17 November, 2019. 33rd Sunday (C)
1st Reading: Malachi 3:19-20
Responsorial: Psalm 97:5-9
2nd Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
Then he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”
Then he aid to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Reflexion: Judgment is coming
As we get older we grow more aware of how short is life and that before very long we will faced with the key moment of death. Last Sunday, our readings spoke about the after-life and urged us to entrust ourselves into God’s hands, for He is the God of the living. But how literally should we take what Jesus says today, about the end of time? Our Liturgy says that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the deat. But it is still impossible to know the details about the end of time. There are sects and groups who claim to know the exact date of the Lord’s coming, and the failure of previous predictions never seems to discourage them from settling on another date for Armageddon. More alarmingly, we live today under the twin threats of nuclear destruction and of global warming, with glaciers melting, ocean levels rising and some species becoming extinct through climate change.
Some street-corner orators delight in warning us about catastrophes about to befall the sinful world. Jesus warns against believing such vivid predictions. Even though he himself used the idea of the judgement day as a motive to turn people’s hearts back to God, he admitted that “no man knows the date, not even the Son, but the Father only.”
There are too many references to the Final Judgement in our Scriptures to dismiss it as merely a figure of speech. Many believers find it helpful to keep the Judgement-Day as part of their spiritual horizon. It is a way of keeping some balance amid our daily activity. Seeing our problems and our successes in the light of eternity (sub specie aeternitatis,) as Baruch Spinoza put it, helps us see everything as relative, and that God is the ultimate judge of all.
An advice much favoured by preachers was “Live as though each day may be your last?” Most people feel disinclined to think about the last things. But it is spiritually purifying on occasion, especially in November, the month for remembering our dead. Most days, like Martha in the Gospel we are fully occupied with what neeeds to be done in the immediate here and now, busy with many things. We can appreciate the practical advice given by St Paul to people who were looking out excitedly for the Lord’s return and neglecting to earn their living. “Go on quietly minding your own affairs,” he says, “and if anyone will not work, neither let him eat!” This is tough love, but it makes perfect sense for the life of the community.