Faith’s Rallying Cry

How soon the End Times may be coming not even Jesus would disclose. No one knows the day or the hour. Yet the possibility of a sudden disruption of our comfort zone and even chaotic upheaval is always upon us, whether wrought by global forces, natural or anthropogenic, or through the simple course of each one’s biological destiny as nature, nurture or happenstance might impel it.

This Sunday – the last of the liturgical year – marks the celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, as well as the close of the Year of Faith. The Scripture readings on the Sunday before and the Sunday to follow – the First Sunday of Advent – both evoke images of cosmic forces imploding into ordinary times and conventional living, warning us of the end of the present world, that all things are passing. They are a rallying call to persevere in our faith, and what a chance we have now to show that faith in action!

Waves of heart-breakingly poignant images have made us each day more aware of the massive devastation from Typhoon Yolanda and an earlier 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Cebu region of the Philippines. While relief efforts are already underway to address the immediate needs of the victims, the long-term repair of the infrastructure ravaged by one of the worst storms ever recorded will take months, no doubt years.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a plenary session last week in Baltimore, called for a nation-wide response of solidarity in prayer and material support for the victims of this horrific disaster. In our own diocese, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has asked that every parish take up a collection as soon as possible.

Fortunately, Catholic Relief Services can be counted on not only to ensure every dollar is directed to where it is most needed right now, but also that the assistance continues as the process of reconstruction goes on. As we prepare to thank God for our many gifts and blessings this Thanksgiving, how can we refuse a generous, even sacrificial response to this appeal?

Nature itself now, as the Scriptures portend, effectively underscores the urgency of the Gospel summons to abandon any idols of earthly security if Christ is to be our true Savior, the King of our hearts. Now more than ever, we are being asked the fundamental question: Where are our lives actually going? For what or whom are we living?

When faced with sudden, unsettling reminders like this of our vulnerability, even though many readers will not have the immediate ties of family and friends that the Filipino members of our parishes do, we are joined by fellowship in the Body of Christ. This is a true test of the authenticity of our Christian faith: how we respond in charity to a clear and present cry for help from the Lord who seeks comfort from us in His suffering children. The “how” is not about how much but about “whether,” however little.

Fear and despair in the face of catastrophe, no matter how daunting, is never a Christian option. We are confident that the depth of our solidarity will give honor to the character and strong soul of the Filipino people of whom Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu said, “No calamity or natural devastation can quench the fire of our hope.”

May our works in response to this appeal be a rallying cry for our faith in the Lord!