We gather today winding down our church year which will end next week with the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. Today on this 33rd Sunday in ordinary time we hear apocalyptic literature in the first reading from The Book of Malachi and Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke, the end of time on earth. Also of special interest today is the scholarly study of the end times, Eschatology, which is the focus of the last few weeks of the Church’s liturgical year.
Our mother church today reminds us we should daily be vigilant, expecting Jesus’ return each day, living a life of holiness and service as Disciples of Christ.
We hear some encouraging words from St. Paul as we begin to reflect on our readings today, the end of time and the role we currently play in our world today as His Disciples; “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all….so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also addresses the readings today with these words:
“Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.” (CCC 1049)
The Book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament was composed by an anonymous writer shortly before Nehemiah’s arrival in Jerusalem (455 BC). Because of the sharp reproaches he was leveling against the priests and rulers of the people, the author probably wished to conceal his identity. The Church’s use today of The Book of Malachi is also another indication that we are ending our Church year. Malachi is the Hebrew word for messenger and his words today are meant to trouble the comfortable who have grown lax in their faith, disillusioned. We must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The author of The Book of Malachi was proclaiming that people had become lukewarm in their faith after returning from exile and rebuilding the temple.
As humans and as practicing Catholics it is easy for us to grow lukewarm and lax in practicing our faith which includes knowing and following the 10 commandments, receiving Sacraments on a regular basis, growing in holiness by living a moral life of purity of heart, mind, body and soul.
C.S. Lewis wrote “one of Satan’s best tricks is to convince us that we have plenty of time”. In other words put off till tomorrow what needs to be addressed today concerning our spiritual health which leads to our spiritual growth in holiness, holiness that is needed for all Disciples of Christ to build up and increase the kingdom of Christ on earth in our families, in our work place, in our schools and in our communities.
Today we are reminded that our time on earth is short. There is an urgent need in today’s world, in our community to practice our faith our discipleship as a culture of life, love, peace, forgiveness, compassion and mercy; to help build a new earth fallen into sin. Our families, our community, our society, our country, our church needs us to help build a human family of holiness. Each of us has a role to play and our role is vital and critical in a world that Satan is trying to consume, referred to as the Church Militant, we are soldiers of Christ in a daily battle with Satan.
I remember two distinct things when I was taking classes at the age of 12 to be Confirmed. Our classes came from the Baltimore Catechism which many of you remember and were instructed in as well.
The first thing in remember is that the nun who taught our class was a good disciplinarian, who whacked me on the head a few times with her ruler for acting up in class. Don’t remember exactly what I did but I am sure I deserved what I got!! Secondly are the words that I was a soldier for Christ, words that have stuck with me even to this day. As a Disciples of Christ we all have a role in fighting for Christ, helping to bring goodness to our world which is being overcome by sin.
It is in living a saintly life that we can change the world, knowing that it is a challenge each day in our life. Jesus speaking today about the end times reminds us that physical structures will be destroyed and anti Christ’s will appear but do not be deceived. There will be wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome sights and mighty signs in the sky, do not be terrified. Some will be seized and persecuted, by governments, even by our own families and some will even be put to death while being hated by all because of the name of Jesus but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “by your perseverance you will secure your lives”, to be patient, to be steadfast and endure in goodness and holiness amidst all the tribulation around us.
Perseverance is an interesting word to reflect on for a moment. A word that for me sums up our reflection today.
For me it is a joy to live and work in the most awesome Cathedral in the world, all of God’s creation. To observe nature is an experience and a medium where we witness just how awesome our creator God is, from the lowest form of life to the highest form, humans. Observing some animals can be a lesson in the perseverance Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel.
One example is a squirrel this time of year. Squirrels persevere in gathering food for the winter, especially pecans this time of year. I was sitting in the yard under some of our pecan trees, praying and watching the squirrels. It dawned on me that they are doing exactly what God created them to do, to persevere in gathering pecans for their survival this winter, no matter what obstacles they encounter. Have you ever seen a crow and a squirrel fight over a pecan?
Have you ever had a problem with an armadillo in your yard? They dig holes and destroy flower beds, dig holes in pastures that you can step in and twist an ankle; they root up your yard all the while doing what God created them to do. They persevere in their daily task no matter the obstacle.
Honey bees are amazing creations of God. Do you know honey bees never sleep, they work 24/7 gathering nectar, pollen, taking care of the queen and the hive itself. They daily do what God created them to do.
My Brothers and Sisters we are God’s best creation. In the book of Genesis we read that God made us male and female in His Image. He created us out of love for love, to live a life of holiness bringing his love and goodness to all we meet each day and to persevere each day doing what we were created to do.
On the feast of All Saints our Holy Father Pope Francis was in Sweden on an ecumenical trip. During his homily The Pope gave to the world six new Beatitudes “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.” He listed them as:
Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart.
Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.
Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.
Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.
He closed by saying that “the call to holiness is directed to everyone and must be received from the Lord in a spirit of faith.” The saints “spur us on by their lives and their intercession before God,” and he added “we ourselves need one another if we are to become saints.”
My Brothers and Sisters we are His Body, persevering in a life of holiness and we need each other. Each of us has a role to play, using our gifts to be of service to our fellow man.
In closing we hear encouraging and mindful words:
Micah 6:8 “you have been told, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you; only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God”.
Matthew 24:36 “but of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone”; v42 “therefore stay awake! For you do not know on which day the Lord will come”; v44”so too you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the son of man will come”.
Our prayer today is that we may go forth from this Holy Liturgy and continue to persevere in a life of holiness by extending God’s love, peace, joy, mercy, compassion and forgiveness to all we meet.