Stop. Look. Listen.

Railroad crossings in England have signs which warn: Stop. Look. Listen. These actions are intended to prevent motorists or pedestrians from being struck by a moving train. They might also be an appropriate response to Jesus’ words in today’s gospel.

Our Lord spoke of the end of the age: The good is separated from the bad; some rejoice, others weep. These words can shake us up and make us feel uncomfortable. But maybe that’s Jesus’ intention.

Heaven, of course, is where God ultimately wants all of us to be. At the same time, heaven is not presented to us as a guarantee. Not because God is vindictive, but because he respects our freedom. God is indeed merciful! At the same time, we cannot take God’s mercy for granted. Not because he’s going to take it away, but because when we take God’s mercy for granted, we begin to take God for granted. And that’s not where Jesus wants us to be.

Perhaps we can understand today’s gospel as an invitation to stop, look, and listen: Stop for a moment and examine our life; Look at how we live measures up with our faith; and Listen to Jesus’ words, then put them in action. Because if we want to be with God even a fraction of as much as he wants us to be with him, then the way we live will reflect our hope.

St. Therese of Lisieux put it well: “I will do anything,” she said, “for heaven.”

Photo Credit: myeralan via Creative Commons

7 Replies to “Stop. Look. Listen.”

  1. Stop, look, and listen and put Jesus’ words into action. That’s what it’s all about.
    That’s what our Holy Father refers to as “evangelization”, his plan for Europe. It is just as needed for us
    here in the US. I was so moved by the recent video of the Franciscan friar in Preston, UK holding up a small
    monstrance in the town square and intoning “kneel and adore”. That’s what I call witnessing your faith by those who did indeed do so.

  2. One of my father’s more terrifying business-trip moments was when he flew into London, and drove a group of colleagues to the hotel. There he was, travel-weary, having to remember to drive on the left side of the road. If memory serves the poor man even had to drive through a roundabout. The drive was a white-knuckle experience for him because he was responsible not only for his own safety, but also for that of his passengers.

    I myself have never had the experience of negotiating my way through London or anyplace else where the traffic is on the “wrong” side. I imagine that most Americans have their share of close calls, given that we’re so habituated to our way of traveling. One may look to one’s left before stepping into the street and not see the lorry barreling down from one’s right!

    We take it for granted that we know how to avoid particular dangers, but we can be as blind and deaf to some dangers as my hypothetical pedestrian is to the lorry. We need to be reminded by the Church to “look out!”

  3. esiul- the Church does indeed exist to evangelize, as Vatican II reminds us.

    Cynthia- I can relate. I lived in England three years myself, and it’s a challenge driving on the other side of the road.

    1. Reminds me of being in London in 1990 when I was between planes on a trip home from Kiev. When I was about to cross a street I looked to the left and, seeing no vehicles approaching, I looked down to check the curb (kerb) height before steppng down and saw a sign and an arrow that instructed me to look to the right. I did so and saw all these cars coming at me.
      Sure grateful for that sign.

      1. Cynthia and Peter- I think I see homily illustration potential here…

  4. We are having a youth club meeting. The theme is Railroad Night, “Stop, Look, & Listen”. This message appeared at many old railroad crossings because of the danger that exists. In some rural areas these signs still remain. God’s message also remains, danger exists if we ignore his message of salvation. The danger is, Heaven is not guaranteed. John 3:3; Ye must be born again. Only Christ can save us from our condemning sin and make us a new creature fit for heaven. In the railroad language, Christ is man’s only ticket to heaven, but many are riding the train to eternal damnation. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father (God) but by me (Jesus).” In the book of Acts, Paul told the Philippian jailer, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

  5. Indeed, James: we can apply the “Stop, Look, and Listen” principle to both the spiritual life and railroad crossings!

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