Rouse From Drowsiness Your Heart!

Saturday of Week 34 in Ordinary Time - Cycle I

Dan. 7:15-27 & Lk. 21:34-36

Today is the last day of the Church's liturgical year. Tomorrow the season of Advent begins.

In the first reading the vision of the four beasts depicted different dynasties whose rulers would influence the lives of the Jews as they tried to remain faithful to Yahweh. The fourth beast, "different from the previous ones" (Dan. 7:19), represented the Greek dynasty founded by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. The tenth horn on that beast, the one who "harass the saints of the Most High" (Dan. 7:21), was Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king whose policies in the early second century B.C. led to wide scale persecution of the faithful Jews in Jerusalem.

We think of these various 'kingdoms' in political terms as a nation or country. We usually interpret this beast to be our national enemy of the moment. But the beast does not have to be a nation. It can be a movement, an industry, illegal drug cartels, pornography, the abortion industry, greedy multinational corporations. There are many candidates that speak against the Most High. These are also the candidates that can cause worldwide damage.

The larger point for us is that the beast, whatever form it takes, is always around. Every generation has its beast with which to contend. The faithful will never be free from opposition.

In the Gospel Jesus focused on three things which can so weigh our hearts down - drunkenness, dissipation and the anxieties of life (v.34) - warning, “that day will spring on you suddenly, like a trap” (v.34). These are very sober words, and we cannot just ignore them or pretend Jesus did not say them - He did, and we should take them seriously.

The Gospel is both bitter and sweet. The sweet is clear: we receive God's grace, forgiveness, redemption and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The bitter concerns the reality of death, judgement, Heaven, Hell, the second coming, the final judgement and the winding up of human history on planet Earth. The truth is that life is a precarious and a fleeting business. We are on Earth for what actually is a drop in time when compared with the ocean which is eternity. God wants us to cultivate an eternal perspective. We need God's grace to teach us to number our days aright so we may gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).

Human life is like the grass of the field: one day it is here and the next it is gone. Faith teaches us that one day we will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and we will be called to give an account of our lives. On that day we will be judged according to the royal law of love. We are called to live as those who have a lively and sensitive awareness that we will stand before the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord and King. This does not mean that we have to be dour, miserable and cowering, but rather the opposite: full of hope, love and obedience. Jesus did not come to condemn but to give us life and life to the full.

Saint Mother Teresa once said, “I am not sure exactly what Heaven will be like, but I do know that when we die and it comes for God to judge us, He will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather He will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?'

I think the most fortunate person in this world was the repentant thief. He heard from Jesus’ lips those happy words, “I promise you this day you will be with Me in Paradise.” It would be good if each day we said his prayer, “Jesus, remember me in your kingdom,” and on our last day on this Earth hearing Jesus say, “I promise you this very day you will be with Me in Paradise.”