HOMILY FOR THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY ( C ) by Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece O.J.
Texts: Mal. 4: 1-2; 2 Thess. 3: 7-12; Luke 21: 5-9
Yesterday is gone, never to return! Tomorrow is yet to come; it may never come! What's left for us? The NOW moment! That's all we can celebrate, the NOW moment! Would that we could be consciously focused to enjoy the NOW moment! For that reason, the Apostle Paul writes: "Scripture says: 'At the favourable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. Now is the favourable/acceptable time; this is the day of salvation'" [2 Cor. 6:2]. Psalm 95 also warns us: "Oh, if today [i.e., NOW] you hear his voice, harden not your hearts" [v. 7b].
For those who try to follow Christ faithfully—not just Christian by name, but in mindset and outlook—living the NOW moment is to be consciously aware of living life to the full. Jesus tells us: "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (or more abundantly)" [John10:10]. Therefore, we must view the NOW moment as the means of communicating to us the fullness of life which is eternal, a life with God. Consequently, the components of the NOW moment would be thanksgiving or gratitude, repentance and prayer, perfect submission, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
My dear friends in Christ, when we try to live the NOW moment we begin to live life to the fullest. We recognize the value of persons which we never saw before. Like St. Francis we observe created things as we have never observed them before. As a consequence, our lives are enriched. We live relational lives, other persons lives matter, the environment is cared for, and we see consequences to our actions. The heart of this conversion is precisely this: God is in every moment of life. Remember what St. Paul reminded the Athenians: "In him (God) we live and move and have our being" [Acts 17:28]. Yes, God speaks to us in the NOW moment of our existence, for in Him we live this very moment. And every subsequent moment is a NOW moment when we are consciously aware that it is in God, through His providential power, mercy and care that we "live and move and have our being."
It is within that context, fellow saints of God, that we look at the Readings of today's liturgy. Malachi sketches for us a people who have returned from exile, but who fail to live up to the covenant which requires righteous living in respect to God in terms of reverence, worship and humility. Also lacking was the requisite just behavior in their relationship with neighbor in terms of goodness, just practices and charity. In short, the people have become arrogant. Malachi prophesies that the terrible day of the Lord will surely come to destroy those who have departed from God's law. For those who "fear" (reverence) God, the day of the Lord will bring healing and deliverance. Listen to what the prophet says, "Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him" [Mal. 3: 18]. In other words, for those who live the NOW moment in serving God faithfully, there ought to be no fear and trembling.
The Gospel speaks to us of the destruction of the Temple and the devastation and persecution that will come to test Christians who faithfully follow Jesus. The Saviour asks for calm and assures his people that they must rely on Him. He says:
They will manhandle and persecute you…bringing you to trial before kings and governors, all because of my name. You will be brought to give witness on account of it. I bid you resolve not to worry about your defense beforehand, for I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception or contradict… By patient endurance you will save your lives."
I draw your attention to a particular line: "I bid you resolve not to worry about your defense beforehand." This is a reminder to live the NOW moment, and not to worry "beforehand," for Christ and His Spirit are in the present moment to give strength and wisdom, if we but "listen to his voice and harden not our hearts." Living in today's world may not result in actual physical persecution; rather, there can be psychological and verbal persecution in the home, at the work place and even in Church because of jealousy and envy. With all of that you and I, dear friends in Christ, are called to live the NOW moment—to recognize God's mysterious working somehow, for "in Him we live and move and have our being."
I propose to you that a conscious appreciation of the NOW moment in our lives will make us stand firm in faith during terrible or unfortunate occurrences that must accompany our human condition. This conscious living of the NOW moment brings about conversion of lifestyle. We may not experience what the Jews experienced in the destruction of their well-adorned Temple as foretold by Jesus—and which took place in the year 70 A.D—but there may well be a similar destruction of something we hold dear and can't seem to be without, or the loss of someone close to us, who was our significant other. Whenever aspects of life crumble, do we forever live in the past to the extent that we cannot live life fully in this present moment? Can we, people of faith, accept or cope with such unfortunate occurrences that we can say with Job: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"?
The NOW moment, be it fortunate or unfortunate, has within it something of the divine. Only people of faith can recognize that special "something" because they listen not only with their ears, but also with their hearts that seek to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind, and to love neighbor as themselves. That's the bottom line of each and every moment of a Christian's life. When that happens, you know that you are living the NOW moment. Perhaps this is what St. Theresa of the Child Jesus meant when she used the term, "Sacrament of the moment," by doing all for Jesus out of love.
In conclusion, I leave with you a simple story of a young teenager living the NOW moment that drives away fear of what might happen. Dominic Savio, along with his classmates were playing during the scheduled recess period. The question was asked: "If the Lord were to come to judge the world in another five minutes, what would you do?" One by one his classmates gave their individual answers: "I'd rush to the Chaoel and pray before the Blessed Sacrament;" "I would kneel down and make an Act of Contrition to tell God how sorry I am for having sinned;" I would start praying the Rosary." Then it was Dominic's turn. He said, "I would keep on playing!" Dominic was living the NOW moment of his life, which was to play. It was the will of God for him to play, and in doing the will of God, there was nothing to fear. No wonder he became a Saint!
Would that you and I could grasp fully the beauty of the NOW moment, to live life fully in the Presence of God, every moment of the day, doing what our vocation demands of us: family members talking lovingly to one another; parents being more caring and loving to their children; children being more obedient to their parents and loving towards their siblings; employers being just to employees and treating them as brothers and sisters in Christ; employees not looking for short-cuts in doing their job, but doing it with pride to the best of their ability; pastors being sensitive to their parishioners; parishioners coming to Mass every Sunday on time so as to be truly recollected for the celebration of the miraculous Paschal Mystery; politicians, police, lawyers and business moguls shunning all manner of corruption—all being faithful to their calling and living the NOW moment! Then, fellow saints in Christ, we would be on the path of genuine sainthood to which we are all called through the NOW moment.
Let's not worry unnecessarily, as some do and get ulcers and cancer in the process, about the "Day of the Lord!" Rather, live each day fully as faithful people who are God-conscious and Jesus-centred, for the Lord is revealing Himself at every moment of the day. That, my dear friends in Christ, is living fully the NOW moment for the greater honour and glory of God!
+Donald J. Reece
13 November 2016