THURSDAY HOMILY: Raise Your Heads and Hold up the Sky. No More Chicken Littles.
Raise your heads and hold up the sky. Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.
The Second Coming of the Lord should become the focal point of our life and the foundation of our worldview. The early Christians used an Aramaic word to express the hope it generated, "Maranatha", loosely translated "Come Lord Jesus".
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - On Thursday of the last week of the Church Year our readings point to the end of this current world and the birth of the new heaven and new earth; the culmination of our experience of time and the beginning of eternity.
The Gospel which I proclaim at Mass (Luke 21:20-28) is prophetic in two respects. Jesus predicts the devastation of Jerusalem. That did indeed occur in 70 AD. And St Luke, the writer of the Gospel, had probably already witnessed it as he set down his account.
It becomes the context within which Luke sends a message: we can place our confidence in the promise of the Lord's return. For Christians, the events which precede the Lord's final return should not engender fear. They promise the fullness of God's loving plan for the entire universe. We are told "when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."
Since Sunday's celebration of the Feast of Christ the King our readings have pointed toward the "parousia", the Second Coming of the Lord. Sadly, a virtual cottage industry has grown up around a misguided attempt to "read the signs of the times", complete with timelines and false predictions.
Many of these efforts generate fear, rather than build living faith. Yet it is living faith which is the key to making ourselves - and the world - ready for the great event to which all human history points. The Second Coming is our "True North." Jesus will come to close the current period of human history and establish the eternal Kingdom.
For Christians, the Second Coming of the Lord should become the focal point of our life and the foundation of our worldview. The early Christians used an Aramaic word to express the hope it generated "Maranatha", loosely translated "Come Lord Jesus".
The words written by the beloved Disciple John in the Revelation given to him on that island of Patmos, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20) reflect an early liturgical phrase. They also reveal a lifestyle of living ready.
During this last week of the Church year we should reflect on how we are living and whether we are making ourselves - and the entire human race and created order - more ready for His Return.
For many the thought of the "end" of this world as we know it causes fear. Not unlike the fear of death which grips those who have not experienced being set free by Jesus Christ. In the words of the ancient troparion of the Easter Liturgy, "Christ has Risen from the Dead Trampling on death by death and on those in the tombs, lavishing life."
Are we living in fear or are we living by faith? These words of Jesus should help guide our response to the question, "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." (Luke 8:50, Mark 5:36)
The condition of many Christians these days is more akin to the fear demonstrated by the childhood story of Chicken Little than to the faith to which we are all called by Baptism. Most of my readers recall the story:
"Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head. It scared her so much she trembled all over. She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out. Chicken Little: "Help! Help! The sky is falling! I have to go tell the king!"
The story proceeds through many different encounters and ends with the little chicken learning the lessons of courage and the practicality of good preparation for every journey in life.
What happened to faith, hope and love, those "theological virtues" infused within us when we rose from those waters? Why, of all people, do those who know the real King and Sovereign of the entire universe so easily give in to the kind of crippling fear which is such an impediment to living faith?
I have made a decision I invite my readers to consider. I am going to put up my spiritual umbrella every morning before I open my E Mails. Oh, do not get me wrong, I pray every morning. I could not do what I do daily and wear all the hats that accompany my specific vocation without having that intimate morning communion with the Lord.
I have started to once again open up my E Mail's over that cup of coffee before I pray. No more. Too many "Chicken Littles" are using the World Wide Web to throw acorns and I need my umbrella!
Please, do not think that I am suffering from naïveté. I have been in the trenches for years. I truly grasp the gravity of the very real challenges and struggles we face in this contemporary culture of death.
I understand the deep effects of what our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI rightly called the Dictatorship of Relativism. I know how hard it is to live as a Christian husband, father, grandfather, deacon, lawyer and activist in an age which has lost its moral compass.
However, perhaps because I have also spent many years studying our Christian history, I know that none of this is new. We are not the first generation of Christians to live in a culture of death. The early Christians went into a declining Roman empire that accepted the placing of unwanted infants out on rocks to be either eaten by animals or taken by slave traders as normal!
It was a practice called exposure. Those early followers of Jesus Christ - and many, many other Christians throughout the ages - have also faced the rancid fruit that accompanies a culture's descent into hedonism and self idolatry. However, they went into their cultures as leaven and light, filled with faith, hope and love - and transformed them from within. So must we.
We are called to follow the One who stretched out His arms and embraced the whole world on that second tree on Calvary's hill, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. That Cross brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven, forming a bridge between them.
With His great act of surrendered love, He who knew no sin ended the separation which resulted from it and created the world anew in Himself. (See, 2 Cor. 5: 17 - 21) From the wounded side of the New Man, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Church was formed and that Church is called to continue His redemptive work until He returns to complete the total recapitulation of all things.
He defeated death by Death and through His glorious Resurrection He mediates the hope that we who bear His name can walk in, if we choose to do so. So, let the acorns fall all around you, I assure you the sky is not falling, even if it appears to be.
Christians are called to hold the sky up for others by living our lives now in Christ and helping those bound by the fear of death to find new life in the One who conquered it. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains:
"Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life" (Heb 2:14-15)
I am also going to practice a technological version of what has long been called custody of the eyes in Moral theology. I am going to stop reading the articles, blog posts and commentaries by the growing number of naysayers in our camp who are losing the supernatural sight which is informed by faith and fueled by Christian hope.
They are the Chicken Little's of our time and seem to have forgotten their umbrellas. Our Catechism reminds us in one of its numerous treatments concerning hope that "The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption". (CCC #2091)
By the way, we should remember the end of that little childhood story: "Chicken Little always carried an umbrella with her when she walked in the woods. The umbrella was a present from the king. And if - KERPLUNK - an acorn fell, Chicken Little didn't mind a bit. In fact, she didn't notice it at all."
Raise your heads and hold up the sky. Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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