The following is my homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings can be found here.
A few weeks ago our our internet went out at the friary. It was horrible. No Netflix, no YouTube… just Fr. Frank and I… enjoying each others’ company. Luckily, we called the cable company and they said they’d send a technician out the next day. Unluckily, they said that he would be there anytime between 11 and 5. Lovely.
And so I waited at the house. At first, I was very vigilant, knowing that he could come at any moment. I didn’t make any phone calls, didn’t take Louis for a walk… I didn’t even want to take a shower or use the bathroom, just in case he came in the five minutes that I couldn’t answer the door. I just waited around the house, ready to answer the door at the drop of a hat.
After a few hours… I was not so vigilant. He’s not coming now, let me just run up to the center for a minute; I’ll just pop into the shower; maybe I’ll go take a nap. As the day rolled on, it was difficult to remain perfectly ready for whenever he showed up. I had things to do. I couldn’t be waiting by the door for six hours. Life moves on.
Happily, the technician finally came, fixed the modem, and so we have internet… I’m sure you were worried. But it reminded me a bit of our readings today. In each one, we hear of God speaking of a future reality yet to come, a reality that will come at an indeterminate time that we must way for. Wisdom reminds us of how the Israelites, those who were slaves and oppressed, waited to be saved for many years, how they had lived not knowing the time or day when they would be set free; the letter to the Hebrews tells us that many lived their entire lives waiting for their faith to be fulfilled, but died before that happened; and of course, o Gospel speaks of the master returning to the servant, a clear analogy to Jesus returning to his people in the second coming. In all of this, God tells us that we must wait for what we want. He tells us to be vigilant, to be ready at any moment for our Lord to return, to gird your loins. Everyone’s loins girded?
I’ve heard preachers say, “Treat every moment as if the Lord is on his way. Is this where you wanna be when Jesus comes?” they ask. And on one hand, it’s great advice, right. It reminds us to have integrity, to do what’s right even if no one is watching, to be ready at any moment. Good stuff. There’s just one problem—it’s entirely impractical. If people actually did live their lives as if Jesus were coming back right now, no one would ever go to work and there would be no dinner made tonight. If people actually did live with that much vigilance, they would run out of energy almost immediately. Does that mean we’re not supposed to sleep? Not supposed to go to the gym, clean out the gutters, or ever get dirty? Are we supposed to avoid Georgia football games, just in case Jesus comes back part way through the fourth quarter and our church is empty?
If you’ve ever tried to wait for the cable guy and found that 11-5 window a bit difficult to manage, then what do we do with Jesus who left us 2000 years ago and said he’d be right back? What does “being ready” even mean? I want to suggest three things.
The first is that we wait with surety, not worrying
Whether it’s with the cable guy or waiting for the that cute guy or girl to text you because they said they would, there’s always a doubt that it’s never going to happen. You can wait all you want, but it might all be for naught. Not with Jesus. As people of faith, we have no need to worry, no reason to doubt. Jesus said that he would come, and so we can take that to the bank. Our hope, in this life and the next, is not just some wishful thinking, but the most unbreakable promise that we could ever receive.
How do we know this? Because we already possess what we await.
While we do wait for heaven, we do wait for the second coming—events, places in the future—the fact of the matter is that our hope is rooted in the past and in the present: Jesus has already come. He already took on human flesh, walked this earth, performed miracles, and died for us. Not in the future, but in our midst does he make himself present in the reading of the word, in me, in you, and of course, in the sacrifice on the altar. It’s why, if you ever noticed, we begin by referencing four things—I kiss the altar, the book of the Gospels is placed in a prominent place, I greet you with the Lord’s blessing, and you greet me back. At each and every mass, we begin Mass by acknowledging the presence of Christ right here among us. The very first things we do when we worship. What we await, what we hope for, is already in our midst. We’re gathered here, not just for some distant, far off, abstract future… but for the living and true God among us.
And so, point number three, our waiting must not be passive, but that of active disciples. We do not sit around, waiting at the door, waiting at the phone, hoping that something will happen to us. As Christians, we know that something has already happened to us: in our baptisms and confirmations, we were grafted with Christ and infused with the Holy Spirit; in hearing the Word and receiving the Eucharist, we are continually filled up and sent out. The very reason that we are a Church, the mystery of Pentecost, is so that we would not need to sit around on our hands waiting for Christ to come back before we did anything, but that we would take up where he left off, that we would go out and heal people as he did; that we would go out and feed people like he did; that we would go out and be ministers of peace and justice in a violent and isolated world.
What does it mean to be ready for Christ’s return? It means living with sure faith that it is not a matter of if, but when; it means recognizing in all that we do, in everywhere we go, that Christ’s presence is among us, filling us with his love; and it means devoting our lives to the mission that he started.
And so, I have to ask… Are you ready?