33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C ~ November 13, 2022
PREPARING OURSELVES FOR HIS 2ND COMING
Last Sunday we reflected on the mystery of life and death that though we die but we live forever in the Lord. Our life on earth is a journey toward eternal life “never say this is our land because this land belongs to me, and you are just a traveller” as the Lord says in the Old Testament. The mystery of life and death is always difficult to understand but as a believer of the Lord we all know that “if we have died in him, we will also rise with him. Throughout our earthly life the Lord keeps showing us the signs to believe in him that he is the author of life and has died for us so that we “may have life and life in abundance”. I would like to share this story which I already shared during my Sunday homily so that we can prepare ourselves for his Second Coming into the world by seeing the signs.
Once lived a man who was very afraid of death. He always to thought “I could die at any moment, what should I do? how can I avoid death. So, he prayed and made friends with the God of Death. One day while talking, he said to the God of Death, “You do not leave anyone alive on earth. Someday you will take me with you…right? God of Death replied. “The one who is born in this world, must die. This is the eternal law of the universe and I have no option other than to take you with me. However, if there is anything other than that, you want me to help with, tell me.”
The man said, “Then, I only want that, you write me a letter days before coming to take me with you, so that I can complete all my works which are still pending. I can explain everything to my children, hand down all the responsibilities and business to them and use rest of my time, to worship God, before I leave this world”.
The God of Death smiled and said, “sure why not, I will send you four letters, not only one. Don’t worry, I will give you lot of time between each letter so that you can do the work consciously.” Man was very happy. He didn’t feel any fear of death like he used to have. He thought, “If I complete all my tasks before leaving, then the God will welcome into the company of saints”.
Years passed by, and finally the hour of death arrived. God of Death came to him and said, “Friend, now your time is over. Come with me. I can not leave you here even for a moment”. The man was shocked, he raised his eyebrows and said, “How can you call me your friend? Are you not ashamed of yourself for betraying me? You had promised me that you would write a letter before coming to take me with you”. But now suddenly you came to take me with you, without any prior notice, you didn’t keep your promise.
The God of Death laughed and said, “Friend, I sent you not only one but four letters, you didn’t pay attention even once”. The man said, “What…. but I didn’t even receive one? Do you have any proof that you send me letters?” God of Death said, “Yes I have all four letters with me, right now”. Then showing letter, God of Death said, “my First Letter was, when your beautiful black hair turned white. It was to warn you that you should do what have left to do. But you made your hair black again by applying artificial colour and until today my white letters are written on your head, lost in your dreams of becoming young again. A few days later I sent Second Letter, it was when light in your eyes began to dim. Still, by putting thick glasses on your eyes, you again started to see the world instead of closing your eyes from the world for two minutes and meditate on God. Even after this you were not careful, then I felt very sorry for your plight, as a friend, I sent the Third Letter. This letter was when your teeth were shaken and broke. You did not even respond to this letter but got dentures and forcible started savoring the material things of the world. I was very sad that I am sending you warnings, thinking of the way to tell you that little time has left for you, but you were always ready to take a new artificial path to ignore those warnings. As my Last Letter I sent diseases and pains but again you ignored everything out of ego”.
The man started weeping after listening about these letters sent by God and started repenting and admitted that he did not read these letters full of good warnings in ignorance. The man said, “I always kept thinking that from tomorrow I will worship God, I will spend my earnings in good works but that tomorrow never came”.
Today we are introduced to another phase of our life as we reflect on the Word of God. Holy Bible does prepare us for end time by showing us the ways to see the signs around us but most of the time we ignore the warnings and signs. Before we reflect on the Readings of this Sunday, let’s meditate on this very inspirational story: A few years ago, a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases in hand, moving quickly through the airport terminal, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding. All but one! He paused, took a deep breath, quickly assessed the situation — and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then, he returned to the terminal where the apples were still all over the terminal floor. The man was glad he did. The 16-year-old girl running the stand, he discovered, was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, all the while helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the rushing crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one caring for her plight. No one else, that is. The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised. These he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears. “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly,” he said. As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister…” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, “Are you Jesus?” He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered, stunned by the words. Then slowly, he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning in his soul: “Are you Jesus?”
We need to be Jesus to other people by becoming faithful to Jesus and his teachings. In several passages of the New Testament, the “Day of the Lord” is used to denote the Second Coming of Christ or, in the Old Testament, a day of judgment that would spell gloom and doom for those who have not been faithful to the God of Israel. The First Reading is from the Prophet Malachi (3:19-20A). The time is the early part of the 5th century BC when Israel was in great turmoil after the end of the Babylonian Exile. There was much corruption and unfaithfulness to God. The message here is that all humanity must eventually take sides to choose “good” or “evil” because “a Day is coming” when there will be a reckoning, and all must be judged. Today, we look upon this “day of reckoning” as the Last Judgment when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the “Son of justice” will sit in judgment over the “living and the dead.” This is when all mankind will be held accountable for their actions and omissions, their deeds and misdeeds.
St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd Reading that we need to work everyday to towards faithfulness in the Lord. Moreover, the Lord reminds us that though there will be persecution and sufferings, he will never leave us alone but will walk with us; “he leads me to the green pastures. In the Book of Revelation, we read “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (2:10).”
In the Gospel Reading from Luke (21:5-19), we hear Jesus’ prophesy about the great destruction of Jerusalem that was about to happen. All of this came about in 70 AD as a result of the persecution of the Christians, first by the Jews and then by the Romans. It was a Day of Judgment for the Jewish people who did not accept Christ; but it was not the end of the world. Jesus then goes on to talk about the greater Day of Judgment that we will all face some day, first when we die and then again at the end of the world. Jesus says: “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another”. Of course, they asked him: When will this happen? What will the signs be? But Jesus moves the focus from these secondary aspects i.e. when will it be? What will it be like? — to the truly important questions. Firstly, not to let oneself be fooled by false prophets nor to be paralyzed by fear. Secondly, to live this time of expectation as a time of witness and perseverance. We are in this time of waiting, in expectation of the coming of the Lord.
Jesus’ words are perennially relevant, even for us today living in the 21st century too. He repeats to us: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name”. This Christian virtue of understanding is a call to discern where the Lord is, and where the evil spirit is present. Today, too, in fact there are false “saviours” who attempt to replace Jesus: worldly leaders, religious gurus, even sorcerers, people who wish to attract hearts and minds to themselves, especially those of young people. Jesus warns us: “Do not follow them, do not follow them!”.
The Lord also helps us not to be afraid in the face of war, revolution, natural disasters, and epidemics. Jesus frees us from fatalism and false apocalyptic visions. The second aspect challenges us as Christians and as a Church: Jesus predicts that his disciples will have to suffer painful trials and persecution for his sake. He reassures them, however, saying: “Not a hair of your head will perish”. This reminds us that we are completely in God’s hands! The trials we encounter for our faith and our commitment to the Gospel are occasions to give witness; we must not distance ourselves from the Lord, but instead abandon ourselves even more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace. At the end Jesus makes a promise which is a guarantee of victory: “By your endurance you will gain your lives”. There is so much hope in these words! They are a call to hope and patience, to be able to wait for the certain fruits of salvation, trusting in the profound meaning of life and of history: the trials and difficulties are part of the bigger picture; the Lord, the Lord of history, leads all to fulfilment. Despite the turmoil and disasters that upset the world, God’s design of goodness and mercy will be fulfilled! And this is our hope: go forward on this path, in God’s plan which will be fulfilled. This is our hope which will never disappoint us.
St. Augustine reflecting on the Second Coming of Jesus says, “All the trees of the forest will exult before the face of the Lord, for he has come, he has come to judge the earth. He has come the first time, and he will come again. At his first coming, his own voice declared in the gospel: Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds. What does he mean by hereafter? Does he not mean that the Lord will come at a future time when all the nations of the earth will be striking their breasts in grief? Previously he came through his preachers, and he filled the whole world. Let us not resist his first coming, so that we may not dread the second.
What then should the Christian do? He ought to use the world, not become its slave. And what does this mean? It means having, as though not having. So says the Apostle: My brethren, the appointed time is short: from now on let those who have wives live as though they had none; and those who mourn as though they were not mourning; and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing; and those who buy as though they had no goods; and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I wish you to be without anxiety. He who is without anxiety waits without fear until his Lord comes. For what sort of love of Christ is it to fear his coming? Brothers, do we not have to blush for shame? We love him, yet we fear his coming. Are we certain that we love him? Or do we love our sins more? Therefore, let us hate our sins and love him who will exact punishment for them. He will come whether we wish it or not. Do not think that because he is not coming just now, he will not come at all. He will come, you know not when; and provided he finds you prepared, your ignorance of the time of his coming will not be held against you. All the trees of the forest will exult. He has come the first time, and he will come again to judge the earth; he will find those rejoicing who believed in his first coming, for he has come”.
He continues to say “He will judge the world with equity and the peoples in his truth. What are equity and truth? He will gather together with him for the judgment his chosen ones, but the others he will set apart; for he will place some on his right, others on his left. What is more equitable, what is more true than that they should not themselves expect mercy from the judge, who themselves were unwilling to show mercy before the judge’s coming. Those, however, who were willing to show mercy will be judged with mercy. For it will be said to those placed on his right: Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world. And he reckons to their account their works of mercy: For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink. What is imputed to those places on his left side? That they refused to show mercy. And where will they go? Depart into the everlasting fire. The hearing of this condemnation will cause much wailing. But what has another psalm said? The just man will be held in everlasting remembrance; he will not fear the evil report. What is the evil report? Depart into the everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. Whoever rejoices to hear the good report will not fear the bad. This is equity, this is truth. Or do you, because you are unjust, expect the judge not to be just? Or because you are a liar, will the truthful one not be true? Rather, if you wish to receive mercy, be merciful before he comes; forgive whatever has been done against you; give of your abundance. Of whose possessions do you give, if not from his? If you were to give of your own, it would be largess; but since you give of his, it is restitution. For what have you that you have not received? These are the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace, charity. Such as these, then, let us bring and, free from fear, we shall await the coming of the judge who will judge the world in equity and the peoples in his truth”.
Let us prepare ourselves to be with the Lord so that our lives may please him.
The following story will help us to understand ourselves in a better way.
There was a large group of people gathered. On one side of the group stood a man, Jesus. On the other side stood another, Satan. Separating them was a fence running through the group. The scene set, both Jesus and Satan began calling to people in the group. One by one, each having made up his or her own mind, went to either Jesus or Satan. This kept going for a time. Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did Satan.
One man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Jesus and his people left and disappeared, and so too did Satan and his people. The man on the fence sat alone. As this man sat, Satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost. The man said, “Have you lost something?” Satan looked straight at him and replied, “No, there you are. Come with me.” The man said, “But I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him.” Satan said, “That’s okay; I own the fence.”
“Whoever is not with me is against me.” – Jesus in Matthew 12:30
Other Sermons In This Series
February 24, 2023
September 13, 2023