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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Readings guide us in our preparation for Jesus’ coming

As the world prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Church calls us to turn our thoughts to the second coming

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Many people are thinking about Thanksgiving. The stores have turned their attention to Christmas. And the Church, in these next two weeks, is contemplating the end times, asking us to turn our thoughts to the second coming of Christ.

For example, we read excerpts from the entire book of Revelation — beginning to end — in the coming two weeks, the 33rd and 34th weeks of Ordinary Time. And the Psalm refrain for many days will be taken from the book of Revelation.

In conjunction with that, we recite Psalm 1 on Monday, Nov. 16 and Psalm 150 on Wednesday, Nov. 18. These are the first and the last Psalms! That’s a biblical way of saying: “And everything in between, too.” It’s as though the readings are helping us prepare for a comprehensive final exam. In a way, they are!

How should we prepare? Let me propose three figures for our consideration.

First, Zacchaeus. The Gospel for Tuesday, Nov. 17, tells us about his encounter with Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus’ response is perfect: he repents, and he makes his repentance concrete in his actions. That would be a good preparation for the end times. Like Zacchaeus, we don’t have to be perfect already. The question is whether we’re ready to repent, and make our repentance concrete in our actions. If we are, then we’ll be well prepared for the end times. If not, we have more work to do to get ready.

Second, the 24 elders — seated on thrones and wearing gold crowns — in the Book of Revelation (4:1-11). The first reading for Wednesday tells us about their encounter with God. Their response is perfect: they throw down their crowns before the throne of God. That provides a model and a challenge for us with respect to our gifts and talents — the places where, as kids would once say, “you rule!” Do we place our crowns at the service of God? Maybe we’re good at entertainment, or medicine, or finance, or music, or politics, or teaching, or whatever else we may be good at. We tend to use those crowns for our own benefit. What would it be like to throw down our crowns before the throne of God — not to abandon our skills, but to put them to use in God’s service? If we’re doing that, we’re well prepared for the end times. If not, we have more work to do to get ready.

Third and last, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. We celebrate her feast day this week (Nov. 18). And, actually, we celebrate the origin of her whole religious community this week: the first consecration of the first members of the order took place on Nov. 21, 1800. Rose Philippine lived in a time of political turmoil in France — one that eventually closed all the convents in the nation! How did she respond? Not with bitterness, but by going on mission. She went to the frontiers — to what we might call “the peripheries” — to serve the poor. And while her legacy is great today, the truth of her circumstances was very humble then. If we’re responding to our own situations of turmoil with that same spirit of service, then we’re well prepared for the end times. If not, we have more work to do to get ready.

The world is preparing for the next celebration. As it does so, let’s keep our eyes fixed on preparing for the most important thing — the coming of Jesus Christ.

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