Keep the Fire Burning

Signs in the Sun and Moon

There is a moment in Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel The Road when a character says, “Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” Like the depictions of hell in Dante’s Inferno, it is not hard to picture what the Apocalypse might entail. In fact, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us some hints. He says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Lk. 21:25-26)

Response to the Apocalypse

There is certainly no shortage of apocalyptic moments in the news or media. Hurricanes, floods, fires, and water shortages – all keep before us the specter of climate change. Wars, violence, and upheaval (even inflation!) give us the uneasy feeling that the bottom is falling out of things. At times, there is a sense of vertigo. What is our response? Jesus says, “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is near at hand.” (Lk. 21:28) There is a calm, a reassurance that all will be well if we follow the “instructions” about which St. Paul speaks in the Letter to the Thessalonians. There is a sense that the Lord will keep the promises referenced in the reading from Jeremiah, that “[i]n those days Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” (Jer. 33:16)

Do Your Work Well

That is, if we remain “vigilant” and pray, if we keep doing what we need to do with an attitude of listening for God. There is a quote from Thomas Merton that expresses this well: “When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time; you do your work well.” There is need for concentration, for faith, for contemplation but not for fear. We keep the fire burning and unlike the man in the dystopian world, we don’t keep it hidden, because we want to bring as many people as we can to stand with us before the Son of Man.

[Readings: Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3:12—4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36]

Sister Veronica Schueler, F.S.E.

Sister Veronica Schueler, F.S.E. is the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, where her responsibilities include oversight of the archives and general record-keeping, as well as mission outreach. She is also the Episcopal Delegate for Religious Communities and for Catholic Health Care. She earned a certificate in bioethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center and is engaged in addressing bioethical issues for the Archdiocese. She graduated cum laude from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in 1993. Admitted to the bars of several states, she has 15 years of experience practicing immigration law. She is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, a pontifical religious community with its Motherhouse in Connecticut and a local center in Bridal Veil, Oregon.

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