Today is the last day of the Church’s liturgical year. Tomorrow begins the season of Advent, a time of hope, expectation and joy as we the Church prepare to celebrate the mystery of the incarnation, God made flesh in Jesus the Christ.
On this last day of the year, however, the Church’s attention is drawn appropriately not to new beginnings – however imminent – but rather to the end-times. The first reading shares with us the last chapter of John’s apocalyptic vision. Rather than inspiring fear and dread, the vision ends on a note of promise and redemption. It speaks of Old Testament images – "life-giving water," "the tree of life," "the throne of God" – all of which was intended to give readers, then and now, reason for hope.
In a more balanced, practical, down-to-earth way, Luke in today’s Gospel recalls Jesus’ words telling us to be vigilant and to pray that we might be worthy of the promise of his coming. Eternal life is something we as disciples should not take for granted, but rather that we should embrace with all of our mind, body and soul. Jesus’ promises are not meant to lull us into a selfish stupor in which we focus solely on our own personal salvation. Rather, they should energize us in the here and now to be instruments of His redemption – we are Christ’s real, living and breathing invitation to others who do not know Him to escape "the tribulations that are imminent" and rejoice in standing "before the Son of Man."
What will be our response when all of this takes place? When our work is finally done and Jesus comes…it will be simply to repeat the refrain from today’s psalm – the words sung by our earliest mothers and fathers in the Faith: Marana tha! Come Lord Jesus!! Come!!!!
Patrick Quinn is the director of Planned Giving at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.