Homily for 33rd Sunday C: End Times, a Joyful Hope

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We are drawing near the end of the liturgical year and the readings orient us to end times, with events that give an impression of a horror movie. There’s a risk of considering the day of Lord’s coming as something to fear. However, we await the Lord in joyful hope –no reason to fear. Pray that we live each day as a preparation to welcome the Lord.

Watch and pray the end times are close

Bible reading

  • Malachi 3:19-20
  • 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12
  • Luke 21: 5-19

Look at that! Isn’t it beautiful?

When we are proud of something we have achieved we talk about it to others, we let others admire it. A student hurries home to show his good results to the parents; when you buy the latest phone or laptop you want others to admire it. And for those who have just completed constructing a house they will even go further to organise a little party to celebrate their accomplishment. Such occasions are marked by remarks like wow! Beautiful! Magnificent! This Sunday’s Gospel has something like that though Jesus’ response is certainly not a “wow!”

Nothing will be left! What a response!

Is Jesus being mean? Some people speak to him with pride about the splendour of the temple adorned with beautiful stones. “As for these things that you see,” he responds bluntly, “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Certainly, it’s not the kind of response you want to hear from your friend when you invite him to admire something. For Jews speaking of the temple in such manner is simply scandalous. Why?

It’s more than just a religious building

For Jews the temple is more than just a place where they gather to pray and to offer sacrifices. It’s God residence on earth, thus, the centre of the world.  The temple is the visible sign of God’s presence among his people. No wonder they invested their effort, resources and time to build the temple in 46 years. Even today when you descend to the foundation of that temple you just can’t but marvel at those colossal stones: 1m in width and 3m in length. The temple was a piece of architectural art capable of seizing the eye of anyone, even that of an unbeliever.

From stone to living temple

Certainly, Jesus shares the Jews’ reverence for God and the need to act in the manner that testifies it. However, he does not see things in terms of bricks or precious stones but rather a heart bent on doing what pleases God. Such difference of perspective, admittedly, can be a source of conflict. Indeed, later, his words about the temple will be among the accusations that would be raised against him.

But it’s not by malice that Jesus speaks of the Temple like that. In fact, he only affirms the simple truth of the finitude of earthly things no matter how imposing they may appear to our eyes. A stone may crumble any time but if you are well rooted in God –you are spiritual temple that lasts. Hence, such apparently shocking words of Jesus serve to raise awareness of the need to prepare for the Day of the Lord of which a magnificent construction in stone, no matter how precious, will not suffice.

We too should ask ourselves, what kind of temple do we take pride in? Isn’t our security not in what we have built by bricks or the amount we have accumulated in the bank? Try to invite Jesus to admire your achievements, imagine a bit, what do you think he will tell you? Will he applaud in congratulations?

Like for his listeners in the Gospel, Jesus invites you and I to revisit our priorities, our values. He wants us to reconsider those things we esteem as important. We will discover, perhaps, they are just bricks destined for destruction one day. It’s time to re-orient our eyes to something that lasts.

But the end times, when and how?

Alarmed, people want to know when will be the end of the world and what are the signs? But Jesus only asks them to be on their guard and let no one cheat them. We ourselves have known charlatans, and they are still there, who have thrown us into panicky with their predictions about the end of the world.  What’s essential, Jesus seems to say, is not to know when and how the end times will be but rather the quality of my life today. What I do today prepares me for the end of the world.

That’s why Jesus invites the people also to keep their trust in God, in other words, to transfer their security base from material achievement to God. Hence, the question is no longer when and how but rather; will the end times find me still rooted in God? Here Paul can inspire us in remaining steadfast. He spoke of himself in these words: I have run the course, I fought a good fight –I kept the faith (cf. 2Tm 4:7). A person who has lived in this way will certainly have no reason to fear.

End times everyday

Indeed, we believe in the grand Parousia, the second coming of Jesus when all the dead will rise. Yet we shouldn’t ignore the world that is ending every day. When I die, my world ends. That happens at times even without great signs. There we appreciate the invitation of the sage who say: live each single moment as though you are going to die tomorrow. However, that does not mean withdrawing and falling into pious idleness.

Paul corrects misinterpreted end of the world

Christians of Thessalonica, in the hope of imminent end of the world, seem to reason like: what’s the point of cultivating the fields? Who will have time to eat the fruits? They abandon their daily work. Paul sees how suicidal that is. He writes to correct them and urges them to get back to work.

We don’t wait for the Lord in idleness. So, you and I, what are we doing as we await the final coming of Jesus?

Joyful hope that calls for commitment in the world

There is a story of someone who paid a visit to Paradise. When he was about to leave, after the visit, he saw a shop at the gate of Paradise and went in. The angel at the counter asked him what he was looking for. The man replied: I want a world where’s there is no oppression, no quarrelling between children and parents, a world where there are no wars, a world of justice where everyone gets a faire pay. Then the angel interrupted the man saying, we have all that you desire, but we keep in stock seeds only. You take the seeds, you yourself will plant and water them till they grow into the kind of world you desire.

Indeed, if we remain rooted in God and committed to creating a world that is more human; then we shall have no reason to fear the end of the world. Rather, our entire life will radiate this joyful hope of the church in vigil prayer: Maranatha, come Lord.

If you live in the joyful hope of the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ you certainly don’t want to keep this joy to yourself alone. Think of all those whom you want to participate in this joy. Pass them this word of hope.

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