Thirty-Fourth Week of Year II Saturday, November 26, 2016
The Responsorial is the cry of any heart that knows what Jesus brings: “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!” (1Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 21:20).
Revelation 22: 1-7 is the last chapter of the Bible. We read from it on the last day of the liturgical year. It describes heaven in images inspired to excite the people of every era. A “river of life-giving water, clear as crystal.” It flows through the middle of the city, and the “tree of life” is growing on its bank. The “throne of God and of the Lamb” is there. His name will be “written on our foreheads” — a sign that we belong to him. A seal of relationship. And there we shall “see God face to face.”
Why don’t we think more about heaven? We look forward to holidays, sports events, visits with friends, even to quitting-time at work! Why don’t we look forward to the greatest thing that is ever going to happen to us? To the greatest joy we will ever have?
It may be because “heaven” is still pretty vague. We know that all the images are just images; they don’t really show us what life will be like after death. We might find it easier to dream about a lesser but more human happiness, like the “happy hunting grounds,” the mead halls of the Vikings, the Paradise of the Muslims, or even to re-incarnating in a higher social class three days after death as some of the eastern religions do. But no: for us the “perfect happiness” of heaven is so far beyond all this that Paul wrote, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
The best is the enemy of the good! We can’t imagine heaven well enough to look forward to it!
We need to get around this. We need to think about what heaven will be like until we look forward to it, long for it, are even fixated on it!
How? One way is to take all the images and go beyond them. Ask what kind of happiness, joy, and delight they promise. Then imagine that joy without restricting it to the images. Do this until our hearts are crying out, “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
In Luke 21: 34-36 Jesus is warning us against what happens if we don’t think about the “end time.” We can get so caught up in what we feel, want, fear, and are working for in the present that we lose sight of what it is all about, where it is all going. Jesus tells us to “be on guard,” to keep aware of the beginning and the end, lest, when the real becomes present, “that day catch you like a trap.”
The only intelligent way to live is as faithful stewards looking forward to the master’s return, constantly repeating, “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
So ends the liturgical year.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Keep your eyes open. Look ahead.