Introduction: Each of the Three readings today has some reference to the End Times. Malachi simply states, “LO THE DAY IS COMING.” Earlier on in the second Letter to the Thessalonians 2:2 mention is made of the “DAY OF THE LORD.” In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, “BUT THE END DOES NOT FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY.”
Homily: I’d like to consider three things in today’s homily: 1) Why do we in our Church year consider the end times? 2) What are the scriptures saying about the end time? 3) What does it all mean for us today?
1) For us as Catholic Christians, we begin to know that when we hear these
readings the end is near. But for us it is not the end of the world as we know it, but rather the end of our liturgical year. Our Church year follows a systematic rhythm. This past year our featured Evangelist has been Luke. We began our church Year with Advent and featured Isaiah the Prophet, John the Baptist the Precursor of Jesus, and Mary, the virgin Mother of Jesus. Our waiting came to a joyful conclusion as we celebrated the birth of Jesus with the feast of Christmas. Very rapidly we passed from the Infant to the adult Jesus beginning his public life. (In my book JESUS GARDENS ME, I give some substance to the life Jesus might have lived in the “hidden life”. Learning from “Cross-Cultural Anthropology.”) During Lent we heard some of Jesus’ teaching, his parables, something of his miracles. (In my book I do an analysis for the parables in several different ways.) We relived again his Passion, Death and Resurrection. We enjoyed his Resurrection appearances and pondered their meaning. (The Resurrection of Jesus appearance to Mary Magdalene in the “garden” is a particular emphasis in my book.) We gathered with the early Church and relived the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As Church we pondered the continuing message of Jesus for our times as we continued to hear and ponder the Gospel of Luke. Today we hear of END TIMES.
In other words the scripture readings are reminding us that the world as we know it now will end. “The world we humans know is not the last stage of salvation’s story. At some point (I know not when) this paradoxical planet on which God’s images dance in delight and perish in pain, where a billion grow fat and a billion fall asleep hungry, where crucified love walks hand in hand with crucifying hate, hope with despair, this kind of existence you and I experience will not endure for ever. It is destined, if not to die altogether, at least to change radically.” (from a sermon by Walter Burghardt, SJ) Next Sunday is the very last Sunday of the liturgical year and we crown Christ as King. But though we celebrate the feast of Christ the King we don’t know when the end will come. God will come in majesty, power and glory. Such is the faith we proclaim after bread is transformed into the Body of Christ and wine into his blood when we sing: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!” But Jesus told the Apostles and us through Matthew’s Gospel 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” So we prepare to begin again and in two weeks celebrate ADVENT. The featured Gospel for this coming liturgical year will be Matthew.
2) What are the Scriptures of this day saying? Malachi reminds the people of his time and us that the day of judgement will come. A separation will take place. Matthew too reminds us of this in his parable about the sheep and goats. Malachi has the separation between the proud and evildoers on the one side / and those who fear my name on the other. The proud and evildoers will be stubble, set on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch. But for those who fear God’s name there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. Luke’s Gospel promises that not even death will harm us, “YET NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL BE HARMED. BY PATIENT ENDURANCE YOU WILL SAVE YOUR LIVES.”
Some of the Thessalonians, influenced by speculation on the end times stopped working. They became busybodies, running about in a frenzy and sponging food off others. Paul says that they are to learn from his example of working hard and earning the food they eat. Some of the community were agitated and terrified. Paul said, 2:2 “we beg you not to be so easily agitated or terrified¼Let no one seduce you.” In a way Paul is telling them to switch their attention from future dreaming to present meaning.
Luke’s community too was troubled by internal difficulties and external persecution. They had probably heard of the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. All this led them to conclude that the end times were near. Luke’s Jesus clearly says the end is not yet.
3) What does this all mean for us? We too at times feel that our world is crumbling, that our world as we know it is going to pieces. The events of September 11, 2001 had this effect on many people. But our world can feel like it is coming to an end in many different ways. My Dad’s sudden death by heart attack did this to me. There are other examples when it feels like our world is coming to an end: when a trust is broken or a relationship, when we experience physical illness or accident, when a person leaves, child, spouse, divorce, etc. The scriptures teach us: 1) we should not be unduly perturbed about end of the world announcements or predictions, 2) we should however remind ourselves that the time of Judgement will come for us, and the evil will be punished and the good rewarded, 3) We must not be like the idle Thessalonians. We should not wait idly for the coming of Christ. We must recognize Jesus coming in our midst and in the present time.
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