11 May 2008
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13, RSV-CE)
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI… I heard a very fine Pentecost homily at the annual jubilee Mass of the local province of the Holy Ghost Fathers. The homilist also alluded to the above quoted text from the Second Letter of Peter, touching me in a very particular way, because this is the Scripture quote which stands behind and explains my Episcopal motto. Father’s allusion was drawn from a reflection he offered to the festive assembly on the nature of hope from the Holy Father’s Encyclical Letter Spe salvi.
WAITING FOR AND HASTENING THE COMING OF THE DAY OF GOD … Going beyond striving to live a holy and godly life and thereby contributing to shortening the time of God’s forbearance, lest “any should perish” and “all should reach repentance”, was certainly something that caught my attention when I picked my motto from this passage. I looked at it first and foremost from the point of view of cooperating with God’s grace. Father’s Pentecost homily this year hit me at an opportune moment and helped me to tighten and thereby light another bulb on that Christmas tree of my understanding of these words from Holy Scripture. He helped me better illuminate for my own understanding the aspect of hope involved in St. Peter’s call for zeal.
If you think about it, trying to hasten the day when “the elements will melt with fire” as an effort tied to genuine hope is a notion which needs some head work. Hoping for the establishment of God’s rule is not an instinctive yearning, like longing to be free from unjust constraints and respected by one’s peers. Eagerly awaiting new heavens and a new earth from God is an intelligent choice subsequent to our encounter with the Truth, with the Light and Life of the world. Godless men and women of good will and even non-Christians sadly content themselves with much less. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about the difference which Jesus Christ makes. We need only reflect for a moment about the back and forth we find in the Gospels between Jesus and His adversaries, and even between Jesus and His disciples or would-be disciples. Not everyone expected as revealed in the Person of Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ Who was to come into our world! The history of Creeds and Councils helps us understand something of the struggle to preserve the fullness of that faith over the centuries.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI… Is it really more than a longing for the establishment of righteousness? Most certainly! The violent wind which was heard to blow in the Upper Room on that first Pentecost, those tongues of fire which settled upon the disciples gathered there with Mary, the Mother of God, in prayer, were certainly for them and for all who witnessed that event the foretaste and promise of the world to come. On that day, everything melted away in fire and hope’s object in faith may not have been seen but was certainly witnessed from afar. This was not only the birthday of the Church, but in a very real sense the Church’s Transfiguration, meant to strengthen the baptized for the scandal of the share in the Cross which would be ours, to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.
Freedom’s nature and dignity certainly does not allow us to victoriously establish God’s reign by imposing it on the lives of others. As transformed through our share in the prayer and suffering of Christ and His Church, we stand eagerly on the threshold of Judgment and Eternal Life. It is enough. Holiness and godliness will draw others to the Day as nothing else can. The light on the lamp stand, the city on the mountain top cannot be hidden.
Sometimes we hesitate, terrified or at least stymied by the darkness which seems to have devoured us and to have claimed the victory. The Lord Jesus’ temptations in the desert are not always withstood so valiantly by us, His followers, as we falter in hope, while awaiting that Dawn from on High.
Pentecost: caught up into the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity through the grace of that whirlwind Who is the Holy Spirit, we live in hope of God’s Day. It is more than enough.