“The Seasons of Life”

  1. Is 64/Mk 13

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

“The Weather” is what’s called a “neutral” topic of conversation.

You can meet someone at a party and the two of you can amiably make remarks about the weather outside and discuss what the forecasters say will be coming tomorrow – all without worrying about getting into an argument. We can talk about this topic with anyone, whatever the other person’s politics or religion.

Weather is a nice, neutral subject because there is always weather out there! The seasons always change, and the changes demand that we wear certain clothes and make certain plans, depending on whether it’s warm or cold, rainy or snowy.

Now, the weather is alluded to in both the Old Testament and Gospel lessons today. But these references aren’t mere conversation.

In the Old Testament Lesson, the Prophet Isaiah writes:

“We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

For Isaiah, the wind is an image of the transiency of life. As the autumn wind blows the leaves from the trees, so we are carried off by our sins.

And in the Gospel text, Jesus refers to the signs that we see in nature when there is a change of season: “From the fig tree learn its lesson:” Jesus says. “As soon as branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.”

Jesus then compares the signs of approaching summer to the signs that the “Son of Man” will appear. He says, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the Son of Man is near, at the very gates.”

In other words, Jesus is saying that just as we see the new leaves on a tree, and we realize that summer is approaching, so we will notice signs that God’s judgment is about to be delivered upon the earth.

Father Alan McCormack observed last Sunday in his guest sermon that the lessons for the Season of Advent in the Church Calendar focus on somber topics like judgment and death and heaven.

These readings prepare us for our celebration of Christmas because they make us reflect on God’s plan for the world. As the Christian story begins with Christmas, so the story will end when the Son of God pronounces the final judgment on the world and the eternal destiny of everyone is revealed.

Just as the new leaves on the fig tree are signs that summer is near, so the birth of Christ is a sign that God’s Messiah has come into the world.

But as we pass from thinking about the macrocosm of Creation to the microcosm we ourselves inhabit—from the course of the universe to the course of daily life, we can ask whether divine signs ever appear in our own lives?

Suppose that something unfortunate happens to me. Is that a bit of bad luck—or is it a sign that God is judging me? Is my new problem someone else’s fault—or a sign that God has concluded that I am a sinner and therefore I need to be punished? In general, then, does God have anything to do with the unfortunate events that happen in my life?

Most of us have felt at one time or another that we were getting more bad news than we deserve. So much was raining down on our heads at one time—illness, money problems, conflicts with friends–that it seemed to us that our suffering couldn’t have been just the result of our own mistakes. So we might have concluded that there was a supernatural power behind our misfortune.

But, I think that there are several responses that can be made when we have this feeling – responses that make God look better!

First, we need to be very careful about thinking that events that occur in our lives must have been the result of the actions of the Ruler of the Universe. This side of heaven, it’s hard to be sure that a particular event in our lives is “God’s will.”

Of course, some conclusions about the effects of our own behavior can be made. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that helping a friend move furniture might be pleasing to God. Nor is it hard to anticipate that an evening spent drinking oneself into unconsciousness might not be what God intends!

But, in general, the world is just too complicated for us to be able to make predictions about events like earthquakes or bad weather or sickness.

That said, however, we can be pretty sure in making another prophecy: there will be seasons in every person’s life.

Those of us who live in the Northeast experience a climate that features definite seasons. We may not always like the extreme versions of these seasons. During the sultry August heat, we may long for the cool autumn. During a brutal January snowstorm, we may wish for a mild day in June.

Yet, as the Bible reading suggests, changing weather reminds us of the changes of life. Jesus said, “As soon as branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.”

The seasons of life are always changing. There will be good days and bad days.

So we need to see God’s blessings when we’re enjoying a good day. And we have to have faith when we need to endure a bad day that God is still with us.

We can also be grateful that God doesn’t intentionally afflict us. And we can appreciate that behind the changes and chances of life—whatever happens–God remains forever the same.

“Now thank we all our God.”

And now unto that same God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.

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