Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thess 3:7-12 Luke 21:5-19
An atheist was driving in the country when he came upon a priest and a rabbi standing on the shoulder of the road, fishing. Next to them was a big sign that read “Turn around. The end is near.” The atheist took offense at the sign, so he rolled down that window and shouted: “Don’t preach to me, you religious nuts!” A few seconds later the priest and rabbi heard tires screech, then a splash. The rabbi turned to the priest and said, “I told you we should’ve just written, “Bridge Out Ahead.”
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, against idleness, anticipating the end of the world. 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.
As Jesus proclaimed the kingdom, a question that came up frequently was “when is this going to happen?” Jesus made it very clear that no one can predict when it would happen. Yet, in every age some people have come up with predictions that pinpoint the exact time like the Mayan Calendar Prediction, End of the world in 2000, 2012 etc. Every one of these predictions have one thing in common: they’ve all been mistaken.
There is one thing Jesus did say most definitely, we must be prepared, for it could come upon us very suddenly. Remember the parable of the man who went away for a while and put this servant in charge of the household. The master expected his servant to do a good job while he was gone (Lk 12:35-48). Being prepared means, being ready to meet our maker at any time.
Speaking as a prophet, we hear Jesus in today’s gospel foretell the pains that would precede the birth of the kingdom. A discussion about the beautiful Temple leads into Jesus’ prophetic words. The Temple would be destroyed and catastrophic events such as wars and natural disasters will come and go, but the end is not yet. First the disciples would suffer for being Jesus’s disciples, just as Jesus would have to suffer. The powers of evil will not give up without a fight; the powers of evil will not frustrate God’s plan of salvation. For those faithful to God, not a hair on their head would be destroyed.
The church uses this gospel passage as one of its readings for the end of the liturgical year. It wants us to reflect on the end of the world. It wants us to reflect on that moment when the world, as we know it, will pass away. It wants us to ask ourselves, “How prepared will we be for that moment when it comes?”
Let us do this together, now. Let’s choose just one aspect of our Christian life. Let’s choose the most important one: Love. Let’s ask ourselves three questions about love. How loving are our thoughts – right now in our life? How loving are our words – right now in our life? How loving are our actions – right now in our life?
First our thoughts: Consider just one facet of them: How judgmental are we in our thoughts about other people? Do we tend to pass judgment on them – judgment that is often unkind and unfair? Second our words or speech: again let’s consider just one aspect of our words or speech. Do we use our speech to talk about the faults of others? Do we use it to gossip about other people? Third our actions: Again, let’s consider just one aspect of them – the one the Gospel says is the most important of all: helping other people. How much are we helping one another?
How prepared will we be to meet Jesus at the end of the world or at the end of our lives – whichever comes first? Let’s close with a prayer: Lord, give us a mind that will think thoughts that are kind and fair. Give us lips that will speak words that are true and charitable. Give us hands that will do deeds that are modeled after the ones you did for people in your own lifetime.