be hopeful in times of doubt and challenge, terror and division, global and personal. It requires a willingness to listen for God speaking to us despite and sometimes through the swirls of the storms of life. ‘He thirsts for us’, Saint Mother Teresa testified so often. Jesus thirsts for each of you and deep down we thirst for him. Without active participation in the Church and the sacraments and developing a personal relationship with Jesus, our problems and fears can overwhelm us and we can feel anxious, even frightened, and desperately alone. There is however much in our day that can encourage us.
Prayer especially to the Blessed Mother is one. A daughter was taking care of her elderly mother who suddenly became agitated. The daughter was frightened, never seeing her mom that way before. She got her mother into bed and began to pray the rosary aloud. She wrote, “In about three or four minutes she relaxed and turned on her side, curled up and said “I’m going to sleep now.” Prayer, especially intercessory prayer through the Blessed Mother and the saints and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration, can lift our spirits and give us hope. Prayer connects us with God.
Another encouragement are God’s creative gifts of sacred art. There is a beautiful sculpture called Going Home in the Veterans Memorial Park here in the city of Sioux Falls. In a very moving way it depicts an angel lifting up to heaven a fallen soldier. I gaze upon the angels high up here in this beautiful cathedral and my spirits are lifted. God’s creative gifts expressed in art, music, words in poem and literature can lift our spirits and give us hope. Sacred art connects us with God.
Another encouragement is the example of others. A prominent and much in demand doctor and his wife had a long and close marriage. As they got older her health began to deteriorate. The doctor became her personal caregiver. One day their daughter entered the bedroom and was shocked to see this renowned doctor on his hands and knees putting his wife’s stockings on her legs. He looked up and said, “You know, the greatest privilege of my life is taking care of your mother.” The daughter never forgot that moment and its inspiration. Those around us who live their vocations faithfully and joyfully can lift our spirits and give us hope. Lives lived with love connect us with God.
As a Catholic convert and later vocation to the priesthood, it took me awhile to notice and understand the thirst of God for me personally and my unknowing thirst for him. I did not know what to do with my life. So I went to college, to graduate school, to military service, to law school, to practicing law, to government service, wandering and wondering along the way whether there is something more. Successful in the worldly sense I was restless and did not know why. Suddenly the Holy Spirit caught my attention and led me to the Church and to priesthood and surrendering my life to Jesus. I stopped searching for more on my own and started following where He was leading me. Two of the most beautiful days in my life were when I professed faith in the Roman Catholic Church and when I was ordained a priest. Another was when I was installed as the bishop of Sioux Falls. Open your hearts to the Holy Spirit. Each journey is unique; each satisfies one’s thirst for something, really someone more.
Saint Mother Teresa, who went through her own doubts and anxiety yet inspired so many by her perseverance, once wrote these words as Christ speaking to us:
“Whenever you . . . open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough you will hear me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock . . . Open to me for I thirst for you.”
Open the door of your heart and let Christ echo in your soul so that you will endure the heaviness of our times with hope and rejoice in readiness for whenever he does come in glory.