That is a mighty gospel reading that we heard today, Jesus’ reminder about what the end would look like. In this month of November, as we’re coming towards the end of our liturgical year, a lot of our readings are talking about the end times. And so we have this gospel about what the end times might look like, and they are not pretty. I hope that we never see the end times like that. Sometimes, we think we are in the midst of it, but I don’t think so. We continue to live life lovingly and generously.
But thinking about the end times is something that everyone does, even priests. And there’s a great story about this one particular priest who was thinking about the end times and what kind of place God had prepared for him in the Kingdom of Heaven. He was pretty presumptuous to think he was gonna be in Heaven, but sure enough he made a deal with God. And this is the deal that he made with God. He said, “God, I’m presuming to be in Heaven, I’ve lived my life faithfully for all my years. Tell me for sure if I’m gonna be in Heaven, and if you wouldn’t mind, tell me who is gonna be at my right-hand side, who will I sit next to in the Kingdom of Heaven? Who will I sit next to?”
God saw fit to grant his wish and said, “In fact, you will be with me in the Kingdom of Paradise and Farmer Joe will sit next to you.” Well, the poor priest had no idea who Farmer Joe was, so he wanted to figure that out. So he set out going from village to village to village looking for Farmer Joe. Well, sure enough, after the 18th village that he visited, he finally came upon a village where he found Farmer Joe. And he asked in the town, “Is there a Farmer Joe here?” And they said, “Yes, indeed, there is a Farmer Joe. But Farmer Joe doesn’t go to mass every Sunday, he walks around with his tattered clothes, and he’s known to go to the bar once in a while. I’m sure you’re not looking for Farmer Joe.”
And Father said, “I’m looking for Farmer Joe, take me to his house.” They took Father to Farmer Joe’s house and he met Farmer Joe face to face. Farmer Joe was all powerfully humble. He knelt down, “Father, you’re a very popular priest, you’re well-known for your holiness and for your preaching. Why do you come to my house?” “Well, I came to meet you,” said the priest. “Well, this is who I am. I’m just Farmer Joe. I’ve spent the last 25 years taking care of my parents who are sickly, so all my resources go really to taking care of my parents and making sure they have everything that they need as they grow elderly, as they go into their old age. I love my parents. That’s why I have these tattered clothes. I spend most of my time taking care of them and my little farm. That’s why I am Farmer Joe.” And the priest looked at Farmer Joe and said, “It will be my joy to sit next to you in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We don’t know what the end times will look like. We don’t know what it’s gonna look like when Jesus comes again in glory. All we can do is, like Farmer Joe, is to do our best to take care of those entrusted to our care, be good stewards, to care for our brothers and sisters, to care for those we love. And then pray and hope that one day we too will take our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
In this month of November, as we end our liturgical year, let us recommit ourselves to preparing ourselves well for the end time. Farmer Joe did, the priest did also, and we too work very hard to renew our hearts and stay close to Christ Jesus all the days of our life. Then we too, like Farmer Joe and the good priest, hope to one day have everlasting life with Christ in Paradise. Can we recommit ourselves every day?