It is very easy to get discouraged today. Watch the news! The words of Jesus ring as true today as they did 2000 years ago and he is speaking directly to us. We have unrest, division in our country, wars and uprisings are happening through out the world. Even the church itself is in a time of struggle and many are worried about what will happen in the future. Here in our own diocese, there are not enough priests to cover all the parishes, the clergy are getting older, somehow we are losing the younger generations and Jesus is less and less important. It is easy to think that it is all coming to an end.
But, what does Jesus tell us? Don’t follow the false prophets, don’t buy into the latest fads, don’t look for quick answers….Jesus challenges us to see that the remedy for all the turmoil of our day is where is was 2000 years ago: In Him and in Him alone. It is through the Word of God and the Spirit that hovered over the waters of chaos at the beginning that the universe was created and it was through the mystery of the Son’s death and resurrection and the out pouring of the Holy Spirit that the Church was born. Each of us was transformed into the living stones and jewels of the Body of Christ by the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of our baptism. It is by our faith that God will bring all of this to its final conclusion in the fullness of the kingdom.
It is because of this eternal mystery that we can be people of faith and hope even when the world around us seems to be ending. Nothing is eternal. No human person has the answer. The health of a parish community is not measured by the number of people in the pews nor in the collections. The church can be filled and rich but far from the Gospel. A small parish family that does good works expecting nothing in return, that is vibrant and alive in faith, whose worship is sincere and focused on Jesus is rich in grace. The community that is focused on Jesus alone will not fear the future. Jesus reminds us that our faith is not in a buildings (as vital as it is to have beautiful places to worship in) but in the real and living mystery of Christ. Jesus is telling us what an effective parish is all about and what to expect. To remain focused on him will not take us out of the struggle of the world and does not mean we will be exempt from worry and fear. But he reminds us to not get trapped in worry and fear. He will be with us no matter what. I think that maybe the reason the world has a struggle with an authentic Christian community. To shine as a people of hope and promise in the darkness of fear and doubt challenges those who are self centered and think they are the messiahs who will save the world. These are the people throughout history that have persecuted Christians and even martyred them. However, like Jesus who died on the Cross, the witness of the martyrs still cries out with a loud voice that Jesus alone is the hope for the world.
Jesus is the “son of man who will rise with his healing rays”. Anyone else is a false prophet and not to be listened to. My brothers and my sisters, as Advent approaches, let us together take a step back and ask ourselves how will the people who will come into our midst on Christmas know we are focused on Jesus? Will they experience us as followers of Jesus? May we be known as Christians in our world.