Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
A large train pulled by two engines was making its way across America. While crossing the Western mountain, one of the engines broke down. “No problem, we can make it to Denver and get a replacement engine there,” the engineer thought, and carried on at half power. Farther on down the line, the other engine broke down, and the train came to a standstill in the middle of nowhere.
The engineer needed to inform the passengers about why the train had stopped. He didn’t want the passengers to get too upset and so he tried to look on the bright side of things. He made the following announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that both engines have failed, and we will be stuck here for some time until the additional engines arrive. The good news is that you didn’t make this trip in an airplane!” That would be good news under the circumstances. If you’re going to lose both your engines, better to do it on a train and not on a plane…..There is better news to today’s readings.
The words of today’s Gospel are a source for great joy and encouragement for all Christians. God’s love for us is such that “even all the hairs of your head are counted. And Christ goes on to say, ”Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” Jesus calls us to be consistent in living out our faith in him because our eternal destiny depends on the attitude we have assumed toward him during our lifetime. If we declare ourselves for him before others, he says, he will have reason to declare himself for us before his Father. If instead we have disowned him before others he will disown us before his Father. Jesus reminds us of the reward or punishment that awaits us after this life because he loves us. He knows, as a Father of the Church put it, that at times fear of punishment is more effective that a beautiful promise. For this reason he in- creases in us the hope of endless happiness while at the same time, in order to save us, he awakens in us a fear of being condemned. His aim is that we may live forever with God. This is all that matters. It is the goal for which we have been called into existence. Only with him, in fact, will we reach our complete self-fulfillment, the full realization of all our aspirations. This is why Jesus urges us to “acknowledge” him here and now. If instead we choose not to have anything to do with Jesus, if we disown him now, when we reach the next life we will find ourselves cut off from him forever. At the end of our lives Jesus will therefore simply confirm before the Father the choice that each one of us has made while here on earth – with all its consequences. By referring to the final judgment, he emphasizes the tremendous importance and seriousness of the decision we make here. Our eternity is at stake.
So how do we best take advantage of the warning Jesus has given us? He himself said, “Everyone who acknowledges me..…” We can decide to declare ourselves for him before others with simplicity and openness, overcoming our need for mere human respect. We need to get out of a state of mediocrity and compromise that empties our lives as Christians. We need to remember that we have been called to bear witness to Christ: through us he wants to reach all people with his message of peace, justice and love. We can bear witness to him wherever we are, whether in our family, at work, among friends, at school or in the many different circumstances of our lives through our purity, through our detachment from money, through our participation in the joys and sufferings of others. Perhaps then our lives will reflect a sense of tranquility or peace in a world abounding in tension and someone may wonder why..…and we may answer with humility and sincerity using words with which the Holy Spirit guides our conscience. In this way, we will bear witness to Christ with our words, too, on the level of ideas. Then perhaps those searching for him will find him. Other times we may be misunderstood, contradicted, made the object of derision, hatred and persecution. Jesus alerted us to this possibility: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn15:20).
We are still on the right path. And we bear witness to him with courage even in the midst of trials. We may not know what heaven is like but we know what God is like: that he cares for us more than we can imagine. In the obstacles and crises we face, we do not face them alone, that someday, somehow the hurtful will be turned into the helpful. The better news of today’s readings is that the reward that awaits us is well worth it; it is in heaven where Jesus whom we love will declare himself for us in front of his Father and we shall live with joy in His presence for all eternity.
God bless you,