34th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
Here we are at the end of November in Rome. It's cold and raining. Has been for weeks now. We see the sun for maybe 30 minutes a day. All signs that winter is not far off. This morning Jesus tells us that the budding fig tree will be a sign that the long winter is ending and that summer is near. We also have John telling us that in his vision of the last judgment, “the former heaven and former earth had passed away.” The old order of the universe is replaced by “a new heaven and a new earth.” Winter turns to summer; the old gives way to the new. This isn't the Cycle of Life our pagan ancestors revered and celebrated; rather, it's the drama of human conversion from sin to salvation, the salvific action of Christ on the cross and our graced reaction to his sacrifice. Having died and risen again once for our sins, Christ continues to lure us away from disobedience and destruction and into a renewed life, an eternal life among all his redeemed in heaven. It is no accident that these readings come on the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent.
In the Church's liturgical year, Friday's are always marked as the dark day of the crucifixion, a day for penitential reflection and fasting. It is entirely fitting that we are called to repentance on this Friday, the Friday before we begin our long wait during Advent for the coming of the Christ Child. For four weeks we will watch for the signs of his coming. For four weeks we will pray, fast, study, do our work all the while waiting and waiting for the first signs of his coming. Even knowing that his coming is inevitable, even knowing that he has already arrived once for all, we will wait and wait. This generation—those who faithfully anticipate his arrival—this generation will not pass before he finally comes among us. Are you ready? Fully prepared? Ready to receive all the graces and all the tribulations he has to give you?
Military men and women often describe their work as “hurrying up to wait.” Rush, rush, rush to get ready. . .and then a long, anxious wait for action. If John's apocalypse tells us anything, it tells us that now is the time to hurry up and wait. Hurry to repentance. Hurry to conversion. Hurry up and get your spiritual house in order. And then wait. Christ has come. Christ is coming. And he will come again. There's a new heaven and a new earth to anticipate. Be sure that you are ready!
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