Anne Frank wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Today we can choose to not waste a minute in making our world better. That’s what the first four apostles called by Jesus did: they “immediately left their boat. . . and followed him.” What could I do immediately today? It’s easy to let another day go by, but what about today? Could I buy a toy for a poor child today? Could I get around to making that phone call? Could I help someone arrange a zoom visit with a relative in a care facility? Could I refrain from the next sarcastic or unkind comment that pops into my head? These are choices that demand our immediate attention.
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that we are “enriched in every way…not lacking in any spiritual gift.” Though hard to believe, such affirmation gives us the spiritual boost we need to start the Advent Season. A new Church Year is a time for new resolve. What if we’d make a choice every day to live the life of Christ as fully as possible? Let’s start today by choosing to live this day to our personal best. Which spiritual gift will I use today to meet Christ and to become worthy of the Kingdom?
Before Vatican II the Solemnity of Christ the King was the last Sunday in October. In my home parish this was the weekend for First Communion and every third year Confirmation. So I am fond of this feast as an anniversary, although now the Solemnity rightfully occurs on the last Sunday of the Church Year (this year November 22).
Kings and kingdoms may sound pompous, but the Gospels for Christ the King show a humble and generous King This year (Cycle A) the King welcomes into the kingdom those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Last year (Cycle C) the King from his cross welcomes a thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And in Cycle B Jesus tells Pilate that he has come into the world as a King to testify to the truth. Every year Jesus turns the focus away from himself and on his People. May humility, truth, and generosity characterize our world leaders, and may those virtues characterize us, so that we will be welcomed into the Kingdom.
“Silence grows me and frees me,” writes Joan Chittister in Radical Spirit. “It enables me to become the ear of God on earth. . . ” (p. 162). So often we remind ourselves that we are the hands and feet of Christ, but it’s a bit surprising to talk about becoming the ear of God on earth. With our hands we make sandwiches for a food pantry, and with our feet we go to a Habitat site. Our hands and feet do the work of God to meet the needs of his children.
But what do our ears do? Listening to God’s small voice, we may discover our weaknesses; we may hear a different interpretation of Scripture; we may focus on a call to do more or be more. In this way silence grows and frees me. In the deep silence of listening we may hear what enters God’s ear. We may hear the moans of suffering that God attends to. We may catch sounds that delight the Creator. We may catch the whispers of children, the agony of the grieving, the shouts of injustice. When we hear what God hears, we become the ear of God on earth.
Today let your hands and feet do the work of God that you heard by being God’s ear.
The Church Year continually evolves. In the first couple centuries the anniversaries of the deaths of martyrs were remembered, and many of those early saints are still on our Church calendar, such as Saint Lawrence on August 10. The list gets longer with each new decade.
Robert Taft, S.J. suggested each parish church having its own calendar of local saints. Who has been known for their lives of prayer and good deeds? The day of their death becomes their birth into eternal life, which becomes their day on the parish calendar. You may like to start your own calendar for the family and friends and coworkers who have gone before you. Periodically flip through the pages and pray the names aloud. “Saint N.N., pray for us.” This becomes your own Litany of the Saints.
Saints have a past. One denied his Master, and another doubted Jesus’ Resurrection. Some were scolded for their lack of faith. Some couldn’t control their anger or addictions. Hagiographers portray several as eccentric. Reading the lives of some saints, we may even feel sorry for their families, friends, or community members who had to put up with them! Yet we now pray to these hard-to-live-with saints. Why? They had a future. Somewhere buried beneath their obvious faults and failings were hearts centered on God. These saints kept following God’s will and leading the lives they were called to live. Their eyes were on the prize—life with God. We have a future, too. Come on, all you fellow sinners! Keep trekking! Rejoice and be glad! Our reward will be great in heaven (Mt. 5:12).
Have you ever lain back in a hammock and said, “Aah! This is the life”? As if anything besides relaxation is not life. Yet life encompasses everything, even suffering and death. In Evolution Toward Personhood, Ilia Delio, OSF writes: “The gospel message is about life. Anything else…misses the vision of God, who is Life itself.” In the Gospels we see Jesus experiencing life in its entirety. His life was perfect virtue, yet Scripture says he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21). I could never imagine Jesus saying in his agony in the garden and subsequent imprisonment, “This is the life.” Yet he lived that night with his whole being. At every moment of his days on earth, death, and resurrection Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
As followers of Christ, we live and move and have our being in him. These weeks of the pandemic have been difficult, sad, frustrating. Yet they are the life we have been given. We begin a new month, and some may count the days since they were employed or had seen their families or had a chance to rest from long shifts in hospitals. Each day has been and will be another day of life. How will we live each day of November?
Let’s include in our daily routines some reading of the Gospels to find the message of Life and the vision of God who is Life itself.