Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gospel Words for Today: The Last Day

Years ago, I was visiting my daughter and her husband in Virginia. A good friend lived close to them and asked if she could take me somewhere. To my surprise, we pulled into the parking lot of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It was spectacular! I felt as though I was walking through a cathedral in Italy. The only difference being the Basilica doesn't have the musty smell or distinctive character of a church standing for centuries. Mass was in progress when we entered. Quietly making our way to the back of the church, the striking figure behind the altar grabbed my attention. I honestly couldn't tell if it was God the Father or Jesus from far away. After Mass ended, we made our way back to the altar. Up close the figure is definitely Jesus. I have never seen Him portrayed as in this stunning mosaic. After doing some research, I discovered it is called Christ in Majesty. It depicts Jesus at Judgement Day. A great blog by Msgr. Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington discusses the image in detail:

The blonde hair, stern blue eyes, muscular build, and flames were intimidating at first. Maybe even a bit scary. But the more I scoured over every detail, the more I felt safe and protected by this depiction of our Savior. Judgement Day is not going to be happy and glorious for unbelievers. Jesus wants to save all His children. My interpretation of the stern look in this mosaic is the difficulty Jesus will face on the last day. Some will fall prostrate before Him, and some will continue to turn away. This is a choice we must make every day. Do we choose to follow Christ by how we live our lives, or do we choose to make ourselves happy according to the world? For me, I choose to follow Him.

In today's Gospel (John 12:44-50), Jesus speaks of the last day:

Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me."

In Anne a lay apostle's book Serving in Clarity, she drives home the point of following our Shepherd:

"The Church is warning us, cautioning us, advising us and attempting to lead us. The Church is the vehicle through which God seeks to counsel His flock. Consider that if lambs rejected the shepherd, they would be lost and vulnerable. Should the lambs turn their back on their shepherd or react in rage when the shepherd draws them down a given path? Wouldn’t it be ridiculous of the lambs to accuse the shepherd of stifling them? Controlling them? Wouldn’t it be a foolish lamb that bites the shepherd when the shepherd tries to bring him to a safe place? I am comparing us to lambs, as Jesus does because we are vulnerable, as well as lovable. If we reject the way, the direction that Jesus is giving us, we are at the mercy of the world and He cannot protect us. A smart lamb, a thinking lamb would say to himself, 'Hmm. The shepherd knows what he is doing. He has been put in charge of this flock and no doubt knows the way home. It is in my best interest to follow Him and encourage others to follow Him so that we can all arrive home safely.' In each of our souls let us cultivate a spirit of obedience even as we accept and understand that our life today may not match the perfect obedience lived by Jesus. In other words, we all accept that we can probably do a little bit better.”

I know I can do a little bit better than I did yesterday. Lay apostles, what can you do today that you didn't do yesterday? Pray a Rosary? Love yourself? Accept your circumstances no matter what they are knowing Christ is in charge? Whatever it is, do it. Make today different than yesterday. After all, don't you want to be prostrate before Him on the last day?

Thank you, Lord, for calming my fears of the last day. I know as long as I live my life for You, I am heading in the right direction.

God bless,

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