When I was a parish priest I enjoyed getting out to visit parishioners in their homes whenever I could. Usually I would do this in one of two ways: either I would call ahead and make an appointment or I would simply show up at the door. You can imagine the difference in response as the door was opened. If I had called ahead the door would be opened wide, I would be welcomed in and offered something to drink along with some delicious food that they “just happened” to have on hand. When I would show up unannounced, often the window curtain would be pulled back a little to see who was at the door and I would then hear some muffled cries and panicky activity before the door was opened and I was almost invariably asked not to look at the mess.
In yesterday’s Gospel for Sunday Mass the Lord reminds us of a truth of the faith that we proclaim every time we profess the Creed, namely, that he will come again in judgment to take us to himself. Of course we do not know when this will happen. The Lord will simply show up. The inescapable conclusion from this is that we must be ready at all times to welcome the Lord. This readiness is having our “house” in order, which means knowing and loving the Lord, listening to his Word and following his teachings as given in Scripture and the doctrine of the Church, being reconciled with one another and caring for the needy. In short, being ready means living an authentic Christian life.
Now, it would be rather unusual if, in advance of my visit to your home, I went a few days early to clean it myself. Yet that is precisely what the Lord does to the “home” of our hearts. Conversion and renewal is God’s work. We cannot, by ourselves, convert to him and get our lives in order. The Lord wants us for himself, he desires our conversion and our response of love, and he, by his grace, teaches us, shows us the way, and puts things in order by healing us and drawing us to ever deeper conversion. What is necessary is that we trust him and open the door of our hearts to his healing grace.
This is what faith is all about. We trust that all things are held in God’s hand and we surrender our entire lives to his care and saving will. The passage at Mass yesterday from the Letter to the Hebrews is a beautiful explanation of faith as it has been manifested in some of our ancestors.
Our beautiful faith is being shown in the lives of people today, too. For example, two important events in the life of the Church occurred over the past few days, gatherings of people of faith in faith. In Ottawa the national convention of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada got under way yesterday. I had the great privilege of being their national spiritual advisor for five years. This experience gave me firsthand knowledge of the devotion of these women to the faith of the Church and their commitment to putting that faith in practice by addressing the issues of the day in the light of the Gospel, particularly by the passing of resolutions related to a host of issues and calling upon both the government and the members of the CWL to action. It is often said, and it is true, that if you want to get an accurate picture of the issues the people of today are grappling with and that need the light of the Gospel, just pay attention to the resolutions of the CWL. These women are a great blessing to the Church and our country.
The second event was the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, held last week in Washington D.C. I was blessed to be able to attend. These men are fully committed to living the consequences of their faith in Christ, especially through charitable outreach. The amount of money and volunteer hours that they commit each year, for example, in outreach to the poor and needy, and in defense of the sanctity of life and marriage is truly extraordinary. They are not afraid to wear their faith on their sleeves and to stand up and be counted. They give wonderful witness to the truth and beauty of the faith and to the joy of life in the Church. This witness can give much needed hope to the people of our day.
Both the CWL and the Knights of Columbus are examples of how to be “ready” to meet the Lord when he comes. They recognize that faith, and life itself, is a gift which must, therefore, be stewarded. May their example help all of us to be ready to open the door to the Lord when he comes for that all-important visit!