Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
33rd Sunday: Now We Begin
“The baby will come when the baby decides to come,” the doctor tells every expectant mother during her eighth or ninth month. And then, when the baby does come, there is no stopping him or her, as many would confirm, including police officers, EMT personnel, taxi drivers, and frazzled husbands.
It is the same thing with the end of time, or the end of our own personal time, our deaths. For most of us the end comes when we least expect. Or as I often say, “Death comes at an inconvenient time, particularly to the dying.” It is true that some people have a better grasp of when they are going to be leaving us. When the doctor told my buddy and our parishioner Jack Witeck that he might not make a week, Jack said to his wife Rita, “Don’t buy any green bananas, I might not get to them.” But most people, even those in their nineties and up, are shocked that death has come.
Should we be frightened? Should we be afraid of death? Should we be afraid of the end of time? St. Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that we know we should be ready for the end, but we shouldn’t be afraid that it will catch us off guard. We won’t be in the dark as long as we live in the Light of the Lord. Some of the people in Thessalonica were so convinced that the end of time was coming soon, that they stopped working. Paul had to write a second letter to Thessalonica saying that those who were unwilling to work should not eat and condemning those who instead of remaining busy were acting like busy bodies. We need to devote our lives to developing the talents we have been given, as in our Gospel reading, and fulfilling our responsibilities in our families, as exemplified by the worthy wife of the first reading.
As I was considering this, my thoughts roamed to my favorite place in Rome, the Basilica of St. Peter. My favorite place within the Basilica is not Bernini’s magnificent baldocchino, the canopy over the main altar, nor is it standing near the many statues, the huge statues under the cupola, Michelangelo’s Pieta, or the statue of Peter that the faithful kiss. My favorite place in the Basilica is the altar of Saint Pope John XXIII. This was the Pope of my youth. He served from 1958 to 1963. Pope John XXIII was a simple man, a humble man. He embraced a motto for his life which was as simple as he was. His motto was, “Now, I begin.” Every day is an opportunity to begin the work of the Lord once again. We need the determination to live each day as the first day and greatest day of our lives. Every day we need to begin again, to find new ways to live in the Light of the Lord.
Perhaps some sort of an addiction has derailed our lives, causing serious damage to ourselves and others. But that was then, this is now. We have been graced with the ability to let God work through us despite the addiction. His power is made perfect in our weakness, 1 Corinthians 4:13. Now we begin.
Perhaps the lure of sin seriously damaged our spiritual lives. Everybody was getting drunk, so we joined in. Everybody was taking drugs, so we joined in. Everybody was treating others for their own personal enjoyment, so we did the same. We were in the darkness. But we are not now. We are here, aren’t we? We are now in the Light. We cannot allow our past failures to diminish our determination to fight for the Kingdom of God. Now we begin.
Addictions, sinful life styles, sinful choices, no matter what we have fallen into, no matter what lies we have fallen for, the end is not upon us yet. There is still time to live for the Lord. We can live in the Light. We need to look for new ways today and every day to serve the Lord. For today and everyday we must begin.