Composer Giacomo Puccini was stricken by cancer while working on his last opera, Turandot. He said to his students, “If I don’t finish it, finish it for me.“ Shortly afterward, he died. His students carried out his wish. In 1926, Puccini’s favorite student, Arturo Toscanini, directed the premiere in Milan. When the opera reached the point where Puccini was forced to put down his pen, Toscanini stopped the music, turned to the audience and cried out, “Thus far the Master wrote, but he died.” A reverent silence filled the opera house. Then Toscanini picked up the baton again, smiled through his tears and cried out “But the disciples finished his work!” At the conclusion of the opera, the audience broke into tumultuous applause. In a similar way, the Risen Lord commissioned his disciples down through the ages to complete his work. In the Gospel he says “Proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mk 16:15) While He promised to be with us until the end of time and promised us the assistance of the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt that he has placed the expansion of His Kingdom into our hands. The forgiveness of sins, the peace, the justice, the truth, the unity of all humankind, and all the other things the Lord came to establish are now to be accomplished through us, his disciples. He chooses to work through us, to use us for His purposes. In fact, the full coming of the Kingdom will not occur without our participation. Recognizing this, we need each day to consciously and deliberately commit ourselves to the building up of the Kingdom. We need to use the opportunities of each day for the work of the Lord. Each of us is in a totally unique place in all of history. What are we accomplishing where we are to finish the Master’s work?
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