One night in 1983 over 100 million TV viewers saw the movie, “The Day After.” It portrayed what a city would look like after a nuclear attack. Just before the film began, a warning flashed on the screen saying, “Because of the graphic portrayal of nuclear war, this film may be unsuitable for children.” The warning was well-given. The movie showed shocking scenes of death and destruction. The script also was disturbing, it made us realize the horror of a nuclear attack.
The words and images of today’s gospel are reminiscent of the words and images of that film. Jesus portrays for us graphically the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. For Jews, the destruction of these two things was equivalent to the end of the world.
Precisely for this reason, the church uses this gospel for the end of the liturgical year. It will soon be Advent. It wants us to reflect on that moment when the world as we know it will end. It wants us to ask ourselves, how prepared will we be for that moment when it comes? How prepared will we be for our own end?
The film, “Saving Private Ryan” is a powerful story of World War II. The film opens with Private Ryan now an old man. He is paying his respects at the grave of Captain Miller. Years before in battle, Miller had been responsible for saving Ryan’s life. But, at the cost of his own. With his dying breath, the Captain had challenged the Private to earn the gift he had been given. This gift of continued life, the films poignant opening scene, shows the aging Ryan at the Captains grave, not just saying thank you, but trying to say that he had done his best with the life Miller had given him. Ask yourself, have you done the best with the gifts you have been given?
Someday the Lord will come in power and glory to place all creation at the feet of God, the Father. But now, today, He comes quietly, subtly and invisible. Look for Him not on a cloud with a jeweled crown. Look for Him when you gather together, look for Him in the preached word, look for Him in the host at Communion, look for Him inside of you, look for Him at home on the faces of your dear ones, look for Him-especially-where He told you to look.
In the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the imprisoned, the helpless. Then when He comes, you can open your arms and cry out, “Here I am Lord, do You like what You see? Do You like what I have done with my life? Have we done our best with the gifts we have been given? No? Then here is good news, the end is not yet. This is no time for idleness; it is the time to do the work of God’s kingdom.
The purpose of living is to find faithful redemption and loving ways to give what we have been given back to God. God will then make us adequate for all that lies ahead until the end. This Advent might be a good time for all of us to ask ourselves about ourselves. Do we like what we see? Do you like what you have done with your life?