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Straighten Up and Fly Right ..."

Entrance Antiphon: Jer 29:11, 12, 14 — “The Lord said: ‘I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon Me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place.’”

First Reading: Mal 3:19-20a — “The sun of justice will shine on you.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 — “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.”

Second Reading: 2 Thes 3:7-12 — “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

Alleluia: Scripture — Alleluia, alleluia. “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Lk 21:5-19 — “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 73(72):28 — “To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord.”

Are you ready for the end-times? Grab your ticket and let’s go! See the blazing fire of the oven, and the sun of justice with its healing rays. But woe to you who are not ready. It will not go well for you. So stay awake ... repent and prepare. Pay attention to how you are living and be sure to make amends where they are needed, for the coming of the Day of the Lord is swift.

The Scripture readings that herald the end of the liturgical year are filled with drama. The Church calls us to be ready. To start, we can become more aware of our own physical world, paying attention to the way we live, and how we bring God’s love to others, as we prepare for the celebration of God’s incarnation into human life on the feast of Christmas.

Staying awake requires constantly asking if we are living in the way that Jesus taught. Ask yourselves: Do your values reflect those of the Gospel? Is your life based on Jesus’ teachings ... resulting from daily dedication, prayer, and practice? Are your actions directed in service of others? Many of us are selfish ... We easily focus on our own wants and needs, ignoring those of others. But when we turn our efforts outward, we find that our own needs are met in a deeper and more fulfilling way. Are we faithful to the Gospel? Are we nourished by our Christian community? Communities keep us grounded and support our common values. Our parish nurtures our faith. Malachi describes proud people and evildoers as reduced to stubble. How big a role does pride play in our lives? Jesus modeled a way of humility, of being one with humanity.

Discipleship means learning to follow. Paul exhorts the Christians in Thessalonika to imitate his ways, those of Christ Jesus. Work for what you eat ... do not expect free food. Social services are good but should not replace working to the extent that a person can. Do not disrupt the lives of those around you. Today we are often challenged both philosophically and physically by the differences of those around us. Mind your own business! Be productive and get things done, for the vineyard of the Lord needs workers. Do not let distractions and petty issues get the best of you. Work quietly and eat your own food. Act in a manner that will benefit all.

Living well will not “rescue” us from life’s trials and persecutions. It will, however, help us on our journey to become compassionate and understanding people.

After Jesus’ death, people expected the second coming to happen soon, even in their lifetimes. Here we are, over 2,000 years later, still waiting for the Parousia ... in other words, we are still waiting for the Second Coming. Science tells us that our earth can go on for many millions more years. They also say it is possible that humans could potentially extinguish themselves in time, through nuclear events or other means. God gives all human beings free will. How do we use it to bring about the health and well-being of the world we live in? The signs and persecutions cited in today’s Gospel should be an encouragement to watch and be ready. We must live in a constant state of waiting for the Lord to come again in glory. We know neither the day nor the hour. Our world today very much needs Christ’s love, along with God’s mercy and grace. Today’s end times readings should move us to work toward the ultimate goal of bringing about the reign of God on earth.

The time of reckoning is here. It’s time to “straighten up and fly right,” as Nat King Cole once sang. Much like December 31st and the resolutions we make each January 1st, each year in the Church we have this annual call to order as the liturgical year ends and we begin to look toward Advent ... a new Church year. Each year we are reminded to look at where we have been, where we are going, and how best to get there. For Christians, this can only be through following Christ Jesus. As we move from our reflections on the end-times, let us put ourselves in the presence of God as we prepare to more fully immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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