The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on November 28, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, for the Catholic Distance University Gala at Lansdowne Resort in Lansdowne, Virginia.
One sentence summarizes so well the basic theme of today's liturgy: Jesus Christ will come again. This is very evident in our Scripture readings. In the first reading from the Book of Daniel, when Jesus comes at the end of time, those who have been wise and who have led the many to justice will live forever. In the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus awaits the final victory over His enemies and ours: the enemies of suffering, evil, sin and death. In the third reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, the return of Jesus as "‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory" is described in vivid apocalyptic language.
This same theme, Jesus Christ will come again, is often repeated during the celebration of Mass, for example, in the Creed or Profession of Faith, where we affirm that "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end," or in the Acclamations after the Consecration, like "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Even the world of nature gives a hint of the end times when Jesus Christ will come again. The trees are progressively losing their leaves and will soon stand starkly bare; the light of day gives way to longer hours of darkness; the warmth of the sun is diminishing to an increasing cold. All this is but a reminder that life is short: each one's personal life in terms of human existence and the life of the world in its present stage. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that at the end of time, at the Last Judgment, "In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each one's relationship with God will be laid bare" (No. 1039).
What is our reaction to the reality which today's theme projects before us, namely, that Jesus Christ will come again? What should our reaction be as Christians, as the disciples of Jesus, to this promised return of the Lord, both at the moment of our individual death and at the end of the world? Is ours a reaction of fear, gloom and depression? Or rather, is it a reaction of urgency coupled with hope?
Indeed, as genuine disciples, our reaction should be that of urgency coupled with hope! As we are reminded today, toward the end of our liturgical year, that Jesus Christ will come again, within us there should be a sense of urgency about becoming ever more and remaining true disciples of Jesus, His loyal friends. This sense of urgency deepens within us the spirit of conversion – ongoing conversion. Every day calls us to draw closer to Christ Jesus, Who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." This means letting go of whatever keeps us away from Christ and turning towards Him in repentant love. Every day, Jesus knocks on the door of our heart, asking us to let Him enter more deeply and more closely, so that together we can journey to the real home that awaits us.
This sense of urgency not only leads us to seek our own conversion but the conversion of others. If Jesus becomes the pearl of great price, the love of our lives, then we want others as well to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him forever in the next.
This sense of urgency is really about evangelization: becoming evangelized ourselves and evangelizing others, so that they will come to Jesus. There is an instructive line in today's first reading: "those who lead the many to justice will be like the stars forever." By the witness of our lives and by the appropriate invitation and even challenge, we can lead others to Christ, the source of every grace and blessing, we can lead them to the divine justice, the salvation, He alone can give them. So then, are we responding to the sense of urgency to be converted and to lead others to conversion as we await the return of the Lord Jesus?
Our sense of urgency is coupled with the spirit of hope – Christian hope. The process of conversion – ours and others' – is not easy. We will need to struggle against the weakness of our human nature, the attacks of the evil one who does not want us to turn back to the Lord, and the distractions of the world around us. The hope we desperately need comes from Jesus. Our second reading reminds us that Jesus "offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God. … For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated." We are being consecrated as we seek, with the help of divine grace, our deepening conversion. Jesus is interceding for us, so that in Him and in His unceasing prayer for us before the Father, we truly find our hope and the strength which flows from such hope. Our hope remains rooted in this Divine Savior, Who will come at the end to lead us home to eternal life with Him.
Yes, in the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare" (cf. Catechism, No. 1039). Catholic Distance University exists in order to provide people within our country and across the world with the opportunity to understand the truth Who is Jesus and how following Him enables us to build up His Kingdom within our world and to inherit life without end once we pass from this world. Catholic Distance University is truly an agent of evangelization and catechesis and an instrument for living in a right relationship with God, with one another and with oneself. During this Eucharist, in which we give thanks to God for the salvation He has accomplished in Christ His Son and Our Lord, we also give thanks for Catholic Distance University and all those who support it so faithfully and so generously with their continuing prayers and sacrificial gifts.
Yes, Jesus Christ will come again and when He does, may each of us cry out in joyful hope: "Come, Lord Jesus come! Bring me home to live with you forever in the Kingdom of endless glory."