Homily: Begin With Heaven in Mind

November 18, 2018 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The following homily will be delivered today at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:

Fr. Eugene Hensell is a long-time instructor at Saint Meinrad, teaching Scripture courses to seminarians. He is known to have regular pop quizzes on material from prior lectures, emphasizing the importance of ongoing preparation for the ultimate goal of passing the final exam at the end of the course.

Years ago, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a seminarian made the mistake of assuming Fr. Eugene would not give a pop quiz the first day after Thanksgiving break.

Much to his dismay, there was a pop quiz. Knowing he was totally unprepared, he wrote at the top of the paper, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…Save me!

He failed the quiz miserably. Under the seminarian’s Save me! note, Fr. Eugene drew a picture of a drowning man and wrote, Too late!   

Archbishop Thompson celebrated Mass here last night and shared that story. It fit in well with my homily, so I borrowed it to use today.

Message: You must prepare if you want to reach your goal.

Many of you are likely familiar with the Leader in Me program here at St. Pius X School. The framework is based on Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and works to instill these same types of work habits in the students. Habits such as being proactive and putting first things first.

Number 2 on the list of habits is to begin with the end in mind.

The idea is that we begin by establishing our goal first. What is it that we want to accomplish? Then, with that goal in mind, we determine what must happen in order for us to attain that goal. We start with the goal and work backwards. Ultimately, we get to Step #1, our starting point. With both Step #1 and our end goal established, our plan is in place.

As for me, I try to be highly effective. Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I plan and sometimes I wing it. However, I am not haphazard. The more important something is to me, the more likely I am to begin with the end in mind. When something is truly important, I devise a plan.

Is reaching heaven important to you? You need a plan; begin with heaven in mind.

************

Today is the final Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King before beginning the Advent season. Leading into Advent, the Church will often use “end-of-the-world” scripture to set the table.

In the reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, we heard these words: It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress…Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus told His disciples: In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Not the most uplifting and reassuring message. Such scripture is often referred to as apocalyptic. The word conjures up doom and gloom. However, it is interesting to note that the word apocalyptic is of Greek origin and its root means “unveil.” Thinking of the end in those terms is much less unsettling.

When we unveil something, we pull back the cover. We know what is under there; we just don’t know exactly what it will look like. We unveil a work of art – we know it is a work of art under that sheet. We may have even seen it in its early stages, but we anticipate seeing the final product.

The Indy 500 pace car is unveiled each year. We know there is a car under that sheet; we anxiously await what kind of car it is.

Today’s readings unveil the end of time. We know our time on earth will come to an end  — but we don’t know how or when…but it is certain.

While this certainly sends the signal that we must be prepared, it should not cause us undue anxiety or stress. After all, we know what’s under the sheet, we just aren’t sure exactly what it will look like.

Mark’s gospel and modern thinking stand in conflict.

In today’s church, many Christians seem to think, “Since the time of Jesus’ coming cannot be known, we don’t need to think much about it.” Mark draws the opposite conclusion: since the timing is unknown, we should think about it all the time!

Modern Christians often think, “Since the time is unknown, it could be hundred, or thousands, or millions of years from now.” Mark draws a very different conclusion: since the timing is unknown, it could be today! Maybe this evening, or at midnight, or when dawn breaks.

Mark clearly wants this to be part of the faith that informs our daily lives. If heaven is important to us, we need a plan. If heaven is the end we have in mind, where do we begin?

Whatever first step we decide upon, our faith tells us it should not come from a place of fear, but rather one of joy. If we act out of fear, we will do so hesitantly, lacking conviction and purpose. Our actions will tend to be self-centered, as we attempt to protect ourselves from the unknown.

However, as Christians our hope is in the resurrection. We believe this life is but a prelude to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. That knowledge should bring us joy.  The steps in our plan to reach heaven – in other words, the actions of our daily lives – will be carried out joyfully. Those actions will be based upon love of God and others, and we will act with confidence.

The result? A joyful life, not based on fear, will unfold naturally. When we begin with the end in mind, we live a life of purpose.

How important is reaching heaven to you?

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