Our penitential rite at the beginning of today's Mass
took the traditional form of sacramental reconciliation—
confession, contrition, absolution.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us
that confession is the sacrament of the mature.
As mature people we have to face ourselves
and admit that we have not done what we should have,
or that we have done what we shouldn't have…
and we apologize.
By that process we become even more mature.
It is fitting that we practice reconciliation communally.
When we sin, we sin against the whole world.
We are not the person we are called to be.
We fail to become the person we could have become.
So we apologize… to God, to one another.
That's the meaning of that “act of contrition”--
I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters….”
As a Christian community,
we are the sign—the sacrament—of reconciliation.
We pray for one another,
and we forgive one another,
and God forgives all of us.
Through that process, we grow in faith and virtue.
I know from my own experience
that I have learned the greatest lessons
from my greatest mistakes.
When I get out of the habit of taking stock of my day—
that practice we learned as the “examination of conscience”
when we were youngsters—
it's then that I get stuck in routine and don't grow.
It's as if I'm sleepwalking through life.
I might fail to pay attention to my responsibility
as a citizen, as a friend, as a family member,
as a worker, as a retiree with free time.
In whatever failure, in whatever of those ways I stumble,
I fail to act as a follower of Jesus.
Scripture scholars tell us that today's readings
are not about the end of the world.
They're about events in the everyday world of the time
that make it feel like it's all over.
Matthew's community experienced the destruction of the Temple,
the center of their religious and cultural life.
It was the end of the world as they knew it.
Lots of folks are having that experience in our country
in these post-election days.
People feel as if it's the end of the world as they knew it.
Some fear the loss of traditional jobs,
or the cultural norms they grew up with,
or a change in their social status and identity.
Some fear persecution for their color or their religion
or their gender or their nationality.
One of the ways we know that today's gospel
is not about the end of the world is that,
as people are going about their daily lives,
some are taken and some are left behind.
It's a metaphor for what happens
when we fail to stay alert to the signs of the times,
when we sleep-walk through life.
If we're not paying attention, we get left behind.
We are miserable.
We are unfulfilled.
On the other hand, if we are keeping watch, we move on.
We adapt and change.
We grow, and we live in peace.
It's never too late.
We're not too old to change.
We're not too old to make a difference.
From time to time I visit a woman in an assisted living facility.
When I stop in, Mary is rarely in her room.
She's pushing 90…
and she's also pushing her walker around the halls,
visiting people who can't get out of bed.
She doesn't have anything to give them
except the gift of her presence.
Mary makes a difference.
Then there's Nolan, one of my neighbors,
retired from a government job.
I see him every day, walking up and down the street,
smiling at the teenagers on their way to school,
picking up trash, waving to folks as they drive by.
He stops by my garden and chats over the fence,
then moves on.
Nolan is tending to the part of the world that he can change,
and doing a great job of it.
Nolan makes a difference.
And then there's Tina, in her 50s,
limping into Claver House
before heading off to her work cleaning rooms in a local hotel.
Always a smile and a cheerful hello,
greeting everyone by name and asking how they are.
Tina makes a difference.
Good folks they are, and many more like them, old and young.
They keep going,
watching what's happening in the world around them,
and making the ordinary times of their ordinary lives
into gifts of friendliness and caring… and love...
to everyone they meet.
When I look around this chapel, I see you—
people who are alert to the signs of the times,
living your lives in relationship to God
and the world around you.
I see you... making a difference.
The day of the Lord comes again and again, over and over.
Advent is our wake-up call.
So we open our eyes once more
to see that God is with us, among us, and in us.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006