Heb 10:11-14, 18
A zillion years ago, when I was a teenager, my wife and I belonged to an ecumenical singing group called the Agape Singers. Indeed that was where I met her. The group was made up of people from all over Louisville, of different Christian faith traditions, different socio-economic levels, a diverse group. One of the songs we sang was taken from 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The song was worded “There are but three things that last, faith, hope, and love.” The group is long gone, but my wife and I are still together, the love that developed between us surviving, despite the end of the group. Only love lasts, nothing else lasts, everything else is passing, all our plans, all our dreams, all we seem to have accomplished, fade away. Only love, of which one could argue faith and hope are a part, only love is permanent. The first reading today and the Gospel speak of the end, the passing of the earth, of time itself, for nothing is permanent, all things will pass. Toward the end of the last century, the 20th century, a cottage industry grew up around the idea that the end is near, so you had better get ready. Books, movies, television shows, all based on the idea that the signs of the times indicated that the end was at hand, maybe even by the end of the 20th century. Well, it’s 2009 and we’re still here. Perhaps those involved in the end of the world business should have read the last line of the Gospel, "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." So the end may be at hand, or maybe not. Other scholars have interpreted all of this end of the world stuff as not the end of the world but the end of the age, meaning that a new age is coming, has perhaps even come. Either way, both say look at the signs, see that things have changed. Things have indeed changed, and we have the sign that they have, the only sign we need. Christ said to learn from the fig tree. When leaves sprout, you know summer is near, an obvious sign, but one we don’t often think about, one we take for granted. The fig tree sprouts leaves, the leaves spread over the tree. Our sign for “the end” has come. Or perhaps not “the end” but the end of the beginning. It’s a sign we don’t often think about, one we take for granted. Christ has come, what other sign do we need? Like the leaves on the tree Christ’s church has spread, growing, growing because of the one thing that lasts, love. No, we don’t always show it, we often fail to live it, but if love were not present, the church would have disappeared long ago. Only the love of God, the love that Christ makes manifest in the world, only this will last. Only love survives the passing of time, the passing of our world. All we do will fade away. The only thing that does not is the love we receive from God and spread to the world around us. That love survives everything for “There are but three things that last, faith, hope, and love.” And the greatest of these is love.
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 15, 2009