Turning point.

“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

As I noted last week, the end is near! Well, the beginning of the end. As Christians we are to be always prepared for the end times, for the last things, for we will be called to account for how we have carried out our lives, how totally on-board with Jesus we were. So, let us begin again today. Let us take this very moment as our turning point.

Last week introduced us to the beginning of Jesus’ teaching on the end times. Next week we will go deeper into those teachings. Today we reflect on the lives of the saints, those already taken into the Lord’s presence. It is what we will see one day if we accept our turning point. Thereafter, and throughout November, we will pray for those who have died and are still awaiting that moment, who are going through a time of purification, who missed their turning point. Your prayers, and offering of the Holy Mass, for departed loved ones helps them get into the Lord’s presence, so it is a worthy thing to do.

Revelation talks about “the ones who have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” These are the saints of God, the martyrs, confessors, abbots and abbesses, bishops, priests and deacons, evangelists hermits, kings and queens, monks, penitents, princes, virgins, widows, writers – the people who have been faithful to Jesus in how they carried out their  lives, who were totally on-board with Jesus. They all took Jesus’ beatitudes seriously in the moment they came to their turning point.

We are all familiar with the heroic virtues of the saints, but often miss that moment they encountered their turning point. That turning point pushed aside their self-created ideal life. They finally listened to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. The Lord doesn’t want you to do that, but to use your life to accomplish something so much greater. The Lord wants you to turn away from your sin and to live out the opposite beatitude. This is what we must hear, what we are called to say yes to.

In recent decades, saints have been cranked out; people being called saints through a process that is more political and publicity than a recognition of complete life altering transformation. We must not be fooled by cheap processes. The call to sainthood – our call – requires we encounter that transformative moment, accept it, and live new lives in accord with what God desires from us, the beatitude life: poor in spirit, meek, thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, insulted and persecuted. This very moment is our turning point chance to be among those wearing white robes and standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Welcome to the season of Pre-Lent, Septuagesima. This season is set apart as a time of reflective preparation for the upcoming Lenten season. We notice about us a penitential mood. The colors go to purple and rose. The Gloria is no longer proclaimed. The Alleluia is suppressed and is replaced by a Tract. The dismissal is “Let us bless the Lord.”

This time of preparation means we are to desire to turn to the reality of what life must be. It is the clearing away of the dust and cobwebs, the pushing out of darkness and confusion, and a realization that there is light, a way, a goodness that brings eternal life. It is a realization that life is not to be defined by what the crowds or noisemakers say, but by what Jesus defines.

Throughout this season we hear Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. In many of these teachings, Jesus draws comparisons saying: “You have heard that it was said… But I say” This helps us, in this season, to reflect on what we hear all the time, what we have heard in the past, and what we will likely hear in the future; that noise of the crowd, and to turn away from it to the clarity Jesus has given.

In preparing let us view what Jesus says through the lens Sirach focuses for us today: If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.

The noise of the age, the noise of the world past, present, and future cannot save us. That noise counts as nothing. Man’s interpretation is, at its essence, self-serving and meritless. Seek rather the music of Jesus, the beautiful call to live righteous lives. Jesus’ way is the clarity we really need. His direction is the way of life, teachings we can trust in, water for life, good, and life eternal. Now is the time to choose. Now is the time to stretch forth our hands to wipe the old away and to return to life. We must turn to Jesus’ way.

Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment, His right interpretation is for us. Yes, it is for us, to make us great in the kingdom! Now is the moment, now the time to turn to His definitions, now to follow His way without limit. Now.

He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people.

Why do we do certain things in life? We go to school to get an education. We go to work to make money. We go to the gym to improve our health. We go to the mall to shop for clothes and the grocery store to buy food. We go to parks, games, and the theater for fun.

But church? Why come here? Why get up early on one of our few off-days? Why go through the hassle of dressing up and the getting ready? Why go to the trouble of finding a parking space nearby? Why go to church?

If we’ve ever found ourselves wondering about that little question, we’re not alone. Surveys tell us that as many as 79% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, yet only 20% of Americans attend church regularly. I guess some people look at going to church as a bother—an unnecessary burden to be avoided or only a place for baptisms and funerals. Others see it as sort of like punching a spiritual clock or earning brownie points with their Maker.

But to someone who understands church and what it’s really all about, going to church can be the most spiritually fulfilling, inspiring thing we do all week. It lifts us up higher if we are high and helps us stand if we are down.

The Book of Acts tells the story of how the church got started. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. They went out and began preaching Jesus—the only way who gave us the Good News. Millions listened, thousands believed. Then at the end of Acts 2, we find a short snapshot of what life was like in the early church: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals, and to prayer… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had… And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. I would love to be in a church like this! Wouldn’t you?

Churches are springing up. There is a longing. In every place, in small broken down and big fancy buildings people are being lifted up. God is on the move for those who say yes to Jesus – who invest the time to believe the promises of the All Powerful God. Church is the community of God – where we are pulled up higher, where we will do justice, experience victory, and find true peace. Church isn’t a destination; it’s something we become. When we understand what it means to be the Church, we discover our life’s true purpose—to be a member of His family, magnify His glory, mature in His image, be a minister of His mercy, and to be a missionary of His grace. Be lifted up, lift up all. Now is the time.