Nov 13, 2010

Preparing For The End


I'm sure that you have noticed that the shopping centres are gearing up for Christmas. The frameworks for Christmas tree sales are already in parking lots and along the roadways. Discouraging isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but not only am I not ready for Christmas yet, I don’t even want to get ready yet. Two weeks from now the season of Advent will begin. That’s when the preparations really should start.

Since Advent is about the two comings of Christ, in Bethlehem and at the end of time, the readings this week and next week, the Solemnity of Christ the King, actually prepare for Advent by speaking about the Second Coming and the end of the world. So we begin with the prophecy of last Book of the Hebrew scriptures, Malachi.

By the way, various bibles divide the chapters and verse for the end of Malachi differently, what is chapter 3 verses 19-20 in some bibles is chapter 4 verses 1 and 2 in other bibles. The prophet who called himself Malachi or God’s messenger wrote about 450 years before Christ. He concealed his identity because he levelled some sharp reproaches against the Temple priests and leaders of the people.

The people had fallen into religious indifference. They had compromised their faith and taken on immoral lifestyles. Still, their lives flourished. To these and to us who are tempted to just go along with the immoral lifestyle that surrounds us and smothers us Malachi says: “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.

But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” In the second reading, from one of the earliest books of the Christian Scriptures, the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul confronts people who are passively expecting the Day of the Lord.

They are sitting back, doing nothing, waiting for it to happen. Paul tells them to get to work building up the Christian community. In today’s Gospel, from Luke, Jesus speaks directly about the end of time. He uses apocalyptical language, the language of the Book of Revelation. This is a language that is somewhere between prose and poetry. It is meant to stir up emotions, to get people involved. Jesus looks at the Temple. The Gospel of Luke began in the Temple with the story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to his father, Zachary, in the Temple as he served as a priest in the Holy of Holies.

The Temple was the place that Simeon and Anna rejoiced at the birth of Jesus and prophesied about His life and death. Jesus was found in the Temple as an adolescent. In the Gospel of Luke, the Temple is the sight for Jesus’ final teachings, of which today’s gospel is a central part.

The Temple was the joy of the People of Israel. It’s stones were inlaid with jewels. The disciples marvelled at it. Jesus wept. He said it would be torn down, as it was in the year 70 AD. In fact, all that is left is the present wailing wall, which itself was not a wall, but a support structure, part of the foundation. Jesus told the disciples that the Temple would be torn down, because all material things come to an end sooner or later. Then the disciples asked the big question, the question that so many people want to know: When? Every year self-proclaimed prophets come out of the woodwork telling people that they have an answer to this question.

Every year newspapers carry advertisement from materialistic self proclaimed prophets with supposed reasons why the world is coming to an end in a few days, months or years. Of course, to help them get the word out they leave an address where donations to support this “ministry” can be sent. When? Everyone wants to know when. No one wants to hear what Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew 24:36: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” “So,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Don’t fall for anyone telling you when the end of the world is coming: whether it is a priest or a preacher, a self proclaimed prophet or a spiritual writer, don’t fall for it.” Those of you who are senior citizens are well aware that there are many people out there who try to take advantage of you. They will stir you up to paying big bucks to help ensure your salvation.

The only thing you will be ensuring is that they meet next month’s payment on their Jaguars. As soon as you hear the words, “The time is now!” remember Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, ‘Don’t follow them.” As soon as you hear someone say that his or her followers will be saved from the final destruction of the world, avoid them like the plague. Jesus says, “For many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

They will mislead you.” Jesus absolutely refuses to say when the end of time will come. All He will tell us is that there are signs of the end. Wars and insurrections are typical and bound to happen, but the end will not follow these immediately. Jesus says “there will be earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”

Does he mean the nuclear bomb? Perhaps, perhaps not. Jesus’ point is that his true followers should not be concerned about when the end is, they should only be concerned that they are ready for the end so they can take it in stride. And that is what is at the heart of the apocalyptical predictions of the end of time. We need to have a lifestyle that is a continual stride to the Lord. I used to run long distance races, and I used to coach distance runners in high school.

Any distance runner or coach will tell you that you don’t reach your goal of a fast time or winning an award with a sudden burst of speed at the beginning of the race or a huge sprint at the end. You achieve your goal through a constant strong stride throughout the race. It is the same regarding our preparations for the end of time and the end of our own personal time, the end of our lives.

We achieve our goal with the constant steady pace towards God. It is pace, it is Christian lifestyle that puts us into position to win the spiritual award, not sudden burst of speed when we are miles behind the pack. Yes, the world will come to an end, but we have no cause for panic. Only those who ignore the Lord, the people Malachi spoke to in his day and in our day, people of religious indifference and immoral lifestyles, need to panic.

The rest of us should just ask ourselves: Am I ready for the end? Is my pace good? Am I striding towards my God? Do I need to pick up the pace a little bit particularly through confession and a renewed prayer life. Today we pray for the courage to put God first in our lives, to make Him the goal of our existence, to strive towards Him throughout our lives, to pick up the pace whenever we can, and to be prepared. — By Fr Joseph A Pellegrino (Source : Herald Malaysia Online)

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