Year C 33rd Sunday 2016: Armidale
The Liturgical Year is coming to an end. With the selection of Readings today Holy Mother Church takes this opportunity to draw our attention to the end of the World, to the end of our time on Earth and its opening up to eternity. It’s time for us to take stock of our lives: what’s the state of affairs in my life?
Businesses take stack at the end of the Financial Year, if not for good sense then because the Tax Office demands it! At the end of the Calendar Year newspapers and magazines like to print articles summing up the State of the Nation. And in the Vatican there is a long tradition of the Pope giving an annual Year’s end speech around Christmas time to all the Vatican Ambassadors and diplomats from around the world in which he sums up the global conditions in a kind of ‘state of the World’ address.
The liturgy today suggests we be no less practical and wise and take stock of our lives: what is the state of my life? Now is not the time for a cursory and perhaps slip-shod examination of conscience (Have I missed my morning prayers? Have I used bad words?) It’s the time for examining the trajectory of my life. Is my life truly on the right path? Am I buried in concerns of a purely material nature or am I seeking to love God and my neighbour and to put this love into practice every day? Am I a pilgrim on the path leading to eternal life? If I don’t make such a stock-take of my life because wisdom and good sense require it, then I should do so at least because Jesus Christ will one day demand such a reckoning in my judgement.
The Word of God reminds us in the First Reading that the day is coming when the arrogant and evil-doers will be burned up like stubble while the righteous will shine. Whist this is symbolic language, it nevertheless calls us to reflect upon the “last things” and to order our lives accordingly. Death, judgement, heaven, and hell: these are the final realities, the last things. We may not like to think much about three of them: death, judgement and hell; we naturally recoil from them. I think it was Saint Augustine who said: we can’t escape hell simply by disbelieving it (and I would add nor do we escape it by obsessing about it), rather, we escape hell by believing in its reality and directing our lives toward God and Heaven.
Today’s Gospel passage from Saint Like may at first seem to present the end of the World in rather frightening terms: wars, earthquakes, fearful sights in the heavens, plagues, famine, and persecution. But Jesus says of all this “take care not to be deceived”. The people of Palestine in Jesus’ time were familiar with all these things, they were a part of life. Sadly, they are still a part of life today and we are all too familiar with them. It doesn’t mean the world is about to end.
Jesus says “these are things that must happen but the end is not so soon.” They are part of the reality of living in an imperfect and fallen world; things we must live through as we await the coming of the Lord.
When I read the morning paper and watch the evening news it seems that our world lurches from one disaster to another and that our society is determined to plot its course without any reference to God. And when I read the Catholic Media I see something that the secular media largely ignores: that the persecution against Christ’s faithful followers seems not to let up but becomes more and more constant and in some countries even more and more violent. In such a world we can be tempted to give up or even to despair.
But it does help us that Jesus knew it would be so. He saw it coming and he warned us. And he assured us that he would be with us and not desert us. Others may hate us on his account but not a hair of our head will be lost! And we should not despair of the situation nor the difficulties we face because he assures us that “your perseverance will win you your lives.”
As I take stock of my life today nearing the end of another Church year and to set my life on the right course for the new Church year ahead I ask whether I am growing despondent about the state of the world and whether in the face of the growing hatred directed against Christians I am trying to keep my head down and remain unnoticed. Or am I accepting the “opportunity to bear witness” to him and am I living in complete trust in God who said he would be with us until the end of time.