Sunday Scripture reading, Nov. 22, 2020: The big picture
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
1) Ez 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
2) 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Mt 25:31-46
Today's readings mark the end of the year -- the church year, that is. We've made our way once more through the yearlong celebration of the Christian mystery. God has so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that we might have life in him.
Since last December, we have remembered his Son's birth, life, death and resurrection. Now we've arrived at the end of the cycle. From this vantage point, we can turn and look back.
What, finally, does it all amount to? An uplifting message for a darkening world? A guide to a decent, moral existence -- the Ten Commandments plus grace? A hope for some kind of afterlife?
St. Paul gives us an indication that takes me, at least, to the very limits of the capacity to believe.
Paul speaks of the "end" of "all" (1 Cor 15:24, 28). We don't know exactly how Paul pictured the universe, but however he thought of it, he was saying that, in its entirety, it will pass away; something new will take its place.
For us in the 21st century, talking about the "end" of "all" the universe means thinking with measures of time and space that far exceed comprehension. For a 13-billion-year-old universe, whose extent can be represented only with a mind-glazing string of zeroes, when might the end be? What might it look like?
Whenever or however the end, Paul says, it will not simply be the end. It will be the moment of God's re-creation in his Son, so that God will be "all in all." God will be everything for everything, everything for everyone. "All" will find fulfillment in him. Whatever was crooked will be straightened out. Every tear will be wiped away.
That is what the Christian mystery amounts to.
If in faith we take hold of this cosmic vision, we must ask how we, in our littleness, can manage to find a place in it.
The path is accessible, Jesus tells us in the Gospel. Show compassion to the people around you. Each person around you, then, is your way into the summing up of everything in God.
And if we know ourselves to be weak and wayward, needing strength and guidance along the way? We have our answer in both our first reading and responsorial psalm. "I am your shepherd," God declares.
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.