Sunday’s readings all look to the future. God, speaking to the Jewish exiles in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, promises that he will “rescue them from every place where they were scattered.” St. Paul envisions the resurrection of the dead and the end of time when Jesus “hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.” Finally the Gospel is a parable in which Jesus speaks of the final judgment “when the Son of Man comes in his glory.”
For a year now we have heard the Scriptures from Cycle A which feature the Gospel of Matthew. Within that cycle the church unfolded “the whole mystery of Christ, from his incarnation and birth until his ascension, the day of Pentecost and the expectation the blessed hope of the Lord’s return” (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #102..
Next week we begin a new cycle as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. The change to the “new” year is not like the break from one civil year to the next. Liturgical years flow from one into the next. They move more like a seamless, ascending spiral. The prayers and Scriptures of the past few weeks have moved us toward a consideration of the last days. Just as the readings for this Sunday look to the future, so will next week’s. The movement of one year to the next is more of a transition than an ending and then a beginning.
It seems fitting that such a spiritual transition comes at this time of the year. Nature around us has changed dramatically from green abundance to bright colors to bare branches. Warmth and daylight have visibly diminished and will continue to do so as we approach the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.
Next week we will put away the A cycle readings of Matthew to welcome the Gospel of Mark. We will also use the prayers of the new Missal for the first time at Mass — another transition, which will ask of us to use new words for our communal prayer.
So, all these transitions, experienced each year at this time, continue in our lives and prod us to move forward from the world as we know it toward the world to be made new. As we make these transitions and allow the grace of each yearly cycle to enter us, we gradually change and become more like those who recognize their king in the needs of others, invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.