25 November 2005

It is not then yet...

34th Week OT (Fri): Dan 7.2-14; Luke 21.29-33
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

As we stumble headfirst into our winter of repentance and waiting, Jesus warns us again and again that that which we hope for, that which gives our faith its substance, is coming, and it is bringing with it much trouble. This week alone we have heard Jesus prophesy the destruction of the Temple, describe signs of the end times (“Nation will rise against nation…”), warn the disciples of their impending persecution for his namesake, warn again of the Great Tribulation, the desolation of Jerusalem by foreign armies. And just as it appears that all of creation has fallen to the destruction of the unclean sword, the Son of Man will come in power and great glory! With heads and hands held high, we are to welcome our redemption with rejoicing and sighs of relief.

But it is not then yet. Soon. Jesus teaches his disciples to learn from the fig tree, watch its growth, its blossoming. You know that summer has arrived when the fig tree and all the other trees burst open their blossoms. The winter of repentance and waiting is over then. The signs tell us that our summer of fulfillment and glorification is at hand: the fig tree and all the other trees are heavy with fruiting-flowers; the perfumed air is breathless, knowing the kingdom and its King are near. But it is not then yet.

It seems that we have become accustomed to waiting for the arrival of the Kingdom—waiting on the Christmas Incarnation during Advent and waiting on the Easter Resurrection during Lent—perhaps we are not a “Pilgrim Church on a Journey” after all but rather a “Loitering Church in Waiting.” Perhaps, like the seasons, we move as a Church from peak to peak with anticipation and endure the valleys with patience. There is a great hurry in our waiting, an urgency in our lingering. Can one be patiently eager? Contently edgy? Vibrating with calm expectation?

Yes! To be alive as a child of God, a son or daughter of the Father, is to be quaking with barely contained hope, nearly bursting with an anticipation of glory, fulfillment, and final perfection. We are coiled energy, tightly wound springs of rejoicing, of acclamation, of praise and worship ready to leap, ready to burst free, and proclaim Christ the King, Christ the Savior. We are heirs, sons and daughters, much-loved children, family in Christ and to one another. We come here everyday to be reminded of this. When it is forgotten, so are we.

Persecutions and trials and tribulations do not matter. They will come in their time, and do their damage. They always have. We are promised by Christ that if we preach his gospel, trials and betrayals will follow like spring follows the winter. They are inevitable. A Word of Conversion hurts the ear. It challenges the sacred cows of postmodernity, the untouchable orthodoxies of the secular temple: identity politics, narcissistic spiritualities, cults of violence and persecution, and the tallest totem of contemporary American culture, the unholy trinity of Choice-License-Irresponsibility.

But the fig tree will bloom. So will the oaks and cedars and magnolias. They will come to us as signs, signs to strengthen our hearts and minds to pray and to remember that we are most alive as Children of the Father when we live as His Son lived and rejoice in our salvation with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps with just a little trembling we can look at the devils of our world and say to them: “Bring it on!” It’s just a matter of time now. Just a matter of waiting, knowing the promise of our salvation has been made and fulfilled.

Lift hands and hearts in rejoicing!
The words of our Lord will not pass away!

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