We have come to the end of the year. This morning’s Mass is the last one before we begin the season of Advent with the anticipated Sunday Mass this evening. And the readings today provide a perfect transition between the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of another. Interestingly, they are the same. At the end of the reading from Revelation, we are reminded that the coming of Jesus is soon. The gospel tells us to be vigilant, to be watchful.
In education, teachers are taught the beginning and the end are important. It is important to being the class right. It is important to end the class right. The same is true for a unit, and for the school year. In fact, good beginnings and endings are important in many instances. We are told, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We are also told, “All’s well that ends well.” In many instances, when we start and end well, the stuff in between kind of takes care of itself.
What does this mean for our faith? Well, it seems to me, if we are watchful at the beginning of the liturgical year and are still watchful at the end of the liturgical year, then the time in between probably will be that way too. If we can find ourselves open to being watchful, to being ready, to preparing our hearts for all that God longs to do for us, then indeed we can be ready for something new.
At the end of something, we can also find ourselves ready to reflect on what has been. We think of a year gone past in both good terms and bad terms. We can be grateful for accomplishments and we can regret failures. Finishing a new sports season, completing a job, coming to the end of a project; these are all times where we can become reflective.
Being reflective about one things usually leads to hope for the future. We can focus on those things we want to do better. We can try to leave behind those things we failed at, those things for which we might be ashamed. Proper reflection can result in gratitude, while focus on the future can lead to hope.
This cycle of ending, beginning, ending, and beginning again is one we live out all of the time. While we can think of this cycle as a circle, we might be better to think of it as a spiral, moving more and more deeply into what is in the life of faith, a relationship with God. With each ending, we gain wisdom, and with each new beginning we have the opportunity to move forward to something really new.
The constant in a liturgical year of grace, one that ends, and one that begins, is, of course, grace. Let each of us be watchful each day of our lives to receive that grace of God that is always being poured out.