33rd week of OT year C 2013:
I was away from the office most of this week on retreat. It was a nice time of prayer and reflection. I had a chance to pray a bit over these readings today. Jesus sends us a dire warning about the end of the world: not a stone will be left standing. Then when I get back from retreat, what did I see but that part of the steeple had fallen off. I thought that perhaps the end of the world was upon us! But, fear not, we will fix the steeple.
Still, the end of the world is upon us. Whether it comes today or in 10,000 years, we are called to be ready for the coming of Christ. Every week when we gather here for Mass we pray our creed that states that Christ will come again. But, it can be quite easy for us to get a bit complacent and relaxed. Sure, Jesus is coming again, but it’s been 2000 years, I doubt it will be today…
This is why the readings of the Mass always turn toward the end times during the last several weeks before Advent begins. Built into our church year is a yearly reminder that we do indeed await the end of the world. That this current world is passing away, that our hope has to be placed on Christ. For Christians, the end of the world should not instill fear or anxiety, but joy and hope for we know that the end of this world means the coming of the new world.
Still, just thinking about the end of the world probably makes us nervous. And, just think of some of the things Jesus mentions about the end of the world: natural disasters, we just had the horrible typhoon in the Philippines; persecutions, the US bishops just put out a statement detailing how the HHS mandate for contraception and abortion coverage is a blatant attack on our religious liberty; nations against nations: we only have to turn on the news to hear about violence, war, oppression. Yes, indeed, things can look quite bleak.
This is why our readings today are so important. Of course things look bleak in this world, this world is passing away. If we put our hopes in this world we will be sorely disappointed, but we put our hope in something else. In fact, we put our hope in someone else. Jesus Christ is the son of God, in him we put our hope and our trust. So in the midst of the turmoil, violence, persecution, and disasters of this world, we turn to Christ.
Today in the gospel Jesus outlines all the many tragedies and all the violence and turmoil that will come before the end, but along the way he gives us three very interesting commands if you listen carefully. First, he says do not be deceived by many false witnesses. Second, do not be terrified. Third, he says remember.
First, do not be deceived. Don’t go crazy looking for the end times. You might see shows on TV about the end times, or hear scary stories about the end times. Do not be deceived, stick with Christ. Everything else causes anxiety and stress, but if we listen to Christ we will have peace.
Second, do not be terrified. Jesus knows that thinking about the end of the world is frightening, this is why he gives us this command. Is this an easy command? No, this is why we need to foster a deep relationship with Christ. He will give us the strength not to be terrified in the presence of whatever we have to face in life.
Lastly, Jesus says remember. We have to remember the good news. The end time is not about the turmoil that will happen. It is not about earthquakes and floods. The end time is about the resurrection. It is about the kingdom of God, where justice will reign for all eternity. This is why St. Paul tells us to work quietly. For while the end of the world may indeed be upon us, we remember the good news and we keep following Jesus without fear.