Daily Reflection
November 27th, 2001
Ray Bucko, S.J.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Daniel 2:31-45
Daniel 3:57, 58, 59, 60, 61
Luke 21:5-11

I was recently invited to give a weekend retreat for a group at Creighton University.  I found I had to ask what to me was a very awkward question:  when the retreat would be over?  Now this, in itself, is not a strange thing to ask for.  All of us have busy schedules and I certainly did not want to book another event to interfere with my completing the retreat.  But chalk it up to Polish guilt (the gift that keeps on giving) or whatever, I felt that asking the question might give the impression that I wanted the retreat to be over before I even got there! 

But I asked anyway, as it is an essential piece of information. 

We are now coming to the end of the liturgical year and the scriptures, as well as our thoughts, also turn to the question of ďwhen it will be over?Ē  Interestingly, Jesus does not tell us.  He does tell us of things that will happen in the future, things, tragically that are happening now.  So is this the end? 

Iím a great fan of nighttime radio while driving the expanses of South Dakota.  Iím particularly interested in the religious radio stations that seem to fixate on the end times (you can even buy books and cassettes on this topic!).  There is more and more of this kind of talk.   After all, this is an essential piece of information.

But the information can be asked for with two very different motivations.  This was my dilemma in asking for the time of the end of the retreat.  First, one might ask so that one can ďget outĒ just in time!  Too often the apocalyptic (end time) vision is one that invites fatalismóthis is what will happen or this is whatís going on and thereís nothing we can do about it.  We can only watch for the signs and tremble.  We can only save ourselves.  We canít do anything.  All of this is wrong thinking. 

We donít know when the master is coming, do we?  We donít know the when the end will be, do we?  So keep your phone bill down and DO NOT call Miss Cleo so she can read the cards and find out for you! 

The real importance of the end times is in the present. 

The other, better, motivation for knowing there will be an end is to deepen our appreciation for the present.  Keep in mind that throughout the Gospel Jesus teaches us to be forgiving, kind, loving, generous, prayerful.  Only at the end are we reminded of the end!  Our looking to the future end time (we pray in every liturgy during the Lordís Prayer:  ďÖ. as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus ChristĒ) is NOT an invitation to escape from the present but to live the present more profoundly.  The talk of kingdoms rising and falling, as we hear in Daniel and in the Gospel, is NOT an invitation to throw up our hands in despair at the political process or world politics as inevitable and beyond our control but to engage in a society that will seek greater justice and reconciliation within and without. 

Donít forget the joyful hope! 

The future is about the now and our knowledge of the future is about how we will live in the present.  Fearful signs and omens must motivate us to give comfort and to forgive not to flee and to panic.  Christ coming at the end is also an assurance of Christ intimately present in the now. 

Donít forget the joyful hope! 

The future end mentioned in the Gospel is an invitation to a new beginning in the present.  After we move through the most horrific time of the liturgical year and indeed a horrific time in the history of the United States and the world, we move into the most peaceful and comforting time:  Advent and Christmas.  Let us pray and work for that same comfort and peace in our own world!

Donít forget the joyful hope! 

As of this writing, I still have not heard from the student organizer as to when the retreat will be over.  The one thing I know, however, is that I will be at the retreat and Iím sure it will be a profound experience!  I need to know when this retreat will end, but only so I can engage in it properly in its present.  The readings today invite us to the same insight and the same action.

And donít forget the joyful hope! 


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