Today is the last day of the liturgical year (B for Sundays and Solemnities and II for weekdays). It means that tomorrow begins a new year in the calendar of the Catholic Church. Today, readings speak to us once again about the end. Jesus tells us in the gospel to watch what we watch. He tells us to watch what our hearts get interested in, namely debauchery, drunkenness and the cares of life. The things we are interested in can lead us away from God and lead our hearts away from God. In that case, the day of the Lord will come upon us like a trap. In order to avoid this, we have to make sure that everything and everyone we are interested in should in one way or another help us to be focused on God. Activities and interests that take our minds away from God are dangerous for us. We need to create a lifestyle whereby we can stay focused on the Lord and His coming will not come upon us like a trap.

A priest once discovered that many of his parishoners, especially the men, do not come to church regularly. When he asked why, he was told that the men drink a lot and they would rather be at the bar that come to church. From then on he started preaching against drunkenness. He was very successful in that many of the men started coming to church, but some of them would still go from the church to the bar. So, the priest wanted to get them to make a serious committment. He told them that anyone in the church who is still addicted to alcohol should take a bottle of his favourite alcoholic drink to the river and after making a promise never to drink again, should open the bottle, and instead of drinking it, empty it into the river, as a symbol of freedom from drunkenness. At the end of the mass, the choir director, who is also addicted to alcohol chose the following hymn:

1 Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod;
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

2 On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will walk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day. [Refrain]

3 Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we ev’ry burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown. [Refrain]

4 Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace. [Refrain]

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, but not that river where all the alcoholic drinks have been poured. The first reading speaks of the river that flows from the throne of God. This river is the waters of baptism. Most Catholic churches have baptismal fonts, from which water always flows. Others would have holy water at the entrance to the church, and people would sign themselves to remind them of their baptism. Most catholics would also keep holy water at home. This water washes us spiritually, it brings healing and helps our minds to remain focused on our baptismal vows to reject satan and accept Jesus. This river also has a tree planted in it, which bears fruits, the fruit of the Holy Eucharist. This is where we always gather to worship God. As long as we continue to gather at this river, we will not be surprised by our death, no matter how suddenly it happens. We will not be surprised by the coming of Christ, no matter how unexpected. The best way to stay awake is when we gather at the river. Yes, we’ll gather at the river, not the river of alcohol, or the river of worldliness or the river of debauchery, but the river of life, which flows from the throne of God.


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