In this time at the end of the Church year, God is trying to give us a sense of what matters, not today or this week or this year, but what matters forever. At the end of the day, what matters is what lasts, and what lasts is what is of God. Love matters. Truth matters. Kindness matters. Love matters most of all. We can spend so much time fretting over our to-do lists, our fears and anxieties, our grievances and complaints. So many of the things that we spend our time and energy on are fleeting, but God sees them all in the context of eternity. God is offering us the gift of perspective, a chance to refocus, to see time and the meaning of our lives a little differently. All these things will pass away, Christ tells us in the Gospel this week. At the end of the day, none of those things matter.
Last week a group of us from New Roads went to a conference called “Matter.” It’s a conference for church leaders, and it’s all about how much God matters in people’s lives, and about making church matter. The conference gave us the gift of clarity and perspective on what matters most for the Church--helping the faithful to grow in their relationship with God, and connecting with the people who Jesus called lost. It’s so easy for church leaders to get caught up in things that don’t really matter--to focus on crises that seem urgent but are not really all that important, to get stuck in old habits that don’t really get us anywhere. Not all these things are bad, but they’re all distractions, and as a Church we have to refocus all of our time, energy, and efforts on what really matters: Helping people to begin to know Jesus. Helping people who already know him to begin to follow him and love him. Helping people eventually get to the point of believing in a deeply personal way that at the end of the day, nothing matters more than Christ.
The jarring images in the readings this week--“a time unsurpassed in distress,” “everlasting horror and disgrace,” “the stars will be falling from the sky”--are setting us up for the beautiful season of Advent, just two weeks away. Advent is a time of preparation, a time to get our hearts ready for Christ. But it’s hard to be motivated to get ready for Christ if we aren’t aware of how much we need him. These readings give us a sense of how dark the world is without God; they invite us to consider how dark our lives are without Christ, so that we can enter into Advent with a sense of longing for him. The readings this week are helping us get ready to get ready.
Take your next step: At a time and place when you can be open to God, draw two big overlapping circles. Label one of them “Things that occupy my time and attention” and the other one “Things that really matter.” Fill them in with as many things as you can think of. In the overlapping space, write down the things that occupy your mind that also really matter. What are the things that occupy your mind that are really just distractions? Are there some things that really matter, but right now don’t get any of your time or attention?