Ordinary 33rd Sunday – FINAL MOMENTS
Ordinary 33rd Sunday
Mal. 4: 1-2a 2Thes. 3: 7-12 Lk. 21: 5-19
How we live today determines our attitude towards the end that is waiting for us.
End of the World & the Second Coming
Everything that has got a beginning has an end. Our journey of human life has its beginning in our birth and finds its apparent end in death – though we continue to live in a different way. This world in which we live, has got its beginning and it has got its end too. Religions as well as science speak of the end of the world, though they are not definite about the time of it. As we are approaching the culmination of our liturgical year, the readings invite us to reflect about the end of the world.
St. Paul was a person who thought that the end of the world would coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus. Paul also seemed to have thought that the Second Coming was imminent. He communicated this message to the Thessalonians (Cfr. 1Thess. 4:16, 17). Paul thought that this reminder would stimulate the Thessalonians to set right their lives and become better Christians (1Thess. 5: 5-8). But unfortunately it bore counter-effect. Some of the Thessalonians, thinking that Jesus’ Second Coming was imminent and the world was to end, gave up working. They became lazy. So Paul had to write another letter admonishing these lazy Thessalonians. That is why we have the admonition “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Moreover we also see the change in the position of Paul with regard to the Second Coming: “As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.” (2Thess. 2: 1-3).
End of the World & Jerusalem Temple:
As far as the Jews were concerned, the end of the world was closely associated with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The abode of Yahweh, the Jerusalem Temple, was a pride of every Jew. Josephus describes the beauty of the temple thus: “The sacred edifice itself, the holy temple, in the central position, was approached by a flight of twelve steps. The façade was of equal height and breadth, each being a hundred cubits; but the building behind was narrower by forty cubits, for in front it had as it were shoulder extending twenty cubits on either side. The first gate was seventy cubits high and twenty-five broad and had no doors, displaying unexcluded the void expanse of heaven; the entire face was covered with gold, and through it the first edifice was visible to a spectator without in all its grandeur and the surroundings of the inner gate all gleaming with gold fell beneath his eye…The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays.”
The Jews were very proud about such a beautiful Jerusalem Temple. Luke writes “some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God.” When Jesus said to them that such a beautiful Temple would be destroyed one day, immediately what would have come to their mind was the end of the world. That is why they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” The question is not much about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, but about the end of the world. In his answer, Jesus points out that, instead of focusing on when the world would come to end, one needs to focus on how to live rightly in order to face the end – either the personal end (i.e. death) or the universal end (i.e. end of the world). What awaits us at the end of the world depends upon the way we live our lives today.
Our life today depends upon the choices that we make now. There are basically two choices – either to be rooted in God or to be cut off from God. In the gospel, we see Jesus instructing his disciples to be rooted in God so that they are able to face the moments of persecution fruitfully.
End of the World & Our Lives
The Bible very clearly reminds us that there is either reward or punishment as per our freedom of choice. Malachi writes that on the day of judgement, the good will be rewarded and the evil will be punished. One of the beautiful gifts that have been given to us is the gift of freedom. Using this gift, we can either elevate our lives to greater heights, or lower ourselves to the level of self-destruction. The Bible constantly reiterates that we, human beings, have been given freedom to choose either life or death. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Dt. 30: 19). “Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given” (Sir. 15: 17). Jesus speaks of two gates – two ways of living – one leading to life and another to destruction (Mt. 7: 13, 14).
So it is highly important that we make right choices. There were some Thessalonians who opted to be lazy. St. Paul instructed that such a way of life has got its negative consequences. So he invited them to mend their ways and to work hard. People who live in country side make an interesting observation with regard the difference between goat and sheep. A goat is called a ‘village rag picker.’ It eats anything and everything available. However a sheep eats only the grass. ‘Goat’ refers to those who do not use much of their freedom of choice and feed themselves upon anything and everything. ‘Sheep’ refers to those who choose the best and feed themselves with it. Freedom of choice involves choosing the best and doing it. Using our freedom of choice, if we choose right attitudes and healthy actions, then there is no need for us to worry about our own death or the end of the world.