The anniversary of my episcopal consecration on the feast of St. Martin always gets me pensive, and depending on the year and circumstances, alternately over the great saint and/or over my bishop's motto taken from 2 Peter 3: 9-10:
"Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought (you) to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire."
This year the enigma of waiting for and at once hastening (without willfully attempting to steer or force Christ's final coming and judgment of the world) was the particular object of my meditation. Our righteousness is indeed key, but to the extent that it is Christ's and not our own, to the extent that it is Christ's judgment and not my own over my neighbor or our world. Jesus sits upon the Throne of Judgment, thankfully and in His great mercy. Next Sunday is already the end of another Church year and we celebrate the Kingship of Christ, albeit too often without surrendering to His command. I think this points out our need to focus vividly on Final Judgment both as final justice and sure ransom at the feet of the Son of Man for us sinners.
The first reading from this Sunday's Mass is particularly poignant in its vision of just how this not only should but will be at the end of time:
‘At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over your people. There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.’ (Daniel 12:1-3)
The fundamental lesson: we need to be attuned to Christ and His teaching as it comes to us from the Apostles and gives life within the communion of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded up the rock which is Peter and passed on to us in living fashion through the successors of the Prince of the Apostles, Christ's Vicar upon earth. We are dealing with matters which call the principalities and powers into play; strictly speaking we are out of our league to the extent that we attempt to arrogate such sublime to our own selves written small and unattached.
This year these matters are anything but abstractions or platitudes for me as I reflect on countless encounters with people kicking against the goad. In a sense, it is a common defect of our fallen human nature: to the extent that we feel young and strong, we tend to force situations. When it comes to the arts (Dewey Decimal System) this points out the wisdom of teachers and trainers, masters who with a strong hand bend young wills to the discipline of whatever it might be from classical ballet to football. When it comes to Church life, be it the moral life or pastoral skills, we move beyond aesthetic canons requiring the young disciple's obeisance to reach absolute heights, in our own cooperation in something infinitely greater than ourselves. It is here that we come to grips personally with the real possibility of: Properantes Adventum Diei Dei. My striving for holiness and devotion forces nothing but fosters God's plan for the world through my receptivity: we really are in the realm of personal freedom maximized for the common good, as the Creator and Redeemer invites us to come to full stature.
We should not be surprised, shocked or scandalized if many people in high places, even within the Church, fall short of the goal. We pray for their purification sooner rather than later, without ourselves losing confidence. There is something terribly enigmatic about St. Peter's expression of this higher calling as being one to: waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. Holy indifference in the face of foot-draggers and obstructionists? Well, I guess you could begin to explain the mystery that way. Obviously, when it comes to the need for liturgical reform and restoration of continuity with the great tradition of the Roman Rite, we can see what is needed embodied almost to perfection in the counsel and call of Pope Benedict XVI to choose the path of mutual enrichment: judgment is withheld or rather entrusted to the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the Church indefectible.
This year for Saint Martin, however, what troubles me the more is the failure of many in the Church to be of encouragement to others, who for lack of love or vision may fail to surrender their lives to the One Who loves us beyond measure, to Jesus. We impede the coming of the Son of Man to the extent that, as His Body, we fail to reflect His unbounded love as He chose it to be experienced within the communion of His Bride under His Headship. His Day comes no closer to the extent that "our day" takes precedence over His. Our righteousness does not serve that of the Lamb upon the Throne.
Through indiscretion we learn about all sorts of things happening in the Church which point to resistance on the part of some to Christ's Reign now and for Eternity. I am less worried by those who are faint of heart or cling to the tried and true. My problem is with those who identify their own agenda as salvific and proceed to condemn others this side of the Day of Wrath. Just the other day, I had a man try to tell me that there are people in the Roman Curia who hate Pope Francis. I did my best to urge him not to talk that way, but rather to see that despite honest differences of opinion, there are also cases where an opponent needs to be encouraged rather than chastised. I do not damn someone just because he or she is not prompt to fulfill my command, labelled by little me as that of someone higher up the totem pole whose patronage I may think to enjoy. The urgency of Christ's Day is something we best learn under His tutelage.
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God
Properantes Adventum Diei Dei