Summary: There are two meanings to "end," and as we reach the conclusion of a liturgical year, we must plan for both.
One of the legends circulating that purports to prove the superiority of the new liturgical calendar and new lectionary is that in the Extraordinary Form, we hear Scripture readings that really belong to the beginning of the year, not the end. Let’s be honest. We aren’t talking about better or worse when we compare the two forms. We are just saying that they are different–that they are good in different ways. Each sees the conclusion of the liturgical year in radically different ways. In the Ordinary Form, today we hear Jesus prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, the general persecution of His followers before the return of the King. We hear Him exhort us to persevere, for thus we will save our souls.
Today’s readings from the NT in the traditional calendar have a different way of looking to the end. Both proclamations see the “end” as the goal, the philosophical end. We might call these two readings a roadmap to our objective. Jesus sees the Church being a plant that grows so immense and fruitful that it attracts all the birds of the air–all the peoples of the earth. And, if that simile doesn’t catch your attention, He also says the Church is like yeast which is worked into a barley dough, and spreads throughout the loaf to ferment the sugar and make it rise.
For twenty years I was in the business of selling financial products–money for the future, I called it. In November and early December we were all expected to make our plans for the following year. What would be my objective for sales of various products? What would be my training objective? As a manager, I was responsible for helping my salespeople to put together their plans, and to oversee the fulfillment of those plans. Every day we were supposed to orient our every action toward the objective, toward the end. It was a labor of love for our families, to be sure, because failure would mean family poverty. But it was also a labor of love and steadfastness of hope for the mothers and fathers and businesspeople we worked with. We knew if they spent everything on present gratification, that the work of charities and churches would cease, and that when they were disabled or old or dead, their families would starve.
Likewise, today I know that if my encouragement of the people of St. Pius is halfhearted, or if my homilies are not true to the Gospel and focused on the end of our lives–eternal salvation and mission to the unsaved–I will be held to account. I pray that St. Pius parish be, when I end my ministry here, the kind of church that St. Paul talked about in the Epistle. How wonderful it will be if some day we hear Christ say with Paul: you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in San Antonio and in Bexar County. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in San Antonio and in Bexar County, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.