2 Thes 3:7-12
Hurry up and wait. It’s a saying I have heard before, but I always wondered what it meant. It seems nonsensical, but I think I get it now. I think what that saying is telling us is to be prepared for what is coming, but don’t be anxious about it. Get ready and wait, so that when the big event, whatever it may be, happens, you won’t be caught by surprise. Be ready for it, just don’t be anxious about its arrival. This is very much what Paul, or the author of 2 Thessalonians, is telling the Thessalonians. Too many have interpreted this passage with its famous saying, “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat,” to be a condemnation of the poor. If those lazy bums don’t want to work, then let them starve. But that’s not what Paul is saying at all. The people of that time lived in a state of imminent expectation. They expected the Christ to return, not eventually, but now. They truly expected that Christ would come any day, any minute. With the return of the Lord so close, worldly concerns seemed trivial. Why worry about what might happen tomorrow when tomorrow might not happen. But one cannot ignore the concerns of this world in anticipation of the next. Even if the “end is at hand” life goes on until it happens. That is what the author meant, keep working, keep waiting, be ready, but keep living. Some of us today find ourselves in that same situation. Too many are shouting “the end is near.” Why worry about this world when the next is about to fall on us. I recall first encountering this mentality about 35 years ago with the arrival of a book called The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. The end is coming it said, and coming in our lifetime. Stop worrying about everything else. The condition of this world is unimportant, because soon it won’t be here. This cottage industry of predicting the end has blossomed, reaching its culmination in the Left Behind series of books. It’s an easy thing to swept up in, but avoid the temptation. Yes, as we approach the end of Ordinary Time we will hear much about the last days, but listen to what Christ says.
“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them!”
This expectation of the end becomes an excuse to not do anything about now. We can’t forget that our expectation for the world to come is tied to the world we live in. Yes, Christ will come again, someday. When that day is no one, not you, not me, not anyone else, knows. It could indeed be tomorrow or it could be 10,000 years from tomorrow. That is not for us to concern ourselves with. Our concern is this world, caring for it, caring for those who live in it. We make ready for the return of Christ by taking care of things here and now. We do indeed need to be prepared. We also need to remember to keep living. We need to hurry up, and wait.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 18, 2007