As a boy growing up my dad took me on fishing trips to northern Minnesota for the walleye opening. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was at the prospect of going up to the lake with my dad and his friends. For weeks I would prepare by reading Field & Stream magazine, organizing my tackle box and dreaming about the large fish I would soon catch. More than anything else, I just looked forward to being with my dad in the boat and lying down at night listening to him and his friends laugh as they played cards and told stories in the kitchen below. In hindsight, I can see that the anticipation of those glorious fishing trips was nearly as great as the trip itself.
In Mark 13:24-32, Jesus tells us that there is a day when he will return and life as we know it on earth will radically change. Unlike my childhood fishing trips, the time of Jesus return is unknown. In fact today's reading tells us that not even the angels, nor the Son know the time, only the Father. We know for certain that the Lord will return, we just can't put it on the calendar.
The question is, can we live in great anticipation of the Lord's coming even though we don't know the time of his return? The answer is yes, if we clearly understand what that return will mean. Our destiny as Christians is the beatific vision, to see God face to face. Think of what that will be like, to look into the face of He who created the universe; to gaze upon the one who emptied Himself in self-donating love for you, the one who thirsts for you more than you thirst for Him. Imagine the thrill of experiencing the new dimensions of heaven, color, sound, knowledge, and yes...the food. Imagine no more pain, worry, anxiety or depression. Sound good?
The Lord has told us that there will be a day when He will return. He tells us this, not so that we will live in a state of alarm, but a state of alert. Just as a boy I tended to the details of a future fishing trip, today I can tend to the details of my spiritual life, in preparation for his coming. St. Thomas Aquinas calls this daily attitude of preparation, prudence. Prudence is looking forward to the goal we want to attain, the place we want to be, then backing up to the present and making the appropriate decisions to get there. We want to be prepared to meet the Lord and enjoy Him for ever, therefore we must ask ourselves today, how should I be spending my time; how should I spend my money; what does the Lord who is the focal point of history expect of me today?
I think that if we knew for certain that the Lord was to return next week our schedule would be somewhat altered, our priorities rearranged. As there is basic preparation for a fishing trip, so too there is basic preparation for meeting the Lord.
Below are a few suggestions:
1. Daily Bible reading. The Bible contains the true story of the world, the only story that puts our lives in perspective and gives meaning to daily life. We have become a part of God's story through baptism and our task is to come to know God, to be caught up into the life of the Trinity and share that life with others. Today's gospel reading speaks of the end of the story. It would be a shame to end up at the end of the divine drama having never realized the plot while here on earth.
2. Daily Prayer & Meditation. We will live with the Lord in heaven forever and ever. No doubt we will continue to grow in our understanding of the Lord through learning, conversation and service. This intimacy that we will enjoy in the next world can be tasted to a degree in this world. Prayer is the communion of the soul with God, the development of the heart and the place where daily action is determined.
3. Good Works. The manifestation of our prayer in secret and our meditation on His word is the work we do day to day. Our work is closely linked to our vocation, or state in life. If you are married, single, clergy or religious, then God's will for you has in a large part already been determined. The secret of your schedule is contained in the Bible, the Catechism and the place of prayer.
As I always enjoyed the anticipation of those fishing trips with my dad, the day did indeed come. As all things, whether hoped for or dreaded, have a due date, so will the end come. Will you be ready?
Questions for Reflection
1. If you knew that the Lord was returning next week, what three things would you do differently this week?
2. Take one hour this week, perhaps in adoration, and ask yourself what areas of your life would be incompatible with heaven.