“Carpe diem” – ‘Make use of the present day!’

A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for  Week 33 in Ordinary Time, Year C.
Malachi 3:19-20             2Thessalonians 3:7-12             Luke 21:5-19

We are on course for the end of the Church’s year. Every ending is always followed by a new beginning: whenever something ends, something new begins, and a new beginning always brings with it a new opportunity. Our determination to perceive each and every ending as an opportunity for something new would help us to change our whole life experience in the very moment that we begin a new chapter in our lives. Every ending that we experience in life is because something better is coming. We are where we are now because something in our past has changed. That is why it is so important that – as we look towards the end of our physical lifetime – we make profitable use of the present time, and therefore “Seize the day – carpe diem”.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus delivered a warning to the disciples (Luke 20:45) who were with Him in the Temple about its end: “ – the time will come when not a single stone [of the Temple] will be left on another: everything will be destroyed”. What is important here is that, in the present moment, we should “take care not to be deceived” into assuming that everything we see right now will last forever. Jesus instructs us to take care to grasp the present opportunity we have. “Carpe diem.”

The Temple was a building where God was worshipped and where God was present in Spirit (the Ark of the Covenant was sited in the Holy of Holies in the 1 st Temple). While the disciples were merely admiring the glorious physical features of the Jewish Temple, which was the place of sacrifice, Jesus identified the human body as the temple (“your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”, as St. Paul confirms in 1Cor.6:19) in which the precious soul given to us by God resides. After Jesus had driven out the traders in the Temple (John 2:13-21) and had responded to the Jews’ questioning, the Bible tells us in verse 21 that “the Temple He had spoken of was His body”. The time will come when our human body (as with the Temple) breaks down or is destroyed physically – and that is the ending which launches us upon a new beginning. The outcome of that end, however, depends upon how the body has been properly utilized in the present moment in doing the right and just things for God, the Church and for humanity.

How are you and I utilizing every opportunity we have now in the flesh to do the will of God? How much effort are we making not to be deceived or distracted on offering the worship and doing the good that is expected of us? “Carpe diem.”

The 1 st Reading today focuses on the day of reward, the end time, when the wicked will be brought to naught while the righteous (i.e. those who fear the Lord) will receive ‘the sun of righteousness … with healing’. The righteous are those who have made use of the opportunities in the present day, despite all its difficulties, in a way that is both pleasing to God and advantageous to humanity. The righteous are those who sojourn in this world with the Spirit of God within them. They are already fired-up by the Holy Spirit, Who guides them to make the most of every opportunity. The outcome for the righteous is that the eternal light becomes for them the healing ray of the Sun of righteousness for all the injuries inflicted on them in this world. But for the wicked – those who misuse the opportunities they are given, those who are cold-hearted towards the needy, those who inflict pain on other people and those who are full of sin – for them the eternal light will be like a furnace that will consume them. With this in mind, let us seize each of the opportunities we have now. “Carpe diem.”

The climax – the punchline – of today’s Gospel is when Jesus declared, “that will be your opportunity to bear witness.” When you are going through difficult times, each one of them is an opportunity for you to make a positive difference by adopting a positive attitude to any adverse or negative event or vibe you experience in this world (depicted here as being [brought] before kings and governors because of [His] Name). We have opportunities to grasp right now in order to make a positive difference through thick and thin as we wait for the end of all things. “There is a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and our specific time to make a personal difference is right now, before the end comes. “Carpe diem.”

This is the time for us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). The 2nd Reading, taken from 2Thessalonians, was written at a time when people, having heard the gospel, the Good News, were idly waiting for the rapture (‘the end’). Because they perceived the end to be imminent, they saw no need to work or do things. Jesus, however, did not give a specific time regarding the end but, rather, He said: “The time is near at hand” and “this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon”. St. Paul gave the Thessalonians a rule on utilizing present opportunities. He admonished them – and us – to imitate him in working and earning a living. There is no reward for laziness. We ought to keep on doing good works as we wait for the end. “Your endurance [in doing good] will win you your lives” (Luke 21:19) said Our Lord. “Carpe diem.”

No matter how lofty our position in life, how abundant our wealth or how young we look, all of these will ultimately either have to be left behind or degenerate. Our preoccupation should be with how much and how well we make use of the opportunities with which we are presented now.