Maybe it’s just me but it seems that the older I get the faster the seasons change. We’re quickly approaching the season of Advent already. Next Sunday, November 25, the Church officially ends the current liturgical year by celebrating the feast of Christ the King. The Sunday after that, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent, which also marks the first Sunday in the new liturgical year in the Church. This weekend, therefore, is the last Sunday in ordinary time in our current Church year and it is appropriate that the Church focus its attention on Christ’s second coming and meditates on the prophetic writings of Sacred Scripture.
Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we profess the fact that Christ will come again. Scripture emphasizes the changes that will take place when Christ returns and promises that this event will be a most glorious and joyful event, not only for the faithful who are living when Christ returns, but also and those who had died in Christ. But to anyone who tries to pinpoint the approximate time of Christ’s second coming, I would simply call their attention to the last line of today’s Gospel, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk 13:32)
In the Gospel of Mark, when the disciples asked Jesus what would be the signs of His second coming, Mark devoted an entire chapter to recording Jesus’ answer to that question. In His answer, Jesus outlines some very traumatic changes that will take place in our environment that would signal His arrival. Our Gospel reading for today starts with verse 24, which is the very end of that discourse, so our reading starts with a summary statement, “In those days, after that tribulation —.” (Mk 13:24) The tribulation that Jesus is referring to is described in detail in the preceding 23 verses, that are not included in our Gospel reading for today.
This information that Jesus gives us is vitally important, because we all know that change is a fact of life. We are familiar with change and Jesus wanted us to know specifically what changes to look for.
Everything changes over time. After all, each and every one of us is born into this world as a tiny infant and we spend our entire life growing, developing and changing. Life teaches us that nothing in this world is constant. Change is inevitable. And throughout life we learn that sometimes change is our friend and we live, grow and flow with it. Likewise we also learn that sometimes change is our enemy, and we are forced to confront the situation in order to make the necessary corrections.
As an example, we recently had an election and many people are deeply disappointed by the results of this election, primarily because of the uncertainties it poses to our religious freedoms that we currently enjoy in these United States. As such, many recognize the need to make some changes to correct a problem that our recent election process did not resolve.
Because of this election, we are facing a change that is not our friend. You see, there now appears to be little hope of overturning “the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. As the situation currently stands, the stage is set for a historically unprecedented confrontation between the Roman Catholic Church and the federal government over whether Catholics can remain free to exercise their religion in these United States.
“The court’s decision leaves untouched the “preventive services” provision in the legislation.”
Through the comments that people have made, it has become clear to me that for some, there is a total misunderstanding of the problem. The Church does not have problem with universal health care. In fact the U.S. Catholic Bishops have been promoting and encouraging that concept for decades. The problem is with the court’s ruling that says that…
“virtually all health-care plans in the United States will be required to cover sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. All religiously affiliated non-profit organizations (such as Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities) have until August 1, 2013 to comply.” (CNS News, June 28, 2012)
That provision of the mandate, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have said, the Church cannot and will not accept. This attack on the Church, and our religious liberties, is unprecedented in our country and many people see the necessity for change. We, however, should not be disappointed by the results of this election. We must have confidence that any such evil attacks on the Church, in spite of how successful they may appear, will ultimately be doomed to failure because this is Christ’s Church and when He founded it He said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18 KJV)
Rather than seeing this event, or any similar event, as a disappointment and becoming discouraged by the unacceptable future it presents to us, this should be a wake-up call to all who call themselves a follower of Jesus. For our Lord and Savior Jesus was arguably the most divisive and disturbing individual who ever walked the face of this earth. He challenged many of the major precepts upon which their society was built, precepts that were contrary to the will of His Heavenly Father. As a faithful follower of Christ, should we not then be doing the same? Yes, they tried to silence Jesus. Yes, they tried to discredit Him. And if we are effective in our efforts, as Jesus was, they will try to silence and discredit us also.
As a follower of Christ, we must not be passive and simply accept such injustices and irregularities that come along in our society today. As a Christian, we have a responsibility to speak out against any and all precepts that would seek to prevent the faithful from following the will of our Heavenly Father. And if laws or precepts need to be changed in order to preserve and protect our Father’s will, we have a responsibility to produce that change. Our lives should be a living protest against all actions, laws or publically accepted morals that would belittle and demean human life.
We all need to follow the example of the Disciples of Christ. They carried on the struggle. They spoke out against the injustices of the day. They worked to change what needed to be changed. We must be willing to do the same. The most destructive thing that could happen to the Church today would be for us, its members, to lose the spirit of revolution, to become complacent and simply accept things as they are.
There always have been and always will be those who try to destroy the truth. But truth is eternal and the words of Jesus will never be silenced. For as Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews, “He took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool.” (10:12-13) Faith in God will never become obsolete. The traditional family will never become extinct. The Church will always exist, and it will always be in a state of constant renewal. For life in the Spirit dictates that the Body of Christ, that is the Church and its individual members, continually grow and be reformed to the Spirit of God.
It can be disturbing at times to live a Christian life in the midst of a world that seems so hostile to the will of our Heavenly Father, and to be fearful of the possible future that these hostilities represent. But our responsibility is not to fear the future, but rather to live in the present with confidence and hope in the eternal presence and power of God. We walk with Christ, working to change what must be changed, in order to remain faithful to the will of our Heavenly Father. I like the statement made by George MacDonald, who was a mentor to C. S. Lewis. He once said,
God begs you to leave the future to Him, and mind the present.
In closing, may we also recall the words of St. Albert the Great, a Dominican priest and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The moment a man overcomes his own will and conforms himself in everything to the supreme and eternal will of God, he receives the gift of grace. Grace brings love, and love drives out fear and hesitation, and fills the soul with confidence and hope.