First Reading: Mal 3:19-20a; Psalm: 98. R. v. 9; Second Reading: 2Thes 3:7-12; Gospel: Lk 21:5-19
PREPARING FOR THE END
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
We are again today presented with the reality of the end as we draw closer to the end of the Church’s liturgical year. The readings are obviously indicative of this reality. And Jesus was quite explicit in resonating this truth. One peculiar standard of Jesus was his apt and direct way of conveying the messages that really matters in the face of misleading distractions. While his audience saw the magnificence of the temple and every reason while this temple should be admired; Jesus saw a building whose existence was going to last just for a brief moment. Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple may sound pessimistic; but he was pointing to a reality we cannot evade.
The temple in Jerusalem was the pride of the Jews. It was for them the sign of the glory of God; something indestructible. It was quite unreasonable how they so much revered the fleeting beauty of the temple while their hearts were far from God. There is nothing so unreasonable to prioritise on transient realities while neglecting eternal goals. It was for this reason Jesus said to them, “All that you see here, the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” This prediction of the destruction of the temple signifies the end to all earthly things we hold dear; as well as life. If everything would eventually be destroyed including the temple, Jesus then is calling our attention to the life that never ends.
Jesus enumerated the cosmic signs that will precede the end to life and his coming in glory. There will be false prophecies, wars against nations and kingdoms, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plague, persecutions and mighty signs from the sky.
Reflecting on these signs as preconditions to the end of life and the coming of the day of the Lord; we may easily think that Jesus was predicting events that would happen in thousands of years to come. But this was not really the case. These cosmic upheavals were already happening even before and during the time of Jesus. And are still happening even in our own time. This seems to say that the end to everything may not be something that will happen in just a day but a reality which every created thing would face at their given time.
Just like the admirers of the temple, we are often faced with the misleading distractions of earthly things that can result to the misplacement of priorities in life. We think more of the beauty and pleasures of life, earthly investments, immediate rewards and benefits while paying less attention to the afterlife. These cosmic upheavals that will usher in the end to everything are realities that can abruptly end the life of anyone. When we talk of persecutions, insurrections, wars, earthquakes, famines and plagues; all these things have lethal consequences. These things happen often and often and people die as a consequence. And suddenly all our earthly investments and plans come to an end. How ready are we to this reality of the end to everything?
Unlike the Church in Thessalonica that lived disorderly lives as they awaited the coming of the Lord, we should act otherwise as St Paul instructed. We should go on working and doing our usual businesses but conducting ourselves orderly so as not to miss out on the reward that awaits the faithful. This reward was clearly spelt out by the prophet Malachi in the first reading of today. The lot of the proud and evil doers shall be a kind of fire that would consume them leaving neither root nor branch. But as for those who fear the Lord, they shall arise to the healing rays of the sun of justice.
So, to guard against derailing, we need to see things just like Jesus. We need to go beyond the attractiveness of the things of life to see the fleeting realities of everything around us. We need to see what matters most and work towards attaining them.
If we understood that our spouse and children will not always be there, we would cherish and love them most affectionately as long as they live. If we had the chance to serve humanity in our individual professions and responsibilities, we should do so with all honesty and commitment so as to feel fulfilled when we retire or when the job is no longer there. If we saw someone die regretting to have misused the opportunities of life; that could be a call for us to make good use of our own opportunities while we still have them. And if we agreed there is just a thin line between life and death, then we should live life wisely bearing in mind that the reward of the afterlife depends on how well we live the life of the here and now.
In life, we can always draw wisdom from the happenings around us. We live to learn every day. And if we have failed to learn that life is transient and should be lived wisely so as to secure the life to come, then our foolishness becomes a choice that cannot be excused.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, help us by your grace to be found ready when you call us to yourself. Amen.