I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
Since its inception the United States has been a nation of expectancy. Woven into our cities' names like Providence and Los Angeles and New York are promises of new days and better times than we have known. Always, it seems, the now is running out; the future is hurtling toward us.
This expectation has been tempered by a second confidence, that with prudence and discipline and common purpose we can build better cities and states, and make of them a better nation.
Saint Paul's exhortation -- that we should not be overwhelmed by present emotions, be they sorrow or gladness, need or desire -- found a welcome in the pregnant possibilities of the future. We'll allow our young couples to enjoy their wedded bliss; we'll allow our widows to grieve their spouses and our merchants to make their profits, but not for long. We must never forget we're building for tomorrow.
This idealism seemed to work well until certain unresolved conflicts caught up with us; specifically slavery, the Civil War and racism. When we integrated our schools in the 1960's, at the behest of the Supreme Court and in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence -- "all men are created equal" -- we stopped investing in those now-integrated schools.
Recently we've been stunned by revelations in Baltimore, that the public schools cannot provide warm, dry, safe classrooms for the children. I saw that and worse in Louisiana twenty years ago, where no substantial money had been invested in the schools in thirty years.
But we've also seen that even modern cities like Houston habitually misplan as they develop homes in flood plains. Because a house is no longer a home but an investment, Americans cynically hope the hundred-year storm doesn't come before they have sold it to someone else.
That was not the apatheia Saint Paul had in mind when he reminded his disciples "the world in its present form is passing away." He insisted in his earliest letters to the Thessalonians on responsible work. If anyone supposed the end was near and they need not work, they should not eat.
Faced with the culture of death which promotes abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, guns and war; and descends inevitably into depression, avoidance of pain, drug abuse and suicide, Christians and Catholics in the United States rise to the challenge. Our faith arouses confidence, courage, creativity, hope, generosity and joy as we expect the future.
A crisis is an opportunity and Christians are nothing if not opportunists. Simon, Andrew, James and John saw opportunity in the person of Jesus. They could not imagine the future he would open for them. As fishermen they were ill-equipped to present a new story and a new religion to friends, neighbors, strangers and enemies. As the Lord passed by they had nothing but the unexpected, inexplicable Spirit that drew them to him. No matter -- they changed the world!
That Spirit is just as alive today as it was then, and just as eager to inspire.