Some people work really well under pressure. One of my classmates was definitely one of those people, the type who do their best work when the clock was ticking. During graduate school he realized that the later he started working on a paper the better grade it would get. His greatest last minute accomplishment was a 15 page paper that received an A+ and came with high praise from our professor… a 15 page paper that he started to write the day before it was due and slid under our professor’s door at about 4am – a bit past the midnight deadline but all the same to our sleeping professor. Personally I had that paper finished two weeks before the deadline, but even I can’t deny that sometimes the only way things get done is from that urgency of now or never, especially when “never” isn’t an option.
Today’s scripture readings are all about finding that sense of urgency that causes us to act. In the first reading the prophet Jonah came to the city of Nineveh and went through the streets saying, “you people have forty days to shape up and repent, or God’s tearing down this place down.” Because of the urgency of his message, before he could make it even a third of the way through the city, the people of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and repented, and found themselves saved. In the second reading, St. Paul says, “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out… the world in its present form is passing away.” Like the message of Nineveh, Paul preached with a sense of urgency.
And then there’s the Gospel. Did the Gospel strike you as a little unbelievable? The apostles have never met Jesus and don’t know who he really is, and yet with one sentence, with one calling of “come after me” they drop their nets and follow. From one command they abandon their livelihoods and follow. What in the world would give them either the courage or the stupidity to that? Urgency. John the Baptist had been arrested, and now a new preacher appears in Galilee – Jesus – proclaiming that it was the time of fulfillment, that the kingdom of God was at hand, to repent, to believe in the gospel. The apostles could see that the world was changing around them, and so in that context of urgency they responded to the call of Christ without hesitation.
Urgency. Urgency is what caused the conversion of Nineveh, what drove the preaching of St. Paul, and what inspired the apostles to follow when Christ called them. The life of faith needs to be sparked at times with a sense of urgency to get our blood pumping as we make changes in our lives and take the next step into discipleship that we have been on the verge of for a little too long. Where will you find this urgency?
I suppose I could go old-school fire-and-brimstone at this point and remind you how short life is and the fact that one day soon you will be standing before the judgment seat of God… but I think even that cause for urgency is too far delayed. In mere moments we’re going to set gifts of bread and wine to the altar, and when we do so it will not just be those physical gifts set before the Lord but the work of our very lives that are raised up to him. What will you bring to this altar? Not long after that we will come forward to receive the Eucharist and allow that sacramental presence of Christ into our hearts as we take his Body and Blood into our hands and mouths, [or those at home will pray with longing to know some share in that grace, united with us but at a distance.] What will Christ find in your soul? When we walk out of this building and go on with our day it will be in the knowledge of scripture proclaimed, knowing that we have been called to follow Christ and be His disciples. Will your family and the people that know you by name recognize that in you this week?
It is not death that should give us a sense of urgency, it is life… it is knowing that we stand in the presence of our Creator in this very moment – that we belong to the God of the living – that should give us a sense of urgency. Don’t wait any longer. We all have things we know that we could do better in our lives, we all hear that call of Christ drawing us deeper into holiness. Now is the time. It’s now or never, and “never” isn’t an option.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.