The Lord is near!

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[33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Nov 15, 2015 / Dan 12:1-3 / Ps 16:5+8, 9-10, 11 / Heb 10:11-14, 18 / Mark 13:24-32]

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THE Gospel today sounds like the trailer of a disaster movie – “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” What are we to do? To prepare our “end of the world is nigh” banners?

The first thing that helps us is to understand the style of writing which is known as apocalyptic, very rich in figurative and symbolic language. Now we love symbols and cracking codes, so let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds. What does this prophecy mean? Should we be getting alarmed? What is very helpful is the subsequent verse – “then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” The Savior is coming! So in the middle of the drama the Lord enters. Christ, the head of the cosmos has everything under control.

How can Christ make himself present in the middle of the apocalypse? Perhaps a little example from life can help. Once I was organizing some of our apostolic activities with the youth here in Manila. After a long day of intense work we were deciding how to go home.
They could not decide and there was some indecision and changing of plans. I got impatient and spoke a bit sternly to them, telling them to get their act together. My tone was apocalyptic, the atmosphere changed and it seemed like the end of the world was nigh! But here, if we are open, Christ comes. How? In the humble recognition that I was wrong. I apologized to the group and Christ’s coming was made “real” in the asking for forgiveness. The Son of Man indeed comes with great power if we let him.

Vigilance is required. The gospel tells us “when you see these things happening, know that he is near.” At times, prompt action is needed, to respond immediately and we discover that the Lord is near. In other moments it is good to listen to the song by U2 called “40.”

The song is about Psalm 40 and one line that Bono sings is, “I waited patiently for the Lord.” The Lord comes to those who wait. A person was inviting his friend back to Church. It took three years for the friend to respond. When we ask and pray to the Lord patience is sometimes required. In the waiting our faith, and love, is tested, purified and made more perfect.

It is a wonderful gift to recognize the presence of the Lord and to be able to wait for his coming too. St Patrick had a prayer which showed the closeness of the presence of the Lord: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”

In a polluted world, let Christ be the air you breathe. When all around may be doom and gloom as if the world is ending and there is no hope, how beautiful to announce good news. In my daily situations and challenges, am I an announcer of the apocalypse? When I look at the society, the people around do I only see bad news, always complaining? Or do I see that actually the Lord is near? How inspiring the one who recognizes the coming of Christ, who is able to see Christ working, to recognize the presence of Christ! God is hard at work in the world of today. If only we have eyes to see.

Yahweh, I know you are near, standing always at my side–as the song goes. Even in those who appear to be far from God, the Lord always seeks to draw close to them. I remember once speaking to some nuns who do bar outreach to women in prostitution. The nuns said that the women felt God close to them. I asked the nuns why this was so. They said “The women feel God so close because they are so wounded.” I remembered the words of Christ himself “I did not come to condemn but to save.” That is why he also said to his listeners “Prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of heaven ahead of you.” Perhaps all of us so-called pious ones will get a shock in heaven when we see who is ahead of us in the waiting line for heaven!

The Lord is near – let us open our eyes to see him, and our hearts to welcome him. Have a blessed Sunday!

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