Catholic Liturgy for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Nov. 17, 2019. Gospel of Luke 21:5-19. Theme: Maranatha!
time. And this is because all of the confusion, violence and destruction that Jesus describes as being associated with the end has always been present in human history. These are part and parcel of the kind of world we have built with our greed and thirst for power, along with the whole host of human sins and selfishness. In every era people think that things can’t get much worse, so we must be nearing the end.
- · The ancient Romans had a legend that it would be in 634 BC.
- · Pope Sylvester II thought it might be the year 1000 AD, to coincide with the close of the first thousand years of Christianity.
- · Martin Luther said the end would come no later than 1600AD, while Billy Graham preached that it would arrive in the 1950’s.
- · Just about 20 years ago, everyone thought the Y2K bug would cause a worldwide net catastrophe bringing about the end of the world as we knew it.
- · And then there was that fad several years ago that interpreted the ancient Mayan calendar as foretelling that the end would be on Dec. 21, 2012.
But the bottom is that we really do not know! But what we do know from Jesus himself is that it will surely come. And we Catholics have several other names for it besides “end of the world”: we also call it the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, or simply, the last day.
But no matter what it’s called, it was not something that the early Christians feared. Rather, it was something that they eagerly prayed for! They longed and yearned for this end, knowing that it would really be a beginning because it would bring about a new world rooted in peace, justice and love. They knew it would be the glorious conclusion to Jesus’ mission of establishing the Kingdom of God among us, and that all remnants of evil and sin would be destroyed once and for all. No more sorrow. No more suffering. No more death.
So, you see, the early Christians could not wait until the Risen Lord returned! As a matter of fact, besides the “Our Father”, the most ancient prayer that we have preserved from them is a simple one word prayer that goes like this: Maranatha! Which means “Come Lord Jesus!”
But in the meantime, until the end finally does arrive, Christ expects us to be busy with laying the foundation for the Kingdom of God on earth. This means that we each do what we can, in our own place and in our own way, to promote peace where there is division; to seek justice and stand up for the voiceless and the vulnerable; to care with compassion for those who suffer in any way, and to build a culture of life and love that is consistent with the Gospel values he has given us.
Jesus informs us in today’s Gospel that those of us who commit to building this Kingdom will indeed be persecuted just as he was. He warns us that this persecution that can come even from family and friends who may exclude us or ridicule us or heckle us because of our faith in Christ and our attachment to his Church. He doesn’t want to hide this truth from us but assures us that he will be with us through it all, encouraging us to not give up. He promises that the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to keep on keeping on even when the going gets tough and others stand up against us. We have a whole host of Christian heroes and martyrs who prove that his words were true.
If we do not have an intimate personal relationship with Jesus as our living Risen Lord, we will not be strong enough to keep on witnessing, to keep on building the Kingdom. Simply put, we will not be prepared and able to withstand persecution of whatever kind that will come our way. And so, we must each become very familiar with Jesus, through personal prayer, through his Eucharistic Real Presence, and through the Gospels by reading and reflecting on them often. We must know them so well that we ourselves can become “living gospels”, which is perhaps the only form of a gospel that others will read, so to speak. Then when people interact with us, they can be positively moved by their relationships with us and be drawn to learn more about this Jesus of Nazareth whom we follow. This is what Pope Francis hopes for and means when he repeatedly calls us to be “missionary disciples” witnessing to Jesus in every aspect of our lives.
At the end of every Mass, Jesus sends us out to be his witnesses among others. As a matter of fact, the very name for our worship, Mass, comes from the Latin word “missa” which means “sent out” which is, of course, the definition of a missionary. This is why every Mass ends with the deacon usually saying either “go and announce the gospel of the Lord” or “go in peace glorifying God by your life”?
These are not simply polite ways to dismiss people from Mass. These are words of mission, of being sending forth. And they were intentionally put there to remind us of our baptismal calling to go out among others to witness to Christ, to build the Kingdom. Having heard the Word of God proclaimed and explained, and having become one with Jesus truly present in Holy Communion, we are sent out from the Mass to invite others to share in this relationship with Christ.
So, let’s ask the Lord today to make us truly committed missionary disciples among those with whom we live, work and socialize, because we love them and we want them to also share in the joy and fulfilment of the life to come when Jesus returns in glory.