Readings: Malachi 3:19 -20; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
What Would You Do?
What would you do if you were to know that you will die today, this week or next month? I am sure you would make preparations so as to be ready to meet your creator on the day of judgment. You may write your will and give your money away. You may go to confession, or may be, go for a retreat, or make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These and many other ideas are very good indeed, while you wait. But why would you postpone doing good till the end, with anxiety and the fear of death hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles?
Our readings today address the end time and the four last things that await us. We know, for a fact, that we will die. When? We know not. We know we will be judged. After judgment, there will be a verdict of heaven or hell. We know these because the bible tells us so. “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:19). In the Gospel, Jesus talked about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that took 46 years to complete: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” That temple was indeed destroyed seven years after the prediction.
It seems at times, we have been assuaged by structures without reflecting on why they were built. Did that temple raise people’s minds to God? Probably not. “Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” (Lk. 19:45-46). There were many other abuses going on within that temple, even as it looked very beautiful outside. What about us? Do we always conduct ourselves with decorum in the sacred place designated for the worship of God? We may be proud of our beautiful church, but does it reflect the glory of God? Do we worship God in spirit in and in truth? Are we lacking in forgiveness, compassion and mercy within the house of God? Do we welcome all who come to worship God, regardless of their status, clout, race or appearance? If not, the temple must to be destroyed.
Allow me to reflect with you on the structures we have erected, that may make it difficult to totally surrender to God. What are these structures? It could be our academic achievements that make us look down on others. We may have made our jobs a god, and so we have no time for God. It could be our social status that make it difficult to be open to others. It could be our monumental pride that stands so tall in us that blinds and prevents us from seeing God and others. It may have taken us years to accumulate our wealth, to build our empire, to construct our temple and attend our social status; but if we do not see Christ in them, Christ will say to us “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Fr. John Pichappilly, in ‘Kindle Your Spirit’ wrote “When a temple becomes so superimposing that people are no longer able to see God except in it, the time for its destruction has come. Our faith demands that we recognize the presence of God in the human person as well as in the temple.”
The readings remind us that our time on earth is short. Christ will come one day soon, therefore, we should be prepared. But this knowledge doesn’t mean that Christ’s coming will be today or tomorrow. It could be any day! Unfortunately, some people are so focused on the end of the world, that they even predict the year and the day it will happen. Christ warned, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” (Lk. 21:8-9). Therefore, we should live normal lives, be concerned about the basic things in life – caring for one another, being one another’s keeper; be prayerful and committed to our faith. Let us not worry about the end. It will come when it will come. If we go about our duties as Christians, we need not be afraid. We know that the day we die is the end of the world for us and the beginning of life everlasting with God.
In the second reading, St. Paul urged his listeners to imitate him in their work. Some of them had stopped work believing that the end of the world was imminent. “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” (2 Thess. 3:6-16). Being over anxious about the end of the world can be a distraction. The end will come whether we like it or not. We do not need to do great and extraordinary things just because we know we will die today or tomorrow and hope to squeeze into heaven at the nick of time. We should be doing great and extraordinary things as a way of life, from the day of our baptism till the day we die. A Christian should be found at his/her duty post 24/7. We do not put on Christianity when it suits us and take it off when it doesn’t.
Though the readings may have painted doom and gloom pictures about the end time; the earthquakes, the ominous signs, wars and insurrections, nations fighting against nations, persecutions, famines and plagues, betrayals and imprisonments, there are words of consolation and assurance for those who do the will of God. We must not be afraid. Fear is for the guilty. Worrying unnecessarily is for those who do not know their destiny or He who controls it. We do not worry about tomorrow because we know tomorrow is in God’s hands. Christians must not follow anyone with questionable predictions. We are not even to give a defense but “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Lk. 21:15). The first reading assures us: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Malachi 1:20). We must put our trust in the Lord and do his will at all times. According to St. Paul, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us?... No, in all things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:28-39). Christ put it even better “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk. 21:19). According to William Barclay, “The man who walks with Christ may lose his life, but he can never lose his soul.” So, let us do what Christ commands us to do. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk. 21:28).
Questions for reflection:
· What temple have I erected for myself that makes it difficult to worship God
· Why am I so worried about the end of my life?
· Do I worship God out of love or because I am afraid of hell?
· Do I worship God both in his temple and in my brothers and sisters?
“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn. 6:39).
“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning.”