1st Advent [C] 2006

Fr. Charles Irvin

Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28;34-36

We spend enormous amounts of our resources, time, and energy on things that give us a sense of security. We buy expensive insurance policies to protect ourselves from any and every sort of disaster. We have high-tech alarm systems in our businesses, homes, and automobiles. Some of us work and even live in buildings surrounded with security fences. Closed circuit television eyes balefully stare at every living thing from the nooks and crannies of our habitats continually recording every movement.

And still we are not secure. Moreover, no amount of money, protection systems, medical effort, or bodyguards can protect us from the ultimate confrontation we each will individually face. For each one of us, you along with me, will one day stand face to face before Christ at the end of our earthly existence. Yet we live our lives awash in distractions, busily engaged in a whole lot that’s seemingly very important to us now. Our eyes are torn away from what lies ahead down the road.

Thus it is that Jesus gives us fair warning at the end of today’s Gospel account. Allow me to repeat the last part:

“Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly care. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, so be on the watch. Pray con­stantly for the strength to escape whatever is in pro­spect, and to stand secure before the Son of Man.”

Stand secure before the Son of Man? How can we stand secure? We will be standing there before Him without our bank accounts, our 401-k retirement accounts, our statements of net worth, our alarm systems, and with no security fences surrounding us. And we will not be looking into the eyes of closed circuit television monitors. No. We will instead be looking into the eyes of the Son of God. His judgment of what we did with our lives will be upon us.

What securities will we have? What securities should we have? All you and I will have at that moment when we face the Son of God will be our memories. It is from them that we will draw up our accounts; it is in them that we will find the records of our lives.

I want to share with you here what I’d like to have in my own account of memories when I die. You might want to use these hopes as a basis for constructing your own set.

I’d like my life’s record to include:

1 – A lot of love for a lot of people, particularly the hurting, the rejected, those without privilege and those who have experienced pain and loss. I’d like, too, to have a record revealing that I didn’t have much anger toward others. I’d like the record to show what I wasn’t haughty toward others, or arrogant, and that I didn’t seek to manipulate others. I’d like to have a record revealing an absence of taking advantage of others. I’d feel a whole lot more secure standing before the Son of God without those debits in my accounts.

2 – I’d like a record of my life showing sensitivity, respect, tender loving care, and humility in my relationships with others. I’d like to be known as someone who always had something to learn from those with whom I conversed. I would feel some security with those line-item credits in my final account.

3 – Reliance on the power of God would be an important series of memories that I would like to have in my portfolio of securities as I face Christ when my time on earth comes to an end. I hope there will be a lot of entries revealing times when I let God be God, when I relinquished my lust to control outcomes, to control other people’s decisions, to control the events of my life. I’d like my life’s history to reveal many times when I simply and humbly let God take care of people, places and events in my life. I’d like it recorded that I frequently asked God to show me just how He wanted me to act, asked Him to tell me just what He wanted me to say to others, shaped me to be the man that He dreamed I could be.

4 – Finally I would stand a whole lot more secure before the Son of Man if I faced Him in the beginning of my next life and simply continued on with the conversation we had already been having for a good portion of my life here on earth. Wouldn’t it be lovely to meet Christ face to face and discover that He was always near to me and was my dear Friend all along throughout my life here on earth… that we could begin to live eternal life together with each other simply by continuing on with the relationship we had already established while I was yet living here in the life He gave me? Yes, I think I would stand a whole lot more secure before the Son of Man if that were the case.

The season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is a season of reflection, a time of examination, a time when we look ahead with expectant hope for the Son of God’s coming to us. When we meet Him face to face at the end of our own personal lives, and when we all meet Him collectively at the end of the world, we will be filled with awe, that’s for sure.

But will we be filled with terror? Or will we be filled with love and the sense of security that under girds love? The answer, of course, depends upon the fabric of our lives, the contents of our relating to others, and the memories that we bring with us to that event.

The judgment we receive at the end, you see, will not so much be God’s judgment of us, but our own. It is WE, not God, who are forging our image, our persona, our character, our personality, and our personhood, all that we take to God at the end of the lives we have fashioned here on earth. The content depends not so much upon God as it does upon us.

“Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly care. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, so be on the watch. Pray con­stantly for the strength to escape whatever is in pro­spect, and to stand secure before the Son of Man.”

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”