Revelations 18:1-2, 21-23, 19:1-3, 9a
Today, as the calendar informs us, is a day to give thanks. Given recent events, this day may have a very different meaning than it did just a year ago. Perhaps we are surrounded with food, family and friends and find ourselves feeling especially blessed for all that we have. Or maybe in recent months, we, or someone close to us, have lost a job, a home, or even a loved one fighting overseas. Maybe we are reflecting on years past and regretting taking our bounty for granted. If we believe what we see on television (and so often we do), today is a day for football and parades, eating too much pumpkin pie and getting ready for a big weekend of Christmas shopping.
And so, with such important things as these already heavy on our minds (I ask, what could be more important than football?), we might wonder why we are asked to consider the serious subject of God’s final judgment on humankind in today’s readings: "for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people" (Luke 21:23). Jesus tells his followers of the "desolation" to come while Revelation warns that "Babylon the great city [will] be thrown down, and will never be found again" (Rev 18:21). All this when we haven’t even had our first taste of Thanksgiving leftovers!
While much ink has been spilled over the vivid and often mysterious imagery in the verses of Revelation that foretell the end of days, I think the important lessons from today’s readings are not particularly complicated. We need to be aware of the presence of God in our lives, take off our spiritual blinders and pay attention to the signs that might give us caution for the future. No, an angel of the Lord is probably not going to come down from heaven bathed in light to show us the way. This is the challenge that we face, especially in these uncertain times, to use our own judgment tin making sound choices in the face of what may be impending disaster. Think how different this day of thanks might look had those on Wall Street paid attention to the signs all around them instead of forging ahead based on greed?
The ultimate message from today’s scripture is one of hope. Jesus never hid the fact from his disciples that following him would come with a price. The Bible is filled with prophecies of the end of the world and the suffering promised from such devastation. But Jesus offers refuge from the storm-whether it be a diminishing bank account or dwindling college fund. We need not fear earthly loss and destruction: "Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God" (Rev 19: 1). As Christians, we have been saved. We have been given the gift of redemption and freedom from sin and death. And for that, let us all give thanks.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.