This weekend the liturgy leads us to reflect on the second coming of Christ, the coming of the fulness of God’s kingdom on earth, the end of the world.
A common theme in the prophets is imagery such as in the first reading, where the day of the Lord is pictured as a time of almost indiscriminate destruction. The day will come burning like a furnace.
St. Paul speaks of the end of times in much gentler imagery. He speaks of it in terms of birth and the joy of celebrating a new life after the pangs of producing it or as an infinite spirit of growth in our ability to understand and to love or as a sort of mystical experience, humankind being snatched up in a rapture. St. John speaks of the end of times as the rebuilding of the city, the coming to earth of the new Jerusalem, the new temple.
So lets be honest, in the face a call to faith as complex as that, a call which involves us so deeply, how do we respond? What is our direction, our course of action?
Well, simple. It is “Hang in there.” Keep doing what you are doing. Do it a little better each time. If you are a believer, if you are at least struggling to live a life of faith, then you are preparing for the second coming. More than that, you are helping to make it happen.
This passage from St. Paul in the second reading seems to be fairly humdrum stuff. The advice he is giving to the people of Thessalonica is simply “Do your job. Do what is required of you. Make your contribution to the common good.”
The teaching of Christ in the Gospel is really the same. This lengthy description that he gives of all those trials and challenges that face a believer is not at all a blueprint of particular events that signal the end is near. Rather, Christ is talking about things that all of us have to face, in one form or another, all of the time: Setbacks, losses, misunderstandings, even hatred and violence. Those are things that enter real lives, real often. Christ tells us simply to face them courageously, patiently, virtuously. Doing that is the sign of the new kingdom. In fact, doing that is the new kingdom.
The next time anyone of us feels tempted to look around and ask, “What am I really accomplishing here? What can really be so valuable about getting up in the morning, going to work or school or university, or facing whatever responsibilities one might have to face, putting up with all the irritations and challenges that inevitably accompany living with other people, then going to bed, getting up and doing the same thing all over again? How important can it be?
Well, how important is the coming of Christs kingdom? Because that is precisely what we are accomplishing, day by day, bit by bit.