Keep Watch

JMJ

The Readings for the 19th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

That night [The Passover] was known beforehand to our ancestors, so that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.

Wisdom 18:6

IT’S INTERESTING TO READ THIS passage from Wisdom together with the call to faith (in Hebrews) and Our Lord’s command to “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” It’s the contrast that makes it interesting: the followers of the Son of Man do not know when he will return. But we must act anyway. None of the folks listed in the “By Faith” passage of Hebrews knew. But they were called to act anyway. “All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” The Israelites, however, before the Passover, were told to pick an unblemished lamb from their flocks on the tenth of the month and, four days later, their redemption would be accomplished. “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:11b-12). The Israelites, says Solomon in the book of Wisdom, were thus given courage. They could put their faith in this unseen promise of God.

Why does Holy Mother Church call this to our mind today – these unseen things together with this one seen thing?

Perhaps, in her wisdom, she knows that we grow weary in our watch. The first lesson calls us to see that Ancient Israel only needed to wait four days. The second lesson reminds us of all our forebears who died without ever receiving the promise and yet they went gladly forward in faith. Yet we can – from our vantage point – see that their faith was not in vain: for the promises made to them have been fulfilled in the Messiah.

So we, too, might be strengthened in our watch by being thus reminded and so encouraged in our life – and death – even if we do not see the promises made to us yet come to fulfillment.

When I was in High School there was a promise made by some radio preacher guy that Jesus was coming back in April of 1980. I thought my foster mother was a bit wonky for believing this guy (for no one knows the day or the hour) but the closer we got to the date in April of that year the more insistent she got that he was right. I was surprised to find how many of my fellow students also knew of this preacher guy. As much as the Teenage Me couldn’t be bothered to show an adult that I actually cared about such things, I let her hug me before I left for school that morning. She was convinced we’d be seeing Jesus before I got home.

I had a Math Test at about 3PM that day.

And just in the middle of the test.

A trumpet blew.

My breath caught.

A trumpet was sounding from rom a car in the parking lot.

My friend, Linda, and I looked at each other across our papers and then the moment passed. She silently shook and we finished the test.

I’ve often tried to imagine what it would be like to live in that tension every day. What would matter to me and what would not matter at all? My Foster Mother still made breakfast and coffee that Tuesday. She sent me to school with lunch money. The clothes were cleaned and supper was ready that night just as expected.

We see all the other promises of God fulfilled save this one. How can we manage not to live as if this may happen at any moment? How can we let ourselves fall into sin mindful that at any moment we could die and be called to judgement? How dare we turn the eyes of our soul from our internal contemplation of the Father for even a moment, knowing that that may be the moment of Parousia, and we will not be ready?

St John Chrysostom included in his Eucharistic Prayer (called the Anaphora) thanksgiving for “the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, and the second and glorious coming again.” In the Eucharist, all of time collapses together from both ends of eternity to here. There is only one eternal Sacrifice offered by the Son to the Father. At every Mass, we stand in that one offering at the end of time before the Father where the Messiah is all in all and the Kingdom is handed over to the Father. It happens at every Mass so how much more should we not be ready always?

Pay attention.

Be ready.

A trumpet blows.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He feeds the homeless and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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