33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Mal. 3:19-20a; 2 Thes. 3:7-12; Lk. 21:5-19.
On the Feast of Christ the King we will see the Lord’s return in glory, which many preachers call the “end times” and in theology “eschatology.” The reading from the Gospel of St. Luke relays to us the events that will help us recognize it. At the opening Jesus clearly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD when the temple will be left without stone upon stone. But when Jesus begins to enumerate the signs, they already include events in the history of Israel and of the Church. Do not be deceived because “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and ‘the time has come.’” Right in our country we see someone calling himself ‘the son of God’. Many founders of churches and religions have come and gone and still the end is not at hand. “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” but “do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Egypt waged war against its neighbors; the Assyrians conquered many nations including Israel, then came the Babylonians who exiled the Israelites. Babylon in turn was overthrown by Persia, and Persia was defeated by the Alexander the Great. Rome conquered the known world preparing it for the coming of the Savior. We are now two thousand years since the Roman empire and still wars have not ended but have grown more disastrous as we saw in WW I and WW II. “There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place,” which today we see in our own country, and our seismologists are baffled by the similarity of intensities of magnitude 6.3, 6.6, and 6.9. Then “awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” In 2014 and 2015 we had four blood moons and two solar eclipses, which many so called ‘prophets’ indicated as signs that the “end times” are upon us. Then Jesus talks about persecutions that started with Jesus himself being put to death, then Stephen, and the martyrs of the early Church “because of my name.” And Jesus adds, “It will lead to your giving testimony,” and “I myself shall give you wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist and refute.” History testifies to the wisdom and the courage of the martyrs at the very point of facing death. “You will be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends.” This was most true during the communist persecution in Russia and China. And finally we have the assurance of the Lord: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives,” that is, clinging to the Lord up to the end, never letting go of our hold on him. These are the signs of the “end times”, and the Mother Church wants us to be aware of them and prepare ourselves. We do this every year at the end of the Liturgical Year before we begin another cycle of the mysteries of our salvation in Advent and Christmas.
The call to us is to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. At this time of the year we already hear Christmas Carols in the television, the radio, the malls. We think only of the joyful celebration of the Lord’s coming at Christmas. We forget about the preparation for the final coming of Jesus at the end of time, which is more important because it will have consequences for all eternity. That is why Mother Church reminds us of these articles of our faith: “from there, he will come to judge the living and the dead,” and finally: “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.” This Sunday and the feast of Christ the King next week are intended to remind us of these realities, so that we will be prepared to face Jesus as King and Judge, in the hope that through our preparation we will meet Jesus not as Judge but as Savior, and hear those words: “Raise up your head, your salvation is at hand.” Take note that as we spiritually prepare for the second coming at the end of the Liturgical Year, we also spiritually prepare ourselves for Christmas. It is always good at the end of the year to review our performance during the past year, not only our financial status, but also our relationships, our social standing before men, and our spiritual standing before God. Of vital importance is a good general confession, to leave the past year and enter the coming year with a clear conscience and peace of mind. Amen.