Friday, November 16, 2012

He Is Near

Reflections on the Readings
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 18, 2012 - Year B
The Year of Faith 

He Is Near

"From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates."

The apocalyptic genre found in Scripture reveals what we should understand about the past, the present, and the future.  The meaning of the word 'apocalypse' translated from Greek refers to 'uncovering' or 'revealing.'  For example, the Book of Revelation, a text within the canon of Holy Scripture is a prophetic document that discloses its message in liturgical language, actions, and visions.  Rather than being a 'dark' book resistant to being understood, the Sacred text helps us to 'see' into heaven itself.

The Gospel before us today gives us a glimpse into the past, the present, and the future.  

First, what about the past?  Jesus underscores in this prophetic discourse the rejection of himself and of those associated with him.  Graphic language in the tradition of the prophets is descriptive of the events that will be earth shaking.  The sky did not literally fall, but the events in time are defined with cosmic signs and disturbances.  Everything that could be shaken was shaken. Sacrilege in the Temple preceded its destruction in 70 AD.  Persecution of Christ's followers was so intense that no one would have survived that ordeal had the Lord not 'shortened the days' of their persecution.

False Christs and false prophets were rampant.  They were spectacular in their efforts to lead people astray, especially the elect.  Their message was packaged in deceitful presentations of signs and wonders.  With these feats they sought attention for themselves.  Jesus gave this warning before his Passion and Ascension into heaven.  "Take heed, he said; I have told you all things beforehand."  Is there anything here we should pay attention to in our time?  You better believe it.

Secondly, let's consider the present.  The best thing to do about the present is to live in it.  Endless speculations about the future are futile.  Jesus said, "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  There is a huge Christian book industry churning out countless volumes swimming in words with endless confidence in their facts about the end of time.  But no one really knows, do they?  At least that's what Jesus said.  Nevertheless, millions of dollars are made in the production of DVD's and books declaring with ambitious energy the certainty of the time of the eschaton.  "Take heed and watch, Jesus said, for you do not know when the time will come."  Let's say it all together, "I do not know when the time will come."  

In this present time as in the past and until Jesus comes we must help the world to see and to know the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  In scripture, clouds denote the presence of the Lord.  Incense in the Mass reminds us that Jesus is near.  

From sea to shining sea we must work until Jesus comes again.  In the New Evangelization we want everyone to know who Jesus is.  We want everyone to know that he is not far off, but near to all who call upon his name.  Our work is a labor of love - to love the world as Jesus does until we have hugged as many as we can to the foot of the old rugged cross.  Such love is not easy. It is right that we should pray for the fire of the Holy Spirit to help us to be fervent witnesses.  On our knees we should ask that we may always be credible.

This world is not our final destination.  We are on a journey to our true home.  We are seeking a true homeland.  As such we are strangers and exiles on the earth.  And in our time here we should invite as many as often as we can to find there new destination in the Christ of the Church.  A better country, that is, a heavenly one is represented in time and in eternity by the Church.  Our status as pilgrims does not make us irrelevant or insignificant in the world.  We are the salt and the light of our communities and of our families.  

Third, let us think a moment about the future.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit we are marching to Zion.  Many things may remind us that this world is not our home.  But the most significant witness of this truth lies deep inside you and me.  A promise of a new home and a new body and a new day was given to us by our Baptism.  And our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  

So that we may not lose heart, we are nourished along the way by the Holy Food of Christ's body and blood.  In this way we participate in the divine nature.  And renewed as we are by this gracious banquet our soul is invigorated by the nearness of him who promises that he will never leave us nor forsake us.  And in the sweet by and by when the morning dawns eternally we shall be changed in a moment and in the twinkling of an eye.  This feast of faith of this most Holy Eucharist feeds us with the newness of hope that one day we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.  

1) When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries,
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, one purpose I declare:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

2) New strength comes night or day when from the heart we say,
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Let sin and evil fear, when this sweet chant they hear:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

3) Discordant humankind, in this your concord find,
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Let all the earth around ring joyous with the sound:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

4) Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine,
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this the eternal song, through all the ages long:
may Jesus Christ be praised!


Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at   His website is:   

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