In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus chides the crowds for being able to "interpret the appearance of the earth and sky," but are not able to "interpret the present time." In other words, they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah, and that the kingdom of God was at hand.
How are we to interpret "the present time?" Even though the economy shows signs of recovery, we know that there are still too many people out of work. When Jesus talks about settling with one’s opponent before the matter gets to court, it seems totally out of sync with what is going on. Around the most difficult issues facing our country, battle lines seem to be drawn, and even when compromise is reached, there is little satisfaction among the participants in the process.
In our personal lives, many of us can relate to St. Paul, who writes in our reading from Romans, "I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want." He also writes, "I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand."
What is our response to these things? One response is to despair. Another is to follow along with the trends these things represent. The response to which Jesus calls us is neither despair nor accommodation. In the light of economic difficulty, we are to witness to hope and trust in God. We are to show gratitude and generosity. In the light of division and rancor, we are to share the love we have in Jesus Christ.
You could say that we are to live our lives in such a way that people can look at us and "interpret the present time" as a time in which God is still present and working in the lives of people. We are called to follow Christ in such a way that people will see, at this time, that there is still reason to hope and love and live. May we be such witnesses! In the words of St. Paul, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.