I don’t travel too much anymore. I don’t look forward to it and I don’t enjoy it, especially now with the extra burden of all of the Covid restrictions, as necessary as they might be. When I do have to travel, I’m always anxious to get home again and to settle back into my routine.
However, I was watching a travel program on TV the other night and I started to think about the various countries I’ve visited in my lifetime when I was traveling more. I counted them – 18 altogether: Canada, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Portugal, Israel and Egypt. I don’t think I forgot any. (And no, Pittsburgh isn’t a foreign country!)
Most of these countries I visited when I was a student in Rome. Later, some trips were spiritual pilgrimages with a diocesan group, and others were mission trips I took as a bishop. But in every case, I know that I learned something new, broadened my horizons, and stored up lots of great memories.
As the Church nears the end of one liturgical year and begins another, we are reminded pretty clearly that our time on earth is very temporary and that we’re travelers just passing through. We are pilgrims eagerly looking forward to arriving at our final destination. The liturgy of the season speaks of the four final things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. And the readings warn us to always be prepared for Jesus to return, for we “know not the day nor the hour.”
The Feast of Christ the King reminds us that while Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, it’s not finished yet, and so we, as Christians, have a lot of work to do as we insistently pray for the fulfillment of the Kingdom. We hear Jesus describe the final judgment in graphic terms, when the Lord will hold us accountable for our earthly deeds and then separate the sheep from the goats. The Advent Season then directs us to the second coming of Christ, before it focuses on his first coming in Bethlehem.
The reality of the future should direct our present, earthly travels. We should live with a vibrant faith, avoid unhealthy attachments and passions, keep our problems in perspective, and always behave in such a way that we’ll not fear to present ourselves to the Lord when that fateful day, the dies irae comes. In short, we should never forget what our final destination is!
Something to think about: Are you ready to return home – heaven, that is?
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