On this 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, this is what we heard from our first reading: It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress…(Daniel: 12:1) And from the Gospel: “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. (Mark 13:24-25)
Once we make the chances in terminology required by modern astronomy, what we have here predicted is the end of the world through a cosmic catastrophe.
From time unmemorable, human beings have been forced occasionally to think about their mortality and the closing stages of the created, finite world. However, natural instinct usually prevails over a calm reflection about the inevitable. Thus, few are those who prepare adequately and with faith for the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev. 21:1) beyond time and changes.
Even among Catholics, many refuse to dwell on their demise and, foolishly, drown their fears in excesses of different kinds. But, if you join me in here for this Eucharistic Celebration, I assume that our faith is strong enough to accept the Church’s invitation to act always in accordance with our Christian calling and to face our fears with Christian wisdom.
Genuine Christian wisdom teaches us that the only prudent way of living is by carrying out our duties as accountable members of society and as true disciples of Christ: i.e., as if each day were the last one of our earthly existence.
Now, before we can reshape the rest of our life on earth according to Jesus’ words of Life, I would like to offer to your consideration a realistic picture of the end of the finite world “21st century version.”
We can begin by pondering over the fact that there are more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy all civilizations and all forms of life on this planet. Of course, we can add the usual and ubiquitous danger of terrorism. There are also chemical weapons of mass destruction and other vicious means stashed away by tyrants for ethnic cleansing. Let us not forget pandemics, natural disasters whose massive devastations are compounded by people’s greed, indifference or lust for power. The list is quite long…
Cal Thomas, a journalist whom I admire a lot, years ago, wrote an article showing how our world is actually self-imploding. I quote from his article: “…every life choice is acceptable and every tenet open to interpretation…There is no longer any cultural corrective because we have abandoned the concept of objective truth. Nothing is right or wrong, because that suggests a standard by which right and wrong might be defined. Personal choices is the new standard, which is no standard at all…Government seems to be replacing God as the only acceptable deity.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it seems to me that, to avoid being overtaken by panic for the craziness of these zany ideologies that unsettle us, and to keep our sanity, we react in ways which we deem effective for our own self-preservation: from convenient dismissal to fright because we are afraid of speaking up lest we get “cancelled” and lose our livelihood; from derision if we consider, correctly, these trends to be the fruit of obvious “lucid insanity” to indignation and vehement, angry protests.
However, given our human frailty, with these readings (Daniel 12:1-3; Mark 13:24-32) the Church desires to warn us of a pitfall that must be avoided.
The wisdom of Mother Church is quite evident: while it is spiritually healthy and sound to think of our mortality and the end of our earthly existence, if we start reflecting on the anguish in our hearts for the deliberate destruction of innocent human life; the rabid efforts to push God completely out of the picture of human affairs; the drifting away from basic decency; the lust for power; the peddling of falsehoods upon falsehoods combined with censorship of uncomfortable truths; and many other sinister signs, many of them purposely designed to create hatred and division, we are bound to feel overwhelmed.
If we fail to look more deeply into the set of readings offered today to our consideration, we will think that at least the end of our personal world is imminent.
Thankfully, the image used by Jesus of the fig tree with its branches becoming tender and sprouting leaves is a forceful call to stoke hope even amid concrete situations of anguish and darkness. We are urged to direct our sight to the somewhat hidden signs that the summer of a new heaven and a new earth is near. Then, once our level of hope is firmly set, we are called to offer a concrete and sustained contribution to reverse the slide into nothingness and senselessness.
As genuine disciples of Christ, we shall never forget that God is in control. This is still the world which He loves. This is the world soaked by the Blood of His Son Jesus. This is the world upon which the light of the Resurrection has shone and, in the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, will never be vanquished.
Yes! The Resurrection of Christ has set in motion the inevitable destruction of all evil.
Hence, amid all the craziness that surrounds us, there is this urgent need for people invested with the mission of hope; people endowed with the Holy Spirit’s gift of divine wisdom. In the light of that divine wisdom we welcome and promise to act upon the very reassuring words of the prophet Daniel:
But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. (Daniel 12:3)