Luke 21: 30
When we were young, my parents would pack all six of us children into the station wagon in the middle of a summer’s heat and drive from the east coast out to the Midwest to visit relatives. It was two days of driving and over the years we looked for familiar landmarks as we drove. Who would be the first to spot the restaurant where we stopped for ice cream every time we drove through Indiana? In Iowa, we waited for a glimpse of the drive-in movie screen and the barber shop that signaled we were close to the farm where my father had grown up. When we got to Nebraska, we looked for the department store sign with the thermometer that meant we were near my mother’s childhood home.
With eight people riding in very close quarters for that long, we also learned other signs – like how much bickering we could get away with in the back seats before one of my parents would turn around with the glare that signaled their growing impatience.
Those were signs for us that meant we knew where we were and what might come next. Today’s gospel is about signs as Jesus points to a fig tree saying that, when the tree buds, it is a sign that summer is near. He is talking about signs that the Kingdom of God is near.
What does it mean that the Kingdom of God is near? What does that mean for the way we live our lives each day? When Jesus spoke the words in today’s gospel, the people of his time were waiting for God to come into their lives and save them from their sorrows. Are we any different? Are our needs any less? What is our sign today that the Kingdom is near? Today’s mystical scene from Revelation notes, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” This new heaven and earth has already come about with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. But the visible sign of it in today’s life is us.
We will know the Kingdom of God is at hand when we are different.
On this day so close to the end of the Church year, we can begin to prepare for Advent with small steps of our own. We can pray for peace in the world, and work toward justice, locally and globally. But perhaps even more challenging for us, we can look into our own daily lives and pray for forgiveness from those we have hurt. It is probably easy to think of someone we have judged quickly, made an unkind remark to or about or been impatient with in our busy-ness. Have we been dishonest with those we love? Ignored their needs? How can we make reparations for that today?
We can also ask God to soften our hearts toward someone who has hurt us. Over a lifetime, we collect the hurts and indignities, the pain and sorrow of betrayals. Who on this "list" of people can we forgive today? Today we can humbly beg God for the grace to pray for those who have injured us or insulted us and maybe even ask for the special grace to reach out to that person/those persons. A phone call, letter or e-mail to someone with whom we have had a rift might be today's first sign of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Catholic Church offers this prayer to God in the second Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation:
We will see the Kingdom when we ourselves are the signs of it by the way we live.
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