And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.
Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned,
be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled
and to fall from your own stability.
But grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Jewish and Christian scholars agree that Jesus appeared during a time of high expectations among Jewish people. They may have disagreed about what kind of messiah would appear -- a priest or king? -- but they expected someone to appear very soon. Early Christians believed that Jesus had partially satisfied that expectation; it's fulfillment would be his Second Coming, which had to be very soon.
In succeeding centuries many Jewish rabbis played down that expectation. They don't know when the End will come and have found that expectations are always met by a false messiah who wreaks havoc, causes more harm than good, and disappoints everyone.
Christians have more often become wrought over expectations of the Second Coming, especially because it appears so often in the New Testament. Early Protestants savagely attacked magnificent Gothic churches in northern Europe and England because they feared the Lord might find them spotted and blemished. God help them if He should find these idols enshrined in paintings and statues.
The Catholic Church, witness through many centuries of these violent spasms, has traditionally dismissed any apparent signs of his second coming -- meteor showers, eclipses, comets, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars and rumors of war, etc. But we expect a second coming at any time because God is always near. We should maintain vigilance at all times -- sober and alert -- as the Lord urges us in the scriptures and liturgy.
So what if the Lord returned today and found a country aborting the unborn, discriminating against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, arming children to kill their classmates and teachers, using drugs and alcohol to avoid ordinary discomfort, all within a wide-ranging culture of death?
Given this dreadful state of the nation we should consider the patience of our Lord as salvation. And we should consider ourselves "forewarned." We remember Abraham's final word in the parable of Lazarus and Dives: "They have Moses and the Prophets; if they will not listen to them they will not listen to one who rises from the dead."
We should be "on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability." Instability is a human being's constant companion. We know this from watching children learn to walk and seniors maintain that ability. Even the sturdiest athlete stumbles and falls occasionally.
Stability in the spiritual life requires as much or more strength, agility, balance, attention and vigilance. Ordinary life is full of threats. We're assailed from every direction by unexpected grief, failure, violence, disappointment, economic disruption, bankruptcy, loss of housing, employment, friendship, and etc! People lose their balance often and then deny it! "I'm okay!" they say when they're not. Which of us hasn't landed by surprise in grave trouble?
Without the fellowship of faith to encircle us and pray over us as the disciples did for Saint Paul when he was beaten and left for dead, no one could maintain their faith. But within our community of faith we "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.