We must have experienced this before: you are speaking to someone and they are constantly looking at their cellphones every other minute. They seem to be anticipating a call or a text or a Facebook post or a notice from Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp or any of the many other apps in our time. I just cannot help but wonder what it is exactly they are anticipating.
Anticipations also play a very prominent role in the Christian life. They energize and determine the direction and purpose of our lives. We thus need to ask ourselves what is it that we expect or anticipate as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world of mass confusion today. Expecting the right things, the things that are rooted in the promises of Jesus, will determine our ability to do the right thing and respond appropriately to Him in our world today.
Mt 16:13-20 shows us four things that we should anticipate as disciples of Jesus today.
Firstly, we must anticipate that the Father will speak and reveal His Son, Jesus Christ, to us always, especially in confusing times like ours. The crowds are all confused about the identity of Jesus and Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, instructed by the Father, answered correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus immediately affirms his answer as coming from the Father, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” The Father does not keep malice with us His beloved children and He would not live us hopelessly confused. He speaks to us constantly, pointing us to His Son, Jesus Christ, as the only answer to all the confusion and darkness in our lives and in the world.
Secondly, we must anticipate that Jesus will act to build up His Church, individually in her members and collectively as a whole, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” It is not Peter, the rock, but Jesus Christ who gathers and builds up His Church by His sacrifice on the cross and by the Eucharist today. Jesus Christ is the one who becomes one with his Church so as to build up the members and the entire body of the Church through Peter and his successors down through the ages.
Thirdly, we must anticipate a fierce and unceasing conflict with the forces of darkness. There is the “gate of the Netherworld,” a conglomerate of forces that would fight to resist the growth and spread of God’s kingdom. The Church will always have her sworn enemies from within and outside the visible Church. Her enemies hate the Church just as they hate Jesus, the Head of the Church as Jesus attested, “If they world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”(Jn 15:18)
Lastly, we must also anticipate the final victory of Christ and His Church over all the forces of darkness, “The gates of the Netherworld would not prevail against it.” There would be many defeats on the side of the Church but ultimately, just like the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the struggle will end in ultimate triumph of the Church after many defeats. Jesus assures her of this too, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…and no one will take your joy from you.”(Jn 16:20,22)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we also live today in a world of mass confusion in which we are no longer sure about anything. We are witnessing the spread of a mysterious Covid-19 virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed millions more with fear. We are not sure how it began or how it will end. We see Catholic Churches and statues being vandalized and destroyed in many places and we are clueless why this is happening. The Church too is ripped with numerous sexual and financial scandals, doctrinal errors and heretical teachings that bewilder the faithful. It is obvious that many are not even sure about what it means to be male and female anymore and what true sexuality is all about. Most importantly, we are even confused about the person and teaching of Jesus Christ today.
One good side about all this confusion is that it reveals our true anticipations in life. Those who have purely worldly and self-centered expectations in this life, expectations that are not in any way related to their relationship with Christ or rooted in His promises to us, find themselves both confused and weak in these times. Focused on Utopian ideals and self-preservation alone, they are the ones who will panic and even become angry and depressed, blaming one person or another for the crises that they cannot overcome.
This will happen because such people fail to listen for the Father’s reassuring voice. They also fail to realize the hidden actions of Christ in these times to build up His Church. They so desire to be loved and accepted by others that they cannot face up to the fact that the Church will have enemies that she must confront with love and truth. They have no sense of final victory because they just cannot see how the Church can escape complete annihilation in this conflict with the forces of darkness. They would likely leave the Church eventually or just remain as detached bystanders.
Then there are those who will thrive and grow strong in these times because their anticipations were properly aligned with the will of God for His Church. These are the ones who listen for the voice of the Father and who let His word remain in their hearts just like Mama Mary who “pondered God’s words in her heart.”(Lk 2:19) They will also wait patiently and anticipate the saving action of Jesus in their lives. They will have a Marian attitude of openness that allows Jesus to act in them and through them in the world. They are not overwhelmed by the forces of evil within and outside the Church too, but oppose them vehemently till the very end. They are not discouraged by their temporary defeats in this battle but they fight on, knowing that the final victory belongs to Christ and His Church.
So, what are we anticipating in this life as disciples of Jesus? Let us examine our hearts well and choose our anticipations very well because what we anticipate will determine our strength and direction in life. Let us listen to the Father and hear Him point out His Son to us in these times. The more we know Jesus Christ, the more we will receive His own will for us and for our world, and thus allow Him to change the deepest expectations and anticipations of our hearts.
Once we begin to anticipate the right things based on our relationship with Him, and not based on wishful thinking or the numerous Utopian ideals of our times, we can hope to do the right things in this world and follow Christ faithfully to the end even in the midst of confusions.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!