I know better
than God.

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

I have always wondered, really wondered about those who predict when the end will come, when the last days will arrive. More than that, I wonder why anyone would follow someone claiming to know.

As I mentioned last week, some people try to do biblical math, adding up various aspects of scripture, especially from the Books of Daniel and Revelation to reveal when the last days will come. As I also mentioned, I am not very good at regular math, and even if I were, I would not attempt it, it would be a foolish exercise. I do not know better than God. Consider also the many failed end time predictions that started with the Essenes in the 1st Century and continue through today. There are even predictions for the future stretching out as far as a googol (10100) years from now. So many think they know better than God. Don’t be fooled.

As Christians we need to act smartly, not foolishly. We need to have an understanding of last things that only comes from taking Jesus at His word – that not even He knew, and that we must be prepared. Sure, lots of things will happen as history unfolds, but those must not dissuade us. Justice and healing await us. 

As far as the end times, we cannot know it, we cannot predict it or figure it, but we have to live constantly expectantly for it is immanent. We must be Eschatologically focused. So, how do we do that?

We do that by looking to the totality of Jesus’ encounter with us and our encounter with Him. History did not start with His human birth and did not end with His Ascension. He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega. When we encounter Him in the Eucharistic celebration we are pulled into the totality of His eternity. We stand with Him from before time to beyond time. We must then stay Christ focused, following His model for life so that we are well prepared. We must live without fear, ready to give witness to Him by active ministry, mission, proclamation, and invitation. We don’t know better than God, but we know, as Jesus promised, that by our perseverance, we secure our lives.

Victory
cost.

Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.

Last week we met Zacchaeus and found in his encounter with Jesus one reborn to new life. We found great hope and promise because each person has the opportunity to be reborn into new victorious life in Jesus.

This week we meet a different group, people who at great cost kept faith, did not falter through every cruelty, and persevered in the new lives they knew they had in the Kingdom.

These last few weeks of the Church year are dedicated to contemplation of the Eschatological moment, the end times, Jesus’ victorious return and our being caught up with Him. These are topics of wonder, so the Holy Church lays before us teaching that shows us the way.

Our starting point is the encouragement of God, called to mind by St. Paul. Our hope is not temporary nor is it fleeting. What we have is everlasting. Having come to Jesus by faith and confession of sin, we have new life. We have the promise of victory and we must not take it lightly. Let us study, read, pray, mutually encourage and be steadfast in our faith and in the expectation of Jesus’ return.

You know, it isn’t easy. The world and even other churches are throwing every distraction before people. Like the mother and seven sons, we must face torments that attempt to pull us away from the Kingdom life into abandonment of God. For us, these things may not be as outright as others face, but know Christians face these sorts of things daily in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Among us, it is not so obvious, more insidious.

I encourage you to read 2nd Maccabees. In Chapter 6 we see this: The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; They also brought forbidden things into the temple so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings. This is literally happening today on the altars of St. Peter’s in Rome and other Roman churches. Where is faith being kept? It is kept here!

Keep faith in these last days where the costs are high. Keep faith here and in your hearts. Jesus reminds us not to fret over the detail or the cost but maintain the hope that is our promise of victory – everlasting life.

Investing
rightly.

“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

In case anyone might have missed it, the past two weeks have focused on getting ready and being prepared. Prepared for what? It is about preparing for wise investing, that is that carrying out of the obligations God has entrusted to us.

Given the time of year and the immanent celebration of Thanksgiving, we might take Jesus teaching on talents as a time to discuss investing in our church. We could turn this day into a discussion of money stewardship and emphasize generosity. While Jesus’ parable deals with stewardship, it is about a different kind of investing.

For the past few weeks we have heard Jesus talk about the end times. Jesus has been encouraging us to prepare for his Second Coming. Today, we do not hear a ‘Let’s get ready for Jesus’ coming parable, but are asked to look back – what have we accomplished after we had prepared.

St. Matthew’s is writing in the late first century when the church was struggling with Jesus’ delayed return. This retelling of Jesus’ parable reminded his people and us that we have been entrusted with great treasure, we have been prepared, and that we will now be held accountable for how we have invested.

In this parable, the man going on a journey represents Jesus. His going on a journey represents His ascension. The servants represent Christians who are awaiting Jesus’ Second Coming. The talents represent the blessings God has bestowed on us. The man’s return represents Jesus’ Second Coming. The master’s assessment of the faithfulness – the investment of the servants – represents Jesus’ assessment of us at the end of time.

Jesus has entrusted His property to us – His word and the building of His kingdom. He has treated us as individuals, allocating resources in accord with each of our abilities. He neither insults the most able servant among us with trivial responsibilities nor overwhelms the least able servant in the community with impossible tasks.

The parable indeed celebrates active, forward-leaning, risk-taking, involved-in-the-world, where-the-rubber-hits-the-road investment of our preparation.

The master does return, and will settle accounts with us. This will be the time for accountability. Jesus will ask us to show what we have done for Him, for the kingdom. If we have taken our church time, our prayer time, our scripture time, and our fellowship, all in preparation, and have invested it wisely, if we have taken risks, sweated the details, and have remained while others have hidden, we will be rewarded greatly.

As in the parable, the Lord rewards the servants who have invested in four ways: He gives each investing servant equal treatment even though each servant returns different amounts; He will pronounce us as ‘good and faithful.’ Nothing feels better than words of praise given by God; He will give us increased responsibility—a promotion; and He will say, “Enter into My joy.” This is what the faithful Christian can expect to hear when Christ comes again.

As John Shedd observed, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” So, we must not live in fear, prepare and bury what we have learned. We must invest rightly and build for His return.

Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent 2014

Countdown

What’s on your
clock?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Many of us have heard of some of the most well know timekeepers. There is Big Ben in London and the ball that drops at Times Square on New Year’s Eve in New York City. Both are symbols of the passing of time. The United States Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. operates the master atomic clock ensemble which provides the time standard for the Department of Defense. FOCS 1, an atomic clock in Switzerland, started operating in 2004. It looses only one second every 30 million years. The Doomsday Clock at the University of Chicago is a symbolic clock face that represents a countdown to possible political related global catastrophe (a nuclear war or irreversible climate change). The closer the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to midnight, the closer the scientists believe the world is to global disaster. We are also in the midst of a whole group of sports seasons – football, basketball, and hockey. The clock at the top of our bulletin represents the last ten minutes of the game.

What’s missing? Of course, the score! Who’s winning? That is a question we tend to ask as time draws down. Who is winning, we even ask that in our lives as time draws down. Have I won, am I winning?

That should be a question Christians avoid. If we are focused on our successes and failures, the winning and losing of everyday life, we aren’t responding to Jesus’ call, we missed His request of us. If we aren’t much concerned with success, but are just allowing time to pass, biding our time in quiet, waiting for time to run out, we aren’t responding to Jesus’ call, we missed His request of us. Jesus tells us: He has placed His servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

Advent is the season of the year that we should be taking account of our watchfulness, how we have responded to the Lord’s call. Are we at work for Him? We should use this time to redouble our efforts to be about our Master’s work, not our personal wins and losses.

All of the world’s timekeepers keep running, whether they are symbolic of the passing of time, predictive of the end of our times, or scientific instruments measuring its passage. We are always in the countdown period and our Lord’s return is near. What ends up on our clock will not be wins or losses, but how well we have responded to Him.

November 2013 Newsletter

It’s so scary… One day before November begins and the parish newsletter is complete, mailed, and posted. Our newsletter for November reflects on the end times (should we be scared?), remembering our dearly departed, the great saints who gave us strong examples of faith, thanks-giving — that and more all in our new newsletter. Check it out, stay informed and see our action packed schedule. You may view and download a copy right here — November 2013 Newsletter.

thats-all-folks-cartoon

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

heaven and earth proclaim

A new heaven and earth?
What’s wrong with this one?

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Change is a challenge to us in some of its forms.

Of course we tend to ignore the small or insignificant changes around us because we might not even notice them. The grass grew a few millimeters – we wouldn’t see it, but eventually we notice that its time to mow. Bigger changes confront us and we have to deal with them. It may be a move, new job, a pending graduation, retirement, or a decline in health. These changes unsettle us and may cause us stress.

Today we are confronted with God’s ultimate change – the dissolution of EVERYTHING and the coming of a new heaven and earth.

St. John paints this beautifully in the poetry of Revelation. We see the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. The city is prepared as the new home where God and His people dwell together. God comes to us to live in this new place – talk about a big move. There we are joined with Him in a joy that knows no bounds. All that hinders and hurts us is cast off and there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain.

We, as Christians, are called to be an eschatological people. It is a big word, but means that we are a people in touch with this new heaven and earth. We are a people who live in the present, but also live in this time-to-come. We are a people that cannot wait for this change.

When we gather, particularly at Holy Mass, and in the sharing of the Holy Eucharist in communion, we are at once in many places. Instantly we are at the Last Supper, the foot of the cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and at the new heaven and earth.

Because we live in all of these places when we “Do this in remembrance” of Him, we are to have no fear, no stress over this coming change. In fact, we are to rejoice in it and pray unceasingly for its coming. We already live there and want to see its fulfillment.

There are many who wish to paint horrific pictures and stories about this moment to come, to instill fear, to make it stressful. Don’t be fooled. We who are His people need only have confidence that all the wrongs, tears, and pains of what we have are nothing compared to the joy to come. Come Lord Jesus!

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

We thank You Lord.
…and anticipate Your coming.

“‘And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds'”

It is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and our readings focus on the end times, the second coming of Jesus. It can seem like a scary and even depressing subject when we want to focus on celebrating.

When we hear Jesus speak of these images of darkness, falling stars, and the heavens being shaken we are shaken. Daniel reminds us that these will be times of “surpassing distress.

We grow a little frightened, what if Jesus were really to come tomorrow, or in the next hour, or minute? We certainly may consider ourselves unprepared.

Maybe we are prepared for Thanksgiving. The turkey is purchased, the potatoes, yams, vegetables, those special items unique to our family traditions are stored away. But are we prepared to meet Jesus when He returns?

As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s prepare ourselves; fill ourselves with a spirit of thankfulness. Let that thankfulness include a sense of praise and anticipation for Jesus’ coming.

Whatever the events that will precede the glorious appearance of Jesus with the angelic cohort, we should gladly celebrate Jesus’ promise and be thankful for it. We know that when He comes we will be ready to be drawn to His side.

We are the people Daniel speaks of because of our faith in Jesus. “The wise who shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, those who lead the many to justice who shall be like the stars forever.

Like the psalmist, we can declare that the Lord is our inheritance. What a wonderful thing to be thankful for, an inheritance with God forever in His kingdom.

As we pray this Thanksgiving let us set aside our concern over the events of the end times. Any fantastic theories and predictions about the end of the world and return of Christ are worthless. Instead, praise God and be thankful for the spirit of renewal, which prepares us for Jesus. Pray Maranatha – a word meaning, “Come, O Lord.” This prayer asks for the speedy and early return of Christ.

Build desire and thankfulness for the Second Coming. This is our preparation. To live in the hope that strengthens and fortifies us seeking always to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.