Have you seen the news of the wildfires in California? It is being described as hell on earth. Almost eighty people have died. Over 1,000 people are missing.
The warning signs came very quickly, and then there were the signs to evacuate quickly. As always happens, there are people who choose not to evacuate or wait too long to evacuate. Before you know it, they are getting away too late.
I started watching videos on YouTube about the wildfires. Sometimes that is a big mistake because they suggest you watch a video, and then you just keep watching another one, another one, and another one. The videos were of people – some that died and some that survived.
They were showing cell videos that were taken and uploaded. One of the videos was of this woman who had waited to leave, and as she was leaving, there was fire everywhere. You were seeing it all throughout the homes and yards. She was driving in her car, and she is trying to drive away from the fire.
She drives through one tunnel, and then she gets to the next tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, it is bright white and orange. It is a blazing fire at the end of the tunnel. She continues to drive through it because it is the only way to go to escape the fire. People talked about other cars melting right in front of them.
I was watching an interview with another woman who survived the fire. She worked at a hospital. She had helped move everyone out of the hospital. After the evacuation, her car caught on fire. She felt the heat coming through the windows. She called her husband, and she said, “Honey, I just want to tell you I am going to die. Tell the kids I love them and know that I love you. The fire is coming and there is nothing to do.”
He said to her, “Do not just sit there. Fight. Get up and run.” She knew that if she sat there in her car, the fire was going to encapsulate her. She opened the door. She said the flame was so hot it burned her eyes. She had to close her eyes while trying to walk towards cool air. She had her eyes closed, she is breathing in smoke, and she is walking towards cool air until she finally walked into the back of a car.
She went to open the door and the handle came off in her hand. The door is melted. She begins walking again in the dark and bumps into the back of a firetruck. She gets inside the fire truck. She thinks she is safe, and the firemen called to the air and say, “We need to be evacuated. We need the water to be dumped right here on us.” The air supply said, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do.” She sat there in the firetruck.
Then finally out of nowhere came a bulldozer. They cleared a path, and they were able to get free.
She made it. We see so many that did not. It is a glimpse of hell on earth. This end of the times that we are talking about (we are coming to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time) gives us an opportunity to do a reality check and realize that we are in the storm.
Sin is just ravaging us. It is ravaging the church. It is ravishing us priests. It is ravishing the people. It is like a wildfire just going through. Sometimes we sit there in our cars or by ourselves and think “Ah, there is nothing I can do. I am going to die anyway.” We get to this point of ambivalence to sin. Meanwhile, it is a raging fire trying to kill us and take us down.
We hear in the first reading “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress”. All of us are going to face this moment. All of us are going to face this time where we come to the ends of our lives. For some reason, we think we do not have to evacuate. We do not have to turn away from sin in our lives. We get settled in our sin.
Then we hear Jesus warn us in the Gospel: “In those days, after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” We, too, are going to be blind. We have to know Jesus’ voice so well.
It is like that woman in the burning car who called her husband. If she would not have reached out to call him, she would have sat there and died in her car. The same is true for us. We have this communion, this connection, with Our Lord.
We can call out to him anytime and say, “Lord, I am in trouble here. There is this sin going in my life, and it is ravishing me or ravishing my family or ravishing my marriage or ravishing friendship. I think far too often, we think “I will take care of it later. I have got it managed. It is not that big of a problem.” Yet, the fire is just ravishing us.
I invite you to think about that as we come to the end of this Ordinary Time. This last Sunday, if you were to go before Christ right now, would there be any sin in your life that you know is destroying you? The tendency is to just sit with it. To continue to do it. To think, I will take care of it at a later time. Well, that later time is going to come, and it is going to be too late. Is there anything in your life that you are not doing that you know God is calling you to do?
The point of the readings this Sunday is to help us realize the gravity of this. We are in a firestorm. Sin is ravishing us, and we have to do everything we can to turn away from it in our lives and turn towards Christ because he is our king. He is the only way out of the darkness. Just like that woman that was blind and going by her feeling.
We have to go by that same faith. We have to trust in Jesus, walk towards him and turn away from any sin in our lives. Do not wait to evacuate. Do not wait to turn away from sin. Do it now before it is too late.