01Dec 1 December 2012. Saturday in the 34th Week of Ordinary Time.

Rev 22:1ff. The river of life, the vision of the Lamb, and the promise that He is coming soon.

Luke 21:34ff. Be on your guard. Pray constantly to stand secure before the Son of Man.

Realism and Hope

This final day of the church’s year continues the call to blend practical realism with an exalted hope. We need to see the heavy clouds from both sides; on one side, darkness and signs of persecution, on the other side, bright sunlight and the enjoyment of eternal peace. The readings affirm that the transition from darkness to light will be certain and sudden. Meanwhile one must live with faith in God’s eternal plan for us and for the entire world. Whether in darkness or light, we are not alone but are united with all of God’s holy ones.

Though the gospel of Luke was composed after one such period of severe trial (the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70) he wrote it during a peaceful breathing-space. We gather this from the way that he words Jesus’ warning, “Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares.” It sounds like an echo of our Irish spate of prosperity in the early 2000’s, when so many felt drawn to overspend and overindulge themselves! How prophetic sound the words of Jesus, for our recent situation since the crash of the Celtic Tiger in 2008: “The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap.” If it is true that faith thrives more during adversity than during peace and financial prosperity, perhaps we may hope for some rebirth in our Church. But in Luke Jesus also advises that spiritual life requires commitment: “Pray constantly.” Live in God’s presence and then you will “stand secure before the Son of Man” when he comes in full glory.

In his vision on the island of Patmos, St John views the momentous crises of earthly existence from the perspective of final glory. Here is the silver lining to the clouds, the end of the three and a half years of trial. The seer of Patmos feels himself already standing with one foot within the heavenly Jerusalem and one foot on planet earth. Therefore he hears Christ’s promise, “I am coming soon… They will drink from the river of living water, clear as crystal, which issues from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

The thirty-four weeks of the church year are coming to an end this very day. They do so with an announcement that the Lord Jesus will come suddenly, soon and gloriously. We have been gifted with the long preparation of the church year. We will now be further graced with four weeks of special alertness and prayer during Advent, starting tomorrow. With the help of God, we can lay aside every hindrance of sin, and with eyes fixed on Jesus, persevere in running the race which lies ahead, to reach the glorious destiny he has won for us.

First Reading: Revelation 22:1-7

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Gospel: Luke 21:34-36

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”