November 13, 2022: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
The end is near! In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world. As he traverses the Temple terrace he says: “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…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Lk. 21:5,19) Not only does Jesus predict environmental turmoil, but he also foretells of coming persecutions, wars, and civil unrest. “They will seize and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.”
Though unsettling, Jesus reveals these things as a source of ultimate hope in God. In this way, he is echoing the first reading from Malachi who begins with a pronouncement of doom and yet concludes which the hint of healing hope: “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. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Mal. 3:19-20a) The other side to the stark reality of the end of things is the hope that we have in God’s victory.
As we near the end of the calendar and the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year on November 20, 2022, we reflect on the Parousia (the 2nd Coming of Christ in Glory). Traditionally, the Church refers to these realities as the “Four Last Things”: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Every Fall, our year-end liturgies confront us with the facts: we will die, we will be judged, and in the end, we will live forever with God in heaven or apart from him in hell. No matter our station or vocation in life, these are the facts. And yet, the Church does not present the four last things to arouse anxiety, distress, and fear. On the contrary, we reflect on death and judgment in light of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Just as in Adam, we all die, so too, in Christ we will be raised. For those who believe, meditating on death and judgment is not a morbid exercise but rather, a spiritual practice meant to awaken the virtue of hope. For love is stronger than death and so, for the baptized, death is not the final word. In death, our life is changed not ended. Certainly, Christ warns us that we will be accountable for all the time, talent and treasure we’ve been given. And it’s a sobering thought. In the piercing rays of the Creator of light, there will be little room for rationalizations and excuses. And yet we believe that, even in judgment, God’s mercy conquers all sin and shame, if we are open to receive the warmth of his love. For the fire of God’s mercy heals even our deepest wounds. We approach the final realities of death and judgment with the hope that our earthly end will be beginning of everlasting joy.
~ Fr. Michael