We wonder what he is saying, what this is about.
Is he talking about the end of the world?
Or is he talking about something else?
This is about a lot of things altogether.
First, Jesus’ supreme sacrifice on the Cross,
in which he would atone for the sins of the world,
reconcile humanity with God
and open heaven for all who would believe in him.
Second, Jesus rising from the dead, with great power and glory.
Third, Jesus ascends to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Fourth, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost,
and the Apostles – his messengers –
are sent out to the four corners of the world.
And then, 40 years after all this happens,
the destruction of the old temple in Jerusalem;
this drew to a close the system of sacrifices
that were meant to prepare for Christ’s coming.
And yet, as I said, these words not only describe events
that would soon happen, they also foreshadow the end of time
when Christ’s Plan is brought to thundering finality.
It can be challenging to think this way,
but all these things I’ve described, stretching over thousands of years,
are – to God – all one thing; all one moment.
Recall what Scripture says: for God, one day is a thousand years,
and a thousand years, a day.
And at the center of all this is the humble, routine thing we do here:
the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
The Mass is like a time-machine, straight out of science fiction:
It unites past, present and future; it unites earth with heaven.
You and I live in time – we don’t know anything different.
And this moment in time can seem to last forever.
When you’re a teenager and it’s a nice day,
and you have to paint the garage? That seems an eternity!
When you’re hurrying to get where you want to be in life,
time can seem to drag on so…very…slowly.
But then you turn around and you’re 40. You’re 50. You’re 60.
And you wonder, where did all that time go?
One day, you and I will actually wake up from this life,
and we will fully be in eternity. What will it be like?
Jesus has told us so many times and so many ways.
You and I will not really be different people in eternity.
Do you realize that? You are not going to wake up in the next life,
and be someone other than who you are in this world!
If we are selfish and lazy and lustful and addicted to food and drink;
wrathful and holding bitter grudges;
uninterested in the things of God in this life?
Then that’s what you and I will be forever: “a horror and a disgrace.”
Like a statue being carved from stone, every action of ours,
stroke by stroke, shapes who and what we are.
Eternity is where each of us will finally be what we are, now, becoming.
This is why repentance and conversion are so critical;
why frequent turning back to Christ,
using the sacrament of confession regularly, are so essential.
And that’s why God gives us time in this world: in order to change.
Forgive me for being stupid on this point:
but I simply do not understand how anyone can say,
“I don’t really need the sacrament of confession.”
Perhaps someone who is truly saintly could say that –
except that’s something the saints, in reality, never say.
St. Therese, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis, Padre Pio,
Pope John Paul, St. Philip Neri, I could go on…
The saints never say, “I don’t need confession.” Entirely the opposite.
Even if no one actually says that, out loud,
lots of people live that way. Yes, including in this parish.
Now, it could be that people are afraid. And that I do understand.
I don’t like confessing my sins to another priest.
It’s hard for me to be anonymous.
But then, it’s also embarrassing to go to the dentist,
and he sees that I haven’t been flossing the way I know I should.
Or to go to the doctor, and I’m not losing weight the way he told me.
And I’m guessing it’s pretty awkward for spouses to face each other
when one or both has messed up,
said terrible things, or failed to keep a promise.
If there is one truth that is universal,
it is that we humans need to change.
You and I need conversion.
Get that? It’s not just your spouse; not just your parents;
not just that person over there. It’s every one of us!
In the White House. In Congress. In the media.
In the Vatican. Among the bishops. Priests. Parishes.
In sports. Colleges. High schools.
Business. Unions. Corporations. Farmers. Everyone.
Who thinks everything is spiffy-keen just as it is?
Who – if this world stayed just as it is right now, forever –
would call that heaven?
This is universal truth number one: everyone needs to change.
And part of that change is waking up to how much we need to change.
In our pride, we think it’s just a little polish around the edges.
Odds are extremely high you and I are very wrong about that.
Second universal truth: you and I aren’t likely to change anyone else.
We can invite. We can offer help. We can give example. We can pray.
But that’s the limit of what we can do to change others.
Meanwhile, God has given us every help – all heaven and earth –
for us to change ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a huge lift. Still really hard.
Each of us gets a lifetime, and that’s about how long it usually takes.
And Jesus has told us: he’s coming.
He is coming finally at the end of time, we know not when.
He will come for each of us, when our life on earth ends,
and we open our eyes in eternity.
And right here, right now,
he comes to us in the power of the sacraments, generously, constantly;
in the cleansing grace of confession and in the miracle of the Mass.
So what is Jesus saying?
It’s actually pretty simple, but sharp:
He’s saying, “Wake up!”
We won’t have time forever.
The time to change, the time to act, is right now.