Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday in the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Shining to Avoid the Final Overtaking


Readings: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11; Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14; Luke 4:31-37

It’s not usually a good feeling to be overtaken suddenly while driving, especially not if the culprit cuts in too close for comfort. Your heart skips a beat. You feel the impulse to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident, and perhaps even to sound the horn. But your reactions are often far too late. The cause of your distress has already sped on to who knows where, oblivious to your pounding heart and cursing lips. All you can do, as you slowly recover from the shock, is to wonder angrily to yourself why people can’t signal their intentions well in advance before filtering into another lane.

This type of experience gives us some indication of what it might feel like when the Day of the Lord comes. As Paul reminds the Thessalonians, it will be sudden and shocking, like a thief in the night, worse than being overtaken on the highway. But Paul also offers some important words of consolation. Sudden though it may be, the Lord’s second coming need not overtake us like a thief. For unlike those inconsiderate drivers who cause us so much grief on the roads, God’s intention is not to scare and harass us. In Paul’s words, God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…

And this insight is borne out in the gospel. Here, if there is indeed one who has the unpleasant experience of being overtaken, it’s the spirit of the unclean devil that Jesus casts out. We notice the anguished shouting: have you come to destroy us? In contrast, the possessed man benefits from Jesus’ ministry. We are told that the devil went out of him without hurting him at all. Jesus rescues the man out of darkness and brings him into the light. And this too is our experience as Christians. Again, as Paul reminds the Thessalonians, and us as well: You are sons of light and daughters of day…

If we have indeed already allowed Jesus to enlighten us, and if we continue to remain in His light, then there is no danger of being overtaken. But first, we must live like children of the light. We must allow the light that has been entrusted to us in Christ to shine out in all its brilliance, so that others too might share in the warmth of its radiance and escape the terror of that final overtaking. For the same authority that was the Lord’s, with which he impressed so many in the gospel, has also been entrusted to us (see Matthew 28:18-20).

How are we being called to shine out today?

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