The 33rd Sunday of the Year

Mal 3:19-20; 1 Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19 (year c)

 ‘The Lord comes, he comes to rule the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.” The psalm reminds us that time, both for the individual and for the world as we know it, is not infinite. We are caught up in time’s relentless movement, which has as its centre the coming of Christ and as its conclusion his triumphal return at the end of time.

As the Church’s liturgical year draws to an end, the Scriptures invite us to consider our own lives against this scenario. We whose lives are dominated by everyday happenings are understandably reluctant to consider their meaning and ending in Christ. For Malachi, and other Old Testament prophets, this ending of time was described as the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and revelation. A day of judgment, because on that day the arrogance of evil would be burnt as stubble in the furnace. A day of revelation, because on that day the sun of righteousness would reveal the just in its healing rays.

While the prophetic description of the Day of the Lord is disturbing, this Jubilee Year of Mercy reminds us that we ourselves choose what our ultimate ending shall be. We who fear a judgment that penetrates to the truth of what we are have only to turn to the Father with sincere hearts and mercy is already ours. Rather than living with a childish fear of what the end might be, let us live each day so as to build the Father’s kingdom in our lives. This was certainly St Paul’s advice to the Christians of Thessalonia. Rather than abandoning the world, they were to go on quietly working and earning the food that they ate. It is in our daily work, and the relationships that we establish with each other, that we best prepare for the end.

Jesus was more pragmatic in his advice concerning the end. He knew that we, and the world in which we live, would be subjected to many trials before the end. On the global level we would face war and destruction. On a more personal level, true faith would face rejection, persecution and mockery. He advised his disciples to face such threats with equanimity, assuring them that he would be with them, giving them his own eloquence and wisdom. “You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win your lives.”

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