We begin this new liturgical year by embracing the vision that was first revealed through the prophet Isaiah: This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:1)
At first it was the vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. From the advent of God among us in the flesh of his Son Jesus, that vision is now the Vision of the New Jerusalem, the New Chosen People, the Church. Critics can easily point out that the Church has shown fatigue; undergone severe crisis; made many mistakes over the centuries. We should never deny that; but we should clarify that all the crises, the mistakes, the signs of fatigue are due to the Church’s human element, not to her divine origin. Therefore, it should never surprise us, believers, more accurately “lovers of our Church,” that she has withstood the mightiest empires, the most powerful rulers, the most single-minded foes precisely because she is sustained by the unparalleled power of the Holy Spirit and nurtured by the unfailing love of her Divine Groom, Jesus Christ.
This simple explanation, provided by our faith in God’s design and love, baffles all those who reason strictly on what can be measured and explained through the very limited means of history, science and technology. It is imperative, therefore, that we begin this new year by reminding each other that the Vision is still intact and that Vision of universal peace, justice, unity, cooperation, solidarity, humble service, joyous self-sacrifice is worth working for, dreaming about, and investing all our energies in.
Now, knowing our human frailties, perhaps God should have taken a more direct intervention in making sure that this (his) Vision is brought quickly to fruition and completed successfully. However, we are reminded today that, the Lord of all ages and who, unlike us, is unaffected by time and space, has decreed that he can afford to adjust his timetable to our faltering pace and hesitant movement forward.
In his Letter to the Romans (13:11-14), St. Paul, an outstanding member of the Church at her beginning and for the duration of the world, leads us to contribute personally, directly, and wholeheartedly to the Vision by making a clear distinction between works of darkness and works of light. Lest some of us might still be uncertain or unwilling to accept such distinction, let me simplify things by saying that the works of darkness are any of the plans, dreams and deeds that we, instinctively, can plan, dream, and carry out only in secret and in the dark for fear of exposure, embarrassment, and condemnation. Conversely, wearing the armor of light would allow us to engage, openly, in broad daylight, in all those plans, dreams and activities that the Church, the world and we all need and from which all would benefit.
However, having St. Paul lived through both deeds of darkness and deeds of light, he comes up with a heavenly suggestion that, if lived out daily, would assure that the Vision embraced by the Church, the efforts of the New Jerusalem, the personal sacrifices of God’s People would be realized without delay. St. Paul suggests that we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we would plan, dream and realize only works of light.
These works of light are precisely the different facets of the Vision: peace, universal justice, unity, cooperation, solidarity, humble service, and joyous self-sacrifice. Now, from past experience, we should all be ready to admit that any time the self is involved in self-giving and is expected to adopt the attitude of Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:3-4) of considering others as more important than ourselves and of placing their well-being ahead of our own, a whole score of excuses can surface and we might have second thoughts or change course altogether.
This is where the passage from the Gospel of Matthew (24:37-44) comes to our aid. We ought to stay awake; we ought to be vigilant so that Satan, the most skillful thief, doesn’t break into the home of our heart and steal from us the attitude that is first of Jesus Christ: of considering others as more important than ourselves and of placing their wellbeing ahead of our own.
For all people in general, life continues as usual, day after day. There is eating and drinking; there is marrying and being given in marriage; there is working in the field; there is grinding grain and doing all kinds of chores. However, the difference is in doing all that we have to do in line and in light of the Vision OR according to our personal, restricted, rather selfish, petty, modest vision.
Since we do not know when the Lord will call us to himself, it is very wise to make sure that each one of our days is spent planning, dreaming, and realizing only deeds of light for the sake of the Vision which will be fully realized and enjoyed only in the Kingdom of God.