33rd Sunday, O T Year C – 16
Mal.3:19-20/ 2Thess.3:7-12/ Lk.21:5-19
Grandma told her little grandson: “Be a good boy. At the end of the world all the disobedient and bad people will be cast into fiery hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The little boy raised an intelligent doubt.
“Grandma, you don’t have any teeth and you always quarrel with others. How would you gnash your teeth when you are cast into hell?” Grandma replied: “You naughty boy, don’t you know that teeth will be provided in hell.”
The central theme of today’s readings is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory, as Judge, at the end of the world. They warn us about the final days of the world, our own death and the final judgment.
Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, which will bring healing and reward for the just and punishment in fire for the “proud and all evil doers.” Although St. Paul expected that Jesus would return during his lifetime, he cautions the Thessalonians, in the second reading.
Paul advises the Thessalonians that the best preparation for welcoming Jesus in his “Second Coming” is to keep working and doing one’s duties faithfully, as he did. Today’s Gospel passage clarifies that the date of the end of the world is uncertain.
One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is the fact that he or she looks forward to the judgment of God. The Christian is aware of the constant in-breaking of God into his or her life.
A true Christian sees this not as a threat or in negative terms but rather sees it as a summons, a calling, or as an invitation from God for us to grow. To believe in and assert that Christ will come again is to believe in and assert that we are in the process of becoming, in the process of growing and maturing, and that heaven can begin here on earth.
It is a tremendously hopeful vision. It gives us goals. It gives us something to work for. It gives us the power to overcome despair, hopelessness, and the inertia present when we hear ourselves saying, “What’s the use?”.
Life isn’t meant to be lived in the feverish pursuit of the approval of others. Life begins that way but heaven help us if it ends that way. On the day, I die I won’t care very much at all any more about what others may think of me.
What will matter very much is whether or not I have lived in what is right, what is true, what is just, what is beautiful, and what is noble. All of the times I prayed and lived “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” will be there with me.
You and I can work with inner peace. In spite of the most frantic activity and noise we can work secure in God’s judgment, with the peace that comes from knowing we are, in God’s eyes, doing what we must, and doing what is right.
Furthermore, we can work with receptive minds, minds that are quiet and able to listen to and perceive what is real in all that we are doing. All of that does not depend on what other people think of me. All of that depends on asking the question “Why did God create me and give me life?”
The Second Coming of Christ, the Last Days, the Day of Judgment, is always upon us. Today is a day of judgment for all of us in all that we do or say. It really isn’t very threatening; it’s more of an invitation.
And when we pray to God “Thy Kingdom come,” it can also be seen as an invitation, a seeking of that order of reality that is divine. Isn’t that the best way to always judge things, to judge my actions, my motivations, my loves, my relationships with others?
We ought to avoid the escapism of constantly dreaming about the future. Day-dreaming about the world to come, or the person I fancy I am going to be, is out of touch with the reality that is the world as it is here and now.
It is also out of touch with the judgment of God that is upon us here and now. There comes a point when we have to get off of the merry-go-round and look at where we are in relation to the past that has brought us to this point and look to the future that calls us to act the way we do today.
I am what I am based on the many, many decisions that I made in my past. I also am what I am based on my vision of the future, based on what my life will say to God when I am called upon to give it over to Him. He gave me life. The question I must answer is “What did I do with it?”
Your life here is very real. You cannot say to yourself: “Well, I’ll really begin to live when I retire.” If you think that way then you’re deluding yourself… you are trying to escape the judgment that must be placed on what you choose to do in the here and now, on the life you are living in whatever occupation you now find yourself.
What other think is of some value, of course? It always is. And God can be judging you through, with, and in them. But the ultimate reality is that you must be a self-actuating, mature, and independent person who has met the challenge of becoming a true son or daughter of God… the way Jesus did.
Like our great heroes and heroines of the past, we have to have the courage and strength to stand alone and be judged by God alone. What we consider today is the First Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.”
It is God who ought to be the ultimate judge of our worth and our deeds, not others, and not just ourselves. And so, you and I, especially in these times, are called to give witness, to give testimony in our world, in our times, that God is the judge of all things.
We need to be prepared daily for death and judgment. The ideal way to accept Jesus’ apocalyptic message is always to be ready to face our death. We must live holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness, remembering the demands of justice in our day-to- day lives.
We must also take time to rest and to pray in order to keep our hearts alive to God’s presence with us and within us. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime, asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, also prepares us to face God at any time to give an account of our lives.
We are to persevere in our Faith, despite worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs.
Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus our Savior. Amen.