MEMORIAL OF ST. CECILIA, VIRGIN & MARTYR
Revelation 14: 14-19
Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God.
Psalm 96: 10-13
Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
Luke 21: 5-11
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven."
The readings today call us to contemplate the second coming of the Lord, the end of time as we know it, and Judgment Day. Many of us can relate to the disciples in the Gospel who asked Jesus when the events would take place that He was foretelling. We are also curious about when He will return, and, as we observe natural disasters, wars, and grave sin in our society, it is understandable to feel like His coming is right around the corner. Our feelings on this might also be mixed, vacillating between fear of impending judgment and desire for our journey through this vale of tears to be over.
As usual, Jesus does not directly answer the disciples’ question, but speaks to the root of the issue. He tells us not to be deceived, not to be afraid, and not to become preoccupied with the exact timing of the end. It is not His will for His people to be overtaken with curiosity over their futures. He does not desire us to fear anything in relation to this passing life, nor does He want us to dismiss our time on earth as a waste. Rather, He wants us to trust Him and to do His work in this life as we strive for union with Him in the next, knowing that our efforts on earth can have eternal value if done in Him.
Today we venerate St. Cecilia, a martyr of the early Church. St. Cecilia lived in a time of great darkness, when the Church was small and violently persecuted. Christians in this time were probably looking for the Lord’s return at any moment. St. Cecilia also faced uncertainty about her own future, particularly when a marriage to a pagan was arranged for her against her will. But she trusted the Lord, witnessed the faith to her husband, leading to his conversion and the conversion of his family, and bravely laid down her life for the Lord when that time came. She gives a shining example of how to look to the Lord in hope regardless of the darkness around us, and to keep an eternal perspective in one's earthly life. In this week between the Solemnity of Christ the King and the beginning of Advent, as we reflect on our finite lives in the context of eternity, let us renew our focus on the Lord and ask Him to show us how we can serve and glorify Him more completely in the time that He has been pleased to give us. St. Cecilia, pray for us!