NOVEMBER 25, 2008: APOC14:14-19; LUKE 21:5-11
THE DAY WILL COME WHEN NOT ONE STONE WILL BE LEFT ON ANOTHER, BUT IT WILL ALL BE TORN DOWN. From the beginning of his preaching, Jesus sought to elevate the perspectives of his audience from the limits of this world of time to another existence in the kingdom of God. This invisible but very real universe is governed by laws that differ markedly from those that are operative in our familiar world. Unexpressed but presupposed this truth is the basis for the program he set forth in the Sermon on the mount in which he indicates the vastly different view that God takes of the human condition. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:5).
In the event, this effort of his met with limited results. Even his chosen apostles, who saw that he spoke with a unique authority that could be ascribed only to a divine source, were unable effectively to see beyond the limits of their familiar world with its values and customary views of the human scene. Only after the death and resurrection did the force of Jesus teaching on the nature of the kingdom of God take full hold of their minds and hearts. On the human level, with the exception of his Blessed Mother, it proved necessary to experience the apparent finality of death, vicariously, before his followers could grasp the transcendent character of our Lord’s message.
In this last week of the liturgical year, the Church confronts us with this radical aspect of the revelation brought by our Lord and witnessed to by his own suffering and death as well as by his words and those of his inspired followers. The essence of the theme set before us at this time can be stated briefly: “The earth as we know it is destined for destruction. Live then so as to be ready to enter that world where God is all in all.”
In recent times, our generation has seen this prophecy supported by the findings of science in regard to our planet, the earth. No matter how permanent the works of our human race seem to be, they are destined for eventual destruction. As the sun consumes the hydrogen that constitutes its own substance, it expands. With the passage of time it will draw closer to earth so that its heat becomes destructive. After four and a half billion years no life can survive on this planet . Eventually the earth, and the sun itself will be dissolved. This scenario is the optimistic opinion in that it presumes that none of the numerous large comets in our galaxy penetrate earth’s atmosphere and destroy life prior to the critical expansion of the sun. Nothing is more certain than the death of each individual; and now it is clear even to natural reason that our human race is also destined for ultimate destruction. In order to accept the truth proclaimed by our Lord that we are intended to live as members of a kingdom that is without end we must make a choice in trusting faith in his word.
Our human spirit resists the prospect of eventual disappearance. Four billion years will eventually pass away but the human person who lives and loves with the whole of the self cannot tranquilly accept the eventual destruction of a loved one and of the self. Yet there are many who claim such aspirations for eternal existence are mere delusion. Today as in his lifetime there is a strong resistance to Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom. Now, however, we have the grace won for us by the risen Savior, the grace that inclines us to make this choice of faith. Such grace is repeatedly offered to us, for our faith and our hope must be repeatedly renewed in order to grow stronger than the attractions and illusions that so readily appeal to our weak nature. This morning as we hear the words of the Apocalypse and the lesson that Jesus imparts concerning the last times that can suddenly come upon our world, long before its natural end, we are offered the grace to renew our commitment to the kingdom of God. In this Eucharist we are offered a pledge that our hope for eternal life in the loving presence of the Father who created us is not vain. Jesus who lives even now in his glorified state, so unites us with himself in this communion that even now we are made partakers of his life in a hidden but real manner. As we come to the end of this liturgical year may we renew our faith and with trust in our Savior go forward on the way he has traced out for us, It is the path that leads to life in the kingdom of the Father. &
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger