Let’s consider our first reading for All Saints Day, from our favorite book of the Bible, Revelation…
Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God. (Revelation 7:3)
Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees. Yet. Wait to destroy it all. Wait to level the pillars of the earth. Wait to cast the stars down from the sky. Wait until the chosen people have been marked on the forehead with the seal of God.
“Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” With these words, and with the sign of the cross on our foreheads, we were confirmed as Christians. We cannot see the seal on each others’ foreheads now. But it is perfectly real and absolutely permanent.
The mark of fully initiated Christians cannot be seen by human eyes yet, but the angels see it. They see the cross of chrism that the bishop traced. The angels will see it there when our skulls lay in the grave. And we, too, finally will see it on our brothers’ and sisters’ foreheads—at the general resurrection.
So saith the angel sent by the Lamb of God: Wait, destroyers of the heavens and the earth! Wait. Wait until all the springtime confirmation Masses have taken place. Wait until everyone gets through RCIA. Wait until the last baby gets baptized. Then you can consume the earth in the great and terrible fire.
Scripture gives us our insight into this dramatic divine order: Wait.
We hardly need the Scriptures to teach us that destruction will indeed overcome the material cosmos. We see the force of destruction at work every day. Sometimes the force looms large, like a huge hurricane storm surge. On the other hand, more often we see the force at work in little ways. Things get old, fall apart, fail. Fan belts crack. Screws rust. Duct tape loses its adhesive power. Chaos sets in. Beautiful and complete wholes dissolve into piles of dust.
But the forces of destruction do not have infinite power. That is what we learn from God’s Word. The ultimate power allows destruction to do its work, but under this order: Wait until the people have been sealed.
The world will be purified by fire. Then the dead will rise again. The seal of the cross will mark the saints.
We live, therefore, in the gracious interval. We are living during time specifically ordained by God, ordained for one reason: our salvation. The love of Christ has given us the very days in which we live.
Why does this sacred time have light and sunrises and sunsets and autumns and springtimes? To build up the eternal city, to build up the kingdom of God for the day that will last forever, for the undying springtime that will never give way to a hurricane season. Every moment of time in our lives comes like a pregnant woman, ready to give birth to the eternity to come.
What does a saint do now, then? I protest that I myself don’t rightly know. But: Seems to me that a saint is simply a fully initiated Christian who greets every moment of time for what it is. Every second comes as a gift that God has preserved from annihilation. He has preserved it so that we could do something beautiful with it.
One thought on “Wait, Storm Surge!”
The saint probably does what three guys I knew in Guantanamo did in 1963 during he middle of a powerful hurricane, when they were caught out on the tidal flats when the storm surge hit. They clung on to the perimeter fence for dear life, and probably prayed a lot. Two drowned, one survived. Humanity and fragility seem to go hand-in-hand.
In God we trust.