As you may have noticed, we are coming to the end of our liturgical year. Next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of our liturgical year. The following Sunday is our liturgical New Year’s Day - the first Sunday of Advent. During these past few Sundays, our scripture readings have been leading us to think about the next life, and reflect on the last twelve months; to remember all that God has done for us, and acknowledge that we have not been all that we should be; To ask ourselves: How well or poorly have we loved God, loved ourselves, loved our neighbor?
Today, in the first reading, Malachi has been complaining that God’s people, even after He brought them back from exile, are not behaving like God’s people. He just gave a warning that a day of judgment will come for them.
Our reading from Luke’s Gospel talks about some nasty things the disciples will go through before Jesus comes again, but encourages them to remain steadfast in their devotion to Him, confident that Jesus has their backs through it all.
In our reading from the prophet Malachi, I looked very carefully at the horrors faced by Israel if she did not change her ways.
In our Gospel reading, I looked very carefully at what Jesus’ followers faced before Jesus returned.
When I finished going through the two readings, I felt relieved for Israel and the followers of Jesus: nowhere did it say they would have to endure a United States Presidential Election Cycle!
Looking at our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, I was quite stunned by the phrase “…If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”
Of course, the early Christians were a community that kept everything in common; everything was shared – food and labor. It makes sense that if someone were not doing the work of the community, he or she should not share in the meal. But, I thought, we Catholics do not hold everything in common. How does this apply to us?
Then, this past Friday, Pope Francis acted out a post-script to this letter that answered my question:
As reported in the Associated Press,
“Pope Francis has asked for a pardon from homeless people for all the Christians who turn away from the poor. In a moving ceremony on Friday in a Vatican auditorium, Pope Francis stood silently with his head bowed as he let several homeless people place their hands on his shoulders or clutch his cassock. Some 4,000 people from 22 countries who either are now homeless or who spent years living on the streets filled the auditorium in one of the Pontiff’s final events in the Holy Year of Mercy.
‘I ask pardon,’ the Pope said, on behalf of Christians who, ‘faced with a poor person or a situation of poverty, look the other way.’ After some of the homeless recounted their difficult lives, Francis praised the poor for holding fast to their dignity.”
I think I get it; We modern-day Catholics are a community who do share a meal in common – The Eucharist. We also share a work in common spreading the Good News. We belong at the table because we have done the work.
What work shall we be willing to do that we should eat the Bread of Life?
At this point in time, a couple of things come to mind:
For one, let’s rid ourselves of all the bitterness and acrimony left over from the election cycle. God loves Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, all other candidates, and everybody who hurled invectives and obscenities at each other (and if the shoe fits…!) - UNCONDITIONALLY. Let’s try to love as God loves, and do what we can to heal any hurts still festering.
For another, let’s look once again at the priorities our Bishops gave us in their document on Faithful Citizenship. Certain priorities in that document are not real high on the new administration’s priority list (and some not at all!). Those priorities are not going to go away; we need to find ways of making things happen with or without the government’s help.
Lastly, let’s make it unnecessary for out Pope to ask forgiveness for our behavior.