Last Things. . .

As we round the corner to the close of this church year, we are reminded in our readings that our life on this earth is temporary. These last weeks turn our attention to the four last things: heaven, hell, death, and judgment. It is easy for some to live this earthly life as if it was all that there is for us. As Christians, we know that God has something infinitely more wonderful for us—life forever with God in heaven. Still, we fumble along, seeking pleasure wherever we can find it, not always focused on the world that is yet to come.

This focus on the last things fits very well into this season of the year, when trees begin to shed their leaves, temperatures drop, and our days get shorter. The glorious days of summer, with hours more daylight and leisurely activities, fades into the distance as we embrace the reality of the coming winter. And just as we know that winter will follow our brief season of fall, we also know that one day our earthly life will end, and we will be called by our Father to our “true home.” This is a good time for each of us to reflect on our earthly lives. Where do we find struggle and difficulty in living out our Christian faith? In what areas of our lives do we long for healing and reconciliation? Where do we live in doubt and fear?

This weekend we wrap up our year-long study of the Mass. During this year, we have taken a step back to really look at and reflect upon the reasons for each word and action within our liturgy. The final piece of this teaching brings us to the end of the Mass, or the sending forth. We are reminded as our worship ends, that there is a connection between the Eucharist we have just received and our mission to go out into the world and proclaim Christ. In the Latin translation, the final words are “ite missa est,” which does not translate well into our English language. The translation I like best is, “Go, you are sent.”

By now I think we have all realized the richness and depth of mystery that is present each time we gather to worship.  We enter another realm, that is not bound by time or space, a realm of the mystical, a place where saints and angels reside. The Mass is never just an ordinary action where people get together and listen to words and receive a piece of bread and a sip of wine. We literally experience the fullness of Christ in all his Divinity at every Mass. There is nothing in our earthly lives that compares to the experience of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

At the end of the Mass we are sent forth to bring Christ into the world. Every day in our world we encounter stories of death and destruction. Almost every evening, the local and national newscasts begin with a story of tragedy. These stories can evoke shock and horror as we contemplate the reality of evil in our world. At times I need to step away from attending to the media, because the stories can make me cynical and sad. Jesus Christ is present each time we gather as brothers and sister in Christ. In our church Jesus is present in the tabernacle where the Eucharist is reposed. He is present at every Mass in the person of the priest, in the Word, and in the sacrifice at the altar. But he is also present within each of our hearts!

We might assume that the person we meet in the grocery line or at the bus stop knows Jesus Christ. The reality is that we ought to assume that many people do not know Jesus.  This idea is backed up by current statistics that show the majority of people in our world profess no religious beliefs and live their lives by a set of moral standards that they establish for themselves irrespective of a belief in God.

“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” This is one version of four “sending forth” messages that the church has approved for concluding the Mass. We go in peace, because Jesus is our peace. We do not need to carry worry and fear and doubt, because Jesus has come deeply into our hearts to dwell within us. We glorify the Lord by a life that is lived in service to him and to the Church. We glorify the Lord, when we speak out boldly about what Jesus has done in our lives, and when we shine the light of Christ in the darkness of this world. It takes only a little light to scatter the darkness. As we enter these dark days of November, let us shine the light of Jesus Christ to all we meet. God knows the world needs it.

In Christ who is our Light,
Deacon Tim



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