Bottom line: Begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself - amazingly, inexplicably - gathered to Jesus.
Some of you remember Stephen Covey's book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The second habit states: Begin with the end in mind. Covey asks the reader to imagine a funeral - one's own. Think about what you would want people to say about your relationships, your work, the legacy you leave.
That's a good meditation but this weekend I ask you take it a step further: not just the end of your life but the end of human history. Jesus promises he "will send out the angels and gather his elect..." As we say in the Creed: He will come to judge the living and the dead. That's where we are headed. Keep that end in mind.
The idea of judgment can sound scary. Many people reject God simply because judgement scares them. I understand, but at the same time we desire, even demand, judgement. Consider a recent event - the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Apart from the political implications, the case left us with a dilemma: On one hand a woman insists that Kavanaugh abused and humiliated her. She retains a memory of cruel laughter and mockery. On the other hand Kavanaugh asserts that false accusations have permanently damaged him and his family. One way or another a terrible injustice has happened. The case cries out for justice. Beyond the politics this matter touches us because it connects with other injustices - injustices that strike close to home. They gnaw at us. Pope Benedict said, "the question of justice constitutes the essential argument - or in any case the strongest argument - in favor of faith in eternal life." Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.
In today's Gospel we see that after judgment Jesus will gather his elect. If we begin with that end in mind, then we want to know how we become part of the elect? That's the big question. In some ways, the only question. Let's start with an image we have been using these past months - the sunflower. In our banner we see sunflowers surrounded by the message, "Turn to God." As the sunflower draws life from the soil, so we owe all to God. The sunflower then turns to the source of life and warmth. Just so, we want to live as children of the light. Turn to God and renounce those things people do under the cover of darkness.
We all bear a burden of shame. Don't run from it; take it to Jesus. Turn to him. As we hear in the second reading, he has offered one sacrifice for sin. In Jesus we can make a new beginning. We'll hear more about that new beginning next Sunday when we celebrate Christ the King.
We are in a spiritual battle. Jesus warns about coming tribulations. I would be a liar if I told you everything will be smooth sailing. We need to prepare for spiritual combat. We can't do it alone. Call on St. Michael for defense against Satan. Some parish conclude Mass with the St. Michael prayer. You know it, "St. Michael, defend us in the battle..."
The prophet Daniel speaks today about "Michael the great prince" - the guardian of God's people. When I meet someone named Michael, I ask him if he knows the meaning of his name. Usually he doesn't. It comes from three short Hebrew words: Mi-Ka-El: Who Like God? You and sometimes try to make ourselves into little gods. But the proper response is Mi-Ka-El? Who is like God? The answer, of course, is no one. God is the Source who has no source. He is the Light all light comes from. Turn to God.
Now, I don't want to give the idea we can earn salvation. No, Jesus has won salvation for us by the cross. For that reason the most basic step is thanksgiving. Gratitude is salvation. In the bulletin I placed a prayer you can before grace at your Thanksgiving meal. Cut it out or take the whole bulletin to your Thanksgiving table.
At our Thanksgiving Mass we will hear about a leper who returns to thank Jesus. "Your faith has saved you," Jesus tells him. This Thursday I will give examples of extreme gratitude and extreme ingratitude. That's the choice we face.
So begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself - amazingly, inexplicably - gathered to Jesus. It's pure mercy. You know it. With that end in mind we can make a new beginning. We can let go of anger because we know justice belongs to God. We can let go of fear because we know Jesus has won salvation. We can face tribulation because we hear St. Michael say, Who is like God? Jesus one day will gather his elect. Turn to God.
In Spes Salvi Pope Benedict continues: "The purely individual need for a fulfillment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ's return and for new life become fully convincing." See Spe Salvi: A masterpiece of hope
From Archives (Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru