Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
Sunday Mass is also a Memorial of the Parousia. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) When the Lord instituted the Eucharist on the night he was betrayed He knew that on the next day He would die. He knew also that one day he would return. For the period between these two events He was establishing the Memorial of His redemptive death. The Mass is a constant reminder of His glorious promise: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
The Memorial of the Parousia reminds us that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ we are the most pitiable of all.” (1 Cor. 15:19) When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you king of the Jews,” Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’” (John 18:33-36)
The radical difference between the world and Jesus is one of the great themes of the New Testament. In His discourse after the Last Supper Jesus told His apostles, “If the world hates you realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of the world the world hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)
It is important that we understand what Jesus means by the world. First there is the physical universe – CREATED BY GOD - our home – the habitat for humanity - in which God supplies us with the necessities of life. God loves this world. (John 3:16) Secondly there is the present SITUATION of the world – CREATED BY MAN - it is the result of sin and is an enticement to sin. It is what concupiscence is in the personal realm. This is the world that it at enmity with God.
This is the world that is beamed to us night and day through the media, proclaiming the “the trinitarian god of rugged individualism, hedonism and consumerism” which promotes “conspicuous consumption” as a way of life. Think of your mind as a computer. And into this computer data from the media is fed to it for hours each day. The inexorable law of the computer is “garbage in, garbage out.”
The Christian is a pilgrim not a settler. The follower of Jesus was never meant to settle down in this world or become one with nature, or with business or art. This, of course, does not mean negation to the world or hostility to life. The Christian is deeply conscious of the earth’s grandeur and beauty. He accomplishes his given tasks here as efficiently and responsibly as anyone. But he is never satiated, secure and smug. He is never submerged in life but keeps his head and shoulders clear of it and his eyes free to look upward.
For the first Christians the Parousia was a cause of great joy. So great was the joy that they rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus. The New Testament ends with Maranatha, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Today the end time, the second coming of Christ, is called doomsday, a cause of great fear and anxiety. Surely this says something about our faith. We profess that we love Jesus and that He loves us unconditionally. So why are we afraid to meet him? Why are we afraid to meet the meek and humble Jesus, the Jesus who was crucified for us, the Jesus we have received so often in the Eucharist?
When will the Parousia happen? The first Christians thought that it would be in their life time. Perhaps that is the reason that the Gospels were not written till much later. It has been 2,000 years now, and still Christ has not come. Every generation thinks that it will be in their life time. The signs that are given are present in every generation. Surely they are present in the world today.
When will be the end-time? The Lord is very clear on this point. No one knows but the Father. And it will happen when you least expect it. Jesus may come at the Parousia, which will be the end of the world for everyone, or at my death which will be the end of the world for me. Which ever one comes first makes little difference. Our hope empowers us to wait with patience and confidence. So we say in the Sunday Mass, “We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.”
The Parousia is the fulfillment of our innate, insatiable desire for happiness. It fills the basic need of everyone to have a meaning and purpose in life. “He who has a why to live for can endure any how.” The thought of the next life puts things in perspective making us realize that this life is not the ultimate value. It conquers the fear of death by revealing that death is the door to eternal life, and it gives us comfort at the loss of a loved one. It gives us the peace that the world cannot give and no one can take from us.
The Memorial of the Parousia reminds us that life is a journey of faith, not simply from the womb to the tomb, but from here to eternity, from God, with God and to God. It is a journey through conflicts and failures, temptations and compromises, disappointments and surprises, joys and sorrows to the Kingdom of God. In the Liturgy of the Word Jesus shows us the way and the Liturgy of the Eucharist Jesus gives us the strength for the journey. And he goes along with us as our guide and companion. His presence is like a “pillar of cloud by day”, and “a pillar of fire at night.” Joy is the most infallible sign to the awareness of the presence of God. Awareness of his presence makes our journey of faith a joyful, exciting adventure.
of the Parousia teaches us “not
to hold on to this life too tightly, to take it as a gift, to enjoy it
to cherish it while we have it and to let go gracefully and gratefully
when the time comes. The gift of this life is great but the Giver is greater
still. God is the Giver and in Him is a life that never ends.”
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