On the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, we found out that people like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who have been dead for thousands of years, are alive and well in God’s endless embrace.
Likewise, we were overjoyed to learn that all our loved ones are alive to God for he is the God not of the dead but of the living. In other words, death, our worst and most feared enemy, has no power to snatch anyone from God’s loving hand. Quite the contrary, death places the names of all those who have died marked with the sign of faith, into God’s book of Life.
And today, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus (Luke 21: 5-19) urges us to persevere so that we, too, will secure our lives. Indeed, we are told to stay the course and to cut through nonsense, idleness, hesitation, apprehension and live every one of our days sustained by hope and courage.
See that you not be deceived…Do not follow them! Do not be terrified…Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand… (Luke 21: 8-14)
Now, if we take all these orders together, we get a fairly accurate idea of what Jesus is trying to tell us:
We should not be concerned about the end of the world.
We should not let our hearts be troubled by even the most terrifying events such as wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and the likes. To the terrifying images of the end of the world found in certain pages of the Bible, for balance, we ought to counter with others also found in the Bible: “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. (Matthew 24:32)
And… for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now. (Romans 8:19-22)
Therefore, what must be terrifying to those who do not consider themselves the objects of God’s infinite love, must be a source of comfort, trust, and perseverance for us who are called to believe that to HIM, all are alive. (Luke 20:38), all are in the Father’s loving embrace, and he will never let go of us. For us who are encouraged and inspired by God’s Word every Sunday, for us nourished by the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, for us whose prayers are heeded by the Father, history is not heading for one final, cosmic cataclysm but is, rather, open to newness, to the unexpected, to hope.
The day of the Lord’s second coming, which must be blazing like an oven for those who choose to do evil, is meant to be for us the dawning of the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Malachi 3:20) Thus, we are called to believe firmly that Jesus, the Sun of justice, is ready to heal in all of us the wounds of indifference, of self-interest, of laziness, of paralyzing distress.
Yet, still thinking of the scary trials afflicting our world nowadays, we must wonder if these words of encouragement might be too rosy, too naïve, too optimistic, or worse yet, plainly utopian. Well, my friends, remember that Jesus is known to us for his blistering, shocking bluntness, and directness. And today’s message is no exception.
Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you…You will be even handed over by parents, brothers, relatives…They will put some of you to death…You will be hated by all because of my name. (Luke 21:12-17)
So much for blind optimism and naiveté!
And, while we ought to keep these words in the back of our minds, we are expected to work quietly (2 Thessalonians 3:12) to contribute as much and as enthusiastically as we can to the building up of the Kingdom of God. We are asked to do a lot more, namely, to give testimony to Christ with our every thought, action, decision, choice, and effort. That covers just about everything, wouldn’t you agree? We are expected to place ourselves right in the middle of the fight and not to flinch. We are forbidden to prepare our defense beforehand trusting in the insights that the Holy Spirit shall provide for us in due time.
In other words, with a firm belief that we are God’s prized possessions, we are expected to play the crucial game as seasoned players providing experience for the novices on our team. We are sent into a defining battle as veterans instilling courage and poise to the new recruits.
Thus, today, we learn that our eyes should gaze toward the glorious moment in which we will be sealed forever into the Father’s endless embrace, but we know that, in the meantime, our courage and determination will be tested severely just about every day.