33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – November 17, 2013
- Preached at the 7:30, 9 & 11:15am Masses
- First Reading: Malachi 3:19-20a
- Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
- Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
Today’s Gospel opens with a crowd gathered around Jesus in the temple. Some of those gathered with Jesus take notice that the temple is adorned with costly stones and votive offerings.
Clearly, the people are not expecting Jesus to take the conversation where it goes next. Jesus begins to tell them that everything they see in the temple will be destroyed. He is commenting on the destruction of the temple which will come about in the year 70 AD when the Romans destroy the temple and much of Jerusalem.
This reading falls into a category of scripture that is eschatological in nature. The word Eschatology derives from a Greek word that translates roughly as, “knowledge of the last things.” Each year, as we near the end of the liturgical year, the Church asks us to focus on these important last things in a profound way.
Every Sunday when we pray the Creed, we solemnly profess our belief that Jesus “will come again to judge the living and the dead.” The Church has never claimed to know when Judgment Day will come. It could be today, it could be 1000 years from now. Jesus himself told us that we can know “neither the day nor the hour.”
What we do know for sure is that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Each one of us will come to our own end, either at our earthly death or at the second coming. Nobody here will escape judgment day, not a single one of us.
But life has a funny way of distracting us doesn’t it. Our culture does everything in its power to deny the reality of death. It’s the reason we glorify youth – turning youthfulness itself into a god to be adored and pursued at all costs. Wrinkles and grey hair – OH NO! We can’t have that! Many of us live as if death doesn’t exist or at best, thinking we can deal with it LATER!
Charles V was one of the last truly great European Emperors. One of his closest and most well-loved advisers fell ill in the prime of his life. Charles was at his bedside as the man lay dying and was deeply moved at the man’s suffering. He tried to comfort him saying, “My friend, you have been a faithful servant all these years. Please, let me now do something for you. Ask anything of me, and I will do it.”
The dying man turned his weak eyes to his King, and whispered, “Sire, there is one great favor I desire.”
The Emperor was glad at this, and leaned forward, “Tell me,” he said, “What is it?”
“Give me one more day of life – just one day more!”
Charles’ face fell. He answered simply, “You know that I have not the power.”
The man smiled weakly, and said: “Yes, I know. Even the greatest earthly king cannot give life. And now you see how foolish I have been. I served you well all these years, but I gave no thought to my Heavenly King, and now I must go to him with empty hands. Pray for me.”
Those were his last words. “I must go to him with empty hands.” My brothers and sisters, we cannot live life distracted by the gods of this world, whether it be chasing eternal youth, money, power, prestige, or addictions to alcohol, drugs or pornography. If we do, we risk showing up at our own judgment with empty hands.
For those who do not know or believe in Christ, the future is a dark and threatening mystery. But for us, it is a coming victory. Judgment Day is coming. Jesus is coming again. There will be an end to the battle between good and evil, and good will win. We know this. God has revealed it.
Knowing that Christ’s Kingdom will be victorious and last forever has a very practical consequence: it frees us up to be more energetic and confident in building up that Kingdom. Jesus tells his Apostles that they will be persecuted, but they are not to worry, since “it will lead to your giving testimony.” This is what we are called to do – to give testimony; to tell others about Christ, to share our experience of Christ’s saving love so they too can experience the love of Jesus and his Church.
Jesus tells his followers, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” We were created to be disciples of Jesus, to follow him and then invite others to follow him as well. We have been given a share in his mission. It’s by our perseverance in carrying out that mission that we will secure our salvation.
People around us are starving to find meaning in their lives. Most people lead lives of quiet desperation, looking in all the wrong places as they seek to fill the empty space in their heart. But we know that only the love of God can satisfy the deepest desires and longings of the human heart.
The thing is we have what they are looking for right here in our soul and right here at this altar. The gospel challenges us today to ask ourselves what we are doing to invite the lost among us to share in this beautiful faith we have been blessed with. Let’s stop making excuses for not testifying to others about our faith; not testifying to others about our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Here is one concrete way you can be a disciple this week. Invite a family member, friend or co-worker to come to Mass with you next weekend. Pretty simple, right? Invite a family member, friend, or co-worker to come to Mass with you next weekend. We are designating next weekend as “Friends and Family” weekend. Invite your family and friends to an encounter with Jesus Christ. Invite them to come and see. They may say yes. They may say no. But either way you have done your part as a disciple. Seeds will have been planted that may bloom later. With this one simple action you give testimony, you persevere in the faith as Jesus exhorts us to do in our Gospel account.
Today, when we say the Creed and again profess our faith in the everlasting Kingdom, may we also renew our commitment to build that Kingdom; renew our commitment to invite others to share in the joy we have as disciples; so that on the day of our judgment, none of us will have to face our King with empty hands.