HOMILY – DECEMBER 10
We all know that there are people who love to go around saying these are the end times, and predicting the imminent destruction of the universe. In spite of the fact that Jesus himself said to pay no attention to them, PEOPLE DO. Even people who claim to be Christians do. The supermarket tabloids are always eager to run a headline saying the world is going to end on such-and-such a day. Sells papers. When some people spend their whole lives and a lot of other people’s money trying to figure out when it’s all going to happen, why does our Lord tell us not to listen to them? Because it takes our focus off the REAL work of being Christian: proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God, not just on some date in the future, but RIGHT NOW!
Our patron St. Peter tells us in his Second Letter, the second reading today, “What sort of persons you ought to be, . . . waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” When you start looking at the calendar, or listening to the prophets of doom, or watching the news and wondering “How long, O Lord?” let God gently answer you: “As long as it takes.” We’ve all had the experience of sitting and waiting in a doctor’s office. Other people lope and lumber in, you’ve been sitting there since you were much younger, they are called in first, they come out and leave first, and you’re still waiting! Well, I find that the older I get, the more time I spend waiting in doctors’ offices. You know you’re reaching the golden years when the litany of the doctors and the litany of the prescriptions are longer than the litany of the saints. But one thing I’ve discovered about waiting, whether it’s in the doctor’s office or in the airport: You do it much better if you make it CONSTRUCTIVE! And that’s what St. Peter is telling us: “What sort of persons you ought to be!”
We ought to be those who never waste the precious time God gives us. Waiting for a train to pass? Keep a rosary handy in your car and pray a decade while the freight is rolling by. Going to the doctor’s office? Bring magazines with you to read there, and save time at home. Don’t read the ones that are in the doctor’s office, people have been coughing and sneezing on them for a month! Don’t just play video games at the airport or however you’re traveling. Get some of that school reading list done, or improve your mind by enjoying a classic novel or biography. When I was in canon law school, I spent my two hours on the bus and subway each day doing my homework. We’ll find we won’t need to RELAX so much if we’ve accomplished things while we’re waiting for other things.
But this isn’t just a lesson in the constructive use of time. It’s about proclaiming the Kingdom of God in union with Christ. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had “down” time: he slept, he enjoyed the innocent company of children, he retreated into the mountains or into the desert, he enjoyed pointing out the wonders of nature to his disciples and teaching them things about God by having them look more deeply at creation. And yet even in these moments that we might call a “breather,” he was proclaiming the Kingdom of God. We are to imitate that behavior of the Word made flesh, giving comfort to God’s people, speaking tenderly to Jerusalem, proclaiming that her service is at an end, her guilt is absolved. We must never fear to cry out to the cities of Judah and of all the world, “Here is your God! Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, and gathers the lambs in his arms.” How people everywhere need to hear these words of divine consolation! GOD REALLY LOVES THEM! If we spend all our time and energy trying eagerly to get that message across in word and action, our waiting will never seem long at all. We’ll be too busy about the Lord’s work to think about it. And when the Lord comes, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” And whether it’s sooner or later, we won’t even mind, because we’ll realize that that’s what life was supposed to be all about, anyway.