Readings: Malachi 3:19 -20; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
Why Are You Afraid of Dying?
1. It is reasonable to say that those who are afraid of dying never lived well or to the fullest. This would mean that we have not been able to do all that we planned to do or accomplish all that God intended for us to achieve before our demise. The Bible warns, “But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the honorable age comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age.” (Wisdom 4:7-9). It doesn’t matter when we die, but that we lived well and left a legacy for others. Our life must give meaning to others. Hence St. Paul reminds us, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord.”(Rom. 14:7-8) The question then is, “Why are we afraid of dying?” What would you do if you were told you would die today? I am sure you would do everything you can to stop yourself from dying. But why would you postpone doing good till the end? Today’s readings address the end time and the four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. The first reading states: “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 predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which 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.” The temple was indeed destroyed seven years after the prediction.
2. We are often mesmerized by monumental and imposing structures of churches, basilicas, temples, cathedrals, and buildings of worship in this and other countries of the world. I often wonder whether those structures reflect the builders’ intention – raise people’s minds and hearts to God and make them reflect on the divine and heavenly realities. Did the temple Christ lament over 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). The temple did not represent what it was meant for, a house of prayer, a place to communicate with God and be at home with him and his sons and daughters. They had turned it into exclusive use for their selfish purpose. They had basically driven God out of his house. God’s house had become a market square. There were many cases of abuse in that temple, even as it looked beautiful and well-adorned both in and out. The time had come for them to pay the price for their recklessness. Punishment and destruction await those who do not make use of the opportunity God has given them to do what is right. The day will come, blazing like a furnace, to consume those who are hellbent on doing evil. 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 and in truth? Do we lack forgiveness, compassion, and mercy within the house of God? Do we welcome all who come to worship God, regardless of status, clout, race, or appearance? Is this why our Church is empty? What have we done wrong? What must we do differently? Should we fold our arms, walk away from our Church, and allow it to be closed? What is Christ saying to us about our Church and its future?
3. Maybe we have erected some structures for ourselves that make it difficult to surrender to God. Academic achievements make us look down on others; our jobs have become our God, so we have no time for God and Church. Our social status could make it a challenge to be open to others. Pride can prevent us from seeing God and others. It may have taken us years to accumulate wealth, build our empire, construct our temple, and attend to our social status. Still, if we do not see Christ in them, Christ will say, “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.” When our temples and achievements become so superimposing that people can no longer see God except in and through them, those structures must be destroyed. Our Christian teaching and faith demand that we recognize the presence of God in one another as well as in the temple where God is worshipped. This is the true religion, worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
4. The readings remind us that our time on earth is short. Christ will come one day soon; therefore, we must be prepared. This knowledge doesn’t mean that Christ is coming today or tomorrow. It could be any day! Therefore, Christ warned, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Please do not follow them! Do not be terrified when you hear of wars and insurrections, for such things must happen first, but they will not immediately be the end.” (Lk. 21:8-9). We should, therefore, live our normal lives and be engaged in sporadic acts of kindness. Pray at all times and be committed to your faith. Do not be overanxious about the end; live as if the end is now. Do not be afraid! The day we die is the end of the world for us and the beginning of a new life with God. May God bless us now and always. Amen
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.
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