Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Sunday of the Year

Colossians 1:9-14 / Matthew 24:13-25

There is, and has been for a few years, something of a mania for zombies, and with them fictional scenarios of the end of the world as we know it, in popular culture. Indeed, so supersaturated are we with these tales of the walking dead, implacable in their hunger for human flesh, vulnerable individually but beyond any human solution in their innumerable hordes, that we might easily fail to see that such stories are not, at their heart, about zombies at all. Whenever we consider what it would be like to endure, and indeed to survive, a great tribulation, such as hath not been found from the beginning of the world until now of which the best we can say of those who face them is woe to them, for unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved, we are not really interested in whatever caused the tribulation — nuclear war, asteroids, global pandemic, zombie infections. No, what makes these stories compelling is a fundamental question: In the face of global and humanly irreversible disaster, when no offer of hope, no solution new or old deriving from our ingenuity can possibly save us, how shall we live? When kindness, charity, mercy, and solidarity leave us just as exposed, just as dead as self-serving egoism, cruelty, and crass individualism, when there is no visible difference between the fate of those who follow Jesus Christ and those who have refused the Good News, in short when miracles and wonders come just as readily from false Christs and false prophets insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect, what ought we to do.

Of course, this question is no less relevant, no less pressing in what we naively take to be the ordinary, daily life we face. Moreover, the very fact that we are not unavoidably confronted with the question of our fidelity makes the seeming safety of our ordinary lives dangerous in its own way. After all, we are offered every day signs and wonders accomplished by those who do not accept the truth of Jesus Christ. We see fantastic accomplishments in technology, in the healing arts, in social organization and efficiency, all of which seem at least as able, if not more so, to address the human ills which we profess in faith to be ultimately only curable by the Lord Jesus Christ, however much we remain obligated to do the best we can to eliminate them by our own efforts. So, then, what ought the faithful to do?

St Paul, altogether aware of the faithfulness of the Church in Colossae, having no doubts as to their fidelity in a world on the one hand ignorant of, on the other refusing to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, nonetheless would not cease to pray for them. What was his prayer? That they be not simply aware of salvation in Jesus Christ but filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding; that they not simply have turned their lives to God in a fundamental way, but that in all things and in every good work they might please God; that they not simply be able to endure troubles, but that they be strengthened with all might according to the power of His glory, in all patience and long suffering with joy. In short, Paul sees that to have been made partakers of the lot of the saints in light through baptism and be made sons of God the Father, Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins, is not the end, but the beginning of the Christian life. It is in the reception of a new life in Christ that we can finally, truly, start to live, to enjoy a life that passes through the most heart-breaking of tragedies and, without denying them, nonetheless is marked, or ought to be, by irrepressible joy.

This is what we Christian faithful ought to find ourselves doing. Whether faced with the most horrifying end-of-the-world scenario concocted by Hollywood or the daily challenges of holding fast to the Good News of Jesus Christ, our task remains the same. It is to live a life of thanksgiving, sealed with the radiant gladness, the abundant and glorious happiness that is the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. We, the baptized, already have a share in that gladness, that happiness, that deathless and eternal joy in the blood of Jesus Christ. May we cease not to pray for ourselves, and one another, to grow more and more, day by day, into the heart of the joy of God.

No comments: