Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
A look at big words and big realities
Spirituality and evangelization bring an everlasting life with God
November 19, Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What do you understand by "the last things?"
2. Is the doctrine of the communion of saints an influence on your daily life?
3. What is your level of hope regarding eternal life?
The English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in 1994. This year, a second edition came out and one of the new features is a glossary of terms. Definitions are given of words such as epiclesis, anamneis, concupiscence and many more.
Here is a term that is in that glossary that applies to this Sunday: eschatology. I quote: "From the Greek word eschaton, meaning 'last.' Eschatology refers to the area of Christian faith which is concerned about 'the last things,' and the coming of Jesus on
'the last day': our human destiny, death, judgment, resurrection of the body, heaven, purgatory, and hell - all of which are contained in the final articles of the Creed" (p.
Our culture tends to be concerned with the here and now, with the immediacy of
things. It spends precious little time worrying about "last things." In fact, many people
doubt whether there is any existence beyond our time and space dimensions. So
eschatology is a strange, alien, foreign presence, one better to be avoided.
But God's word refuses such avoidance. Daniel the prophet speaks directly about
everlasting things and how the dead will be awakened. Further, the prophet informs us
that those who are wise and just will take on a radiance that we know as glory. Those
who fail in these virtues will face horror and disgrace.
The Gospel repeats similar themes. The temporal world will one day cease. The Son
of Man will come in power and glory and a final accounting will take place. This
passage is an eschatological segment and reminds us that there is more to life than just
the present moment. We are well advised to prepare for the day of our full encounter
In August, a retreat director commented that one of the parasites of life attacking our
health is "anxiety about the future." (The other two mentioned were guilt about the
past and a lovelessness in the present). But there may be a holy anxiety as there is a
holy fear. We do well to worry about whether or not our present behavior is in
conformity with the Gospel path. If it is not, the future does not bode well. Actions
have consequences; accounts must be reconciled.
In one of the most important documents of the Church, "Lumen Gentium" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican Council II), the seventh chapter is entitled "The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Her Union with the Heavenly Church." In this document we are told that full perfection will be attained only in the glory of heaven, that there will be a time of promised restoration of all things, that we, even now, can live in union with the Church and saints in heaven. In other words, there's more to life than what meets the eye. What meets faith opens up whole new worlds.
Big words: spirituality, evangelization, ESCHATOLOGY. Yes, and big realities. An everlasting life with God and all the saints. Something to look forward to with graced hope.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)