Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior (Phil. 3:20)
Not only will we never sin if we remember the end (Sir. 7:36), but also we will look to the past, the present and the future with confidence and optimism. That is because we foresee that salvation is where the history of God’s people will end.
The definitive salvation that we anticipate ought to contribute, yes, to our despising, like Jesus, the shame and torment of the cross (Heb. 12:2). Without doubt, the abusive powerful people like Tiberius and Pontius Pilate as well as the opportunistic tetrarchs and high priests inflict much suffering. But for the true follower of Christ, the glory to be revealed is worth all the sufferings of this present time (Rom. 8:18). Convinced that the exodus from Egypt and the new exodus from Babylon prefigure and guarantee the ultimate exodus, the true disciple is consoled by Baruch’s words. He trusts the Lord who restored the fortunes of Zion and will restore the fortunes of the Church.
But to reap with cries of joy supposes sowing in tears. While awaiting the coming of the Lord, we are asked to remain in the faith that works through love (Gal. 5:6). Painful effort is required of us now if we are not to be tainted by the filth of wicked money or by the greed of foolish and unsustainable consumerism. It is not easy for us to practice justice. It is difficult and dangerous to denounce the injustices committed against the helpless. It is hard to live by the voice that demands repentance and preparedness.
And the present is really our field of good work. We return to the original sources and traditions so that their relevance today may be revealed; we project the future salvation to approximate in the present the conditions that will obtain when we receive full heavenly citizenship that is now within reach since Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom in our midst.
It is not a question, as St. Augustine points out, of complaining about the present time and longing for former times as though things were so much better then. The past serves as an example, so that we may be warned lest we be like those who turned back (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 4:11; 10:39; 12:16-17, 25).
It is not a question either of the future that makes us forget the present. Our looking ahead has nothing to do with escapism. We are not allowed to be idle or to amuse ourselves by meddling into others’ business (2 Thes. 3:6-12). We are forbidden even more to abuse masochistically the stewardship that has been entrusted to us (Lk. 12:45).
In effect, it is about partnership for the work of preaching the good news to the poor at Providence’ precise moment, to cite St. Vincent de Paul, not being either behind or ahead, but with our feet only in the place indicated by Providence. It is about continuing to attend to those who have nothing, leaving behind the old favoritism and straining forward to what lies ahead, to the discerning, face to face, the body that we now see indistinctly at the Lord’s Supper, to being known fully as disciples, because, like Jesus, we keep now the company of the poor.