We have come to the end, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost and the Last of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin again with the first Sunday of Advent—thus the seemingly endless cycles of life and death. But these cycles will not continue forever. Only God is forever, and one day we will reach our “end”—the essential purpose for which we were created. “You were made for a greater purpose,” said Mother Teresa. “To love and be loved.”
To attain this perfect love, which we call heaven, requires God’s Grace. But it also requires endurance on our part (longanimitas in Latin—long-suffering, literally “to a great length”). In the Epistle, St. Paul assures us that he is praying for us, his readers, even those of us at Star of the Sea in 2015. He is praying for our perseverance, because as Jesus says in the Gospel, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” His words (permanserit usque ad finem in Latin) mean “remaining steady through to the end.”
The Lord describes this End as one of terror, for who can see the face of God and live? Many have portrayed the Second Coming in bright and pleasant images—Jesus floating down in clouds, surrounded by rosy-cheeked baby angels, with happy souls floating up to meet him in the sky. No one knows the time or the manner in which he will return to earth, but here is how He describes that day: “when you see a desolating abomination in the holy place, you must flee to the mountains…pray that your flight not be in winter…woe to nursing women on that day…” This last warning became terrifyingly real to my mother in October 1962. It was the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Union had their nuclear warheads pointed at New York City, where our growing family was living in a small house in the Bronx. She was still nursing me, her fourth child as the world came the closest it has ever come to global nuclear war and the end of life as we knew it. The End will come, and it will be exceedingly hard: had those days not been shortened, Jesus says, no one would be saved. The powers of the heavens will be shaken, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn.
Every eye shall behold him, even those who pierced him, and no one will be able to deny either God’s existence or Christ’s Lordship on that day. “When you see these things, know that he is near, at the gates.” How do we persevere in our faith until he arrives; how do we keep our wits in a time when titanic forces will rip away our faith away?
Your Word O Lord
We have this consolation: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” One thing will remain. We will always be able to find him in the Sacred Mass. The Mass, given us through his Holy Church, not only brings us his Word, but gives us the capacity to see and hear his Word in the chaotic world. When so many of our loved ones, especially our own children, have given up on the Mass, it is tempting to lose faith in it ourselves. But today we renew our commitment to the Mass, the still center of our lives, the source of God’s Word. Even though heaven and earth collapse around us, may God find us holding tightly to that Word, to the Mass. Our Lady and all the Saints are here with us. Let us hope and pray that those closest to us will also find their way back to this fellowship—imperfect on earth, but soon to be perfected in heaven.