Summary: But when that trumpet blows and the game of life is complete, Christ’s forbearance is done, and those who have been procrastinating in their conversion will be lost.
Pentecost Tuesday 2020
You may have noticed that we reached back into Peter’s second letter to the passage coming right before the one prescribed for today, to grab some context that was lost when we celebrated the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, yesterday. The Church has been waiting for the second coming of Our Lord in glory for almost two thousand years. Here in the first century, some scoffers were ridiculing that belief, saying “Jesus promised to return? Then where is He?” Moreover, there are days, particularly with this recent viral unpleasantness, when I’ve prayed that the Lord would return and save us from the aftermath. Would it not be fine to rise with all our dead brothers and sisters who left this life in Christ, to see Him as He is in glory and come together in the communion of saints? But when that trumpet blows and the game of life is complete, Christ’s forbearance is done, and those who have been procrastinating in their conversion will be lost. Our God loves the human race too much to make that happen just yet. God’s schedule is on God’s time line, and He doesn’t exist in time. So we wait in our time on His blessed will, and ask for patience as we try to build up the Church from the rubble the world leaves. Our patience will be rewarded by a new heaven and a new earth, not just a polished up old heaven and earth, but one that is new in kind. It will be in relation to the old creation as a butterfly is in relation to a caterpillar.
In that creation there will be no injustice, no burning cities, no oppression of the weak and the poor. Righteousness dwells there, and so shall we, if we are zealous to be found at peace and without the stain of sin. So care for our brothers and sisters, avoid sin, and frequent the sacraments of penance and Eucharist. Spread the faith of Christ and you will receive the promised reward forever.
Our responsorial psalm today gave St. Peter a biblical basis for his statement about the patience and timelessness of God. I’ll tell you that when I was a young religious brother, in what seems like another lifetime, I prayed this “seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty if we are strong” with a kind of toss-off attitude. “Yeah, I’ll think about that later.” But today, at seventy-three, that sounds a bit more immediate. It’s a fact. All of us operate under a warranty that is cancellable by the will of our Creator. The one who compiled the book of 150 psalms attributes this not to David, but to Moses, hundreds of years earlier. He was over a hundred years old when his lease was cancelled, and did not live to cross over into the physical Promised Land. But he lives in the bosom of Abraham, in the embrace of the Blessed Trinity, and that’s a whole lot better ending to the story. He lives there because of the passion, death and Resurrection of Our Lord. The psalm, in verses we didn’t pray today, asks God to teach us to number our days aright, to live each one as Jesus did, so that we might gain wisdom of heart. It also prays that the Lord would return, and show pity on us His servants. That’s a prayer for every day.
Our Gospel, though brief, is packed with human and divine wisdom. As a long-time teacher and manager, I knew that when somebody came to me and began by telling me how wonderful I am, there had to be a hidden agenda, a “but” clause that would cause me to have to make a decision I might not like. Here Jesus sees it coming, because He could look into the hearts of those who questioned them. In fact, He could probably see it on their faces. Like some politicians, Jesus was constantly being challenged, potentially backed into a corner. So when asked if the Law of Moses permitted the payment of taxes to the Romans, He knew that the real question was “do you want us to stone you to death or the Romans to crucify you for preaching rebellion?” His response showed its usual brilliance. First He challenged them to show Him a Roman coin, which meant they were already acknowledging Caesar’s right to control and taxation. Then He asked them to admit that it was Caesar’s coin. Great strategy–He asked a question He already knew the answer to. No prosecuting attorney would fault Him for that. And His awesome response, which we should take to heart, is a mini-sermon. Rendering taxes to Caesar is a little inconvenience to keep the peace. Rendering to God means surrendering to God’s will in everything. Everything.