Readings for Sunday, November 13 / 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Malachi 3:19-20 | Psalm 98 | 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 | Luke 21:5-19
The election is over ... thanks be to God! And I have to say, it was a bit disheartening to go and vote this past Tuesday, to go into the little poll booth and look down a rather lengthy list of presidential candidates and to see not one who really embodied a full Catholic approach. Not to find one, single person on the list that I could really put my trust into really leading our country in accordance with the ways that Christ teaches us through our faith. And thinking about that and praying with that throughout the course of the day and then sense, it continues to remind me that we're not made to be here, we're made to be elsewhere - in Heaven. It's the reminder that we try and make Earth what it's not supposed to be.
In response to so many of the political ads and such, it was interesting to see various people's responses as I was watching them on Facebook. Facebook is the wonderful thing to be able to see people's true opinions, quite often, and it was funny to see people's responses to the two primary candidates - Hillary and Donald - to be able to see the two of them and that nachos or tacos were more often preferred as an option to either the other presidential candidates on other fake ballots. But the one that caught me most of all, that got a chuckle out of me but also spoke to the same reality, is one of them had a fake political sign that said "Big meteor from the sky 2016!" They were essentially saying that it would be better for a meteor to fall from the sky and end it all, then to have our political candidates leading us, which is a rather dramatic statement. But it's something that actually jives really well with the scriptures this weekend because that statement, as well as what the Lord Jesus speaks to us, is essentially the same - that this world will end and we need to stop trying to make it what it isn't.
In the Gospel, we have the disciples looking and marveling at the temple. The temple is said to be one of the most beautiful things that anyone had ever seen - it was one of the Great Wonders of the World. People would see it and just be in awe. The beautiful whitewashed stones and the jewels, adornments and decoration - that whenever you saw the temple far of, it glistened and radiated with sunlight. A beautiful thing to behold. And the disciples are marveling at it, and rightly so, rejoicing in the beauty of this building. And in the midst of that, the Lord Jesus says that all this you see, all this beauty, all this goodness, everything you are marveling at - there will come a day when not one stone will be on top of the other. It rattles, as so often Jesus does. It shakes them and they wonder, "Lord ... When? Why? What are the signs? How can we know?" And He gives a prophetic response. He tells them that there will be some who come and claim to be "myself" claim to be Jesus, that they will claim to be Christs, Saviors ... If you follow me I can make everything better; If you follow me, everything will be well. "Do not follow them," He says. He says there will be wars and insurrections, famines and plagues, earthquakes and sights in the sky - these will be signs that it will come soon. And then last, the temple will fall. But before all these things, they will persecute you. They will lead you before governors and kings, lead you into prisoners - your brothers and your sisters, fathers and mothers, your friends - they will lead you before them, they will renounce you because of My name and some of you will die. Frightening words. Quite a bit more to chew on then the disciples desired as they were simply marveling at the beauty of this building. And yet it is the word of Christ coming to them to warn them of what was coming - a prophetic message. And indeed it came to pass.
Immediately following the death of Christ, we know the disciples began to endure much persecution. Ten of the eleven, other than Judas, were martyred for the faith. John died in exile. After the time of Jesus, there were some major events around the world; there were earthquakes and storms, events in the skies, wars and insurrections. And in the year 70 A.D., the Roman army came into Jerusalem and crushed the temple - destroyed it - pulled every stone off of the other one, just as Jesus had said. Everything He said came to pass, in exactly the manner He described it. But it would be wrong for us to think that the Lord Jesus was describing one particular event and it's already happened, so we don't need to worry anymore. Because what happens whenever the prophets speaks - and Jesus is a prophet, the greatest of the prophets - they prophesy almost in two ways: 1) an immediate manner and 2) something farther off in the distance that God alone knows, but they have a glimpse of.
So often in the Old Testament, the Old Testament prophets would prophesy about one who would come and save the people, and so often it would be that there would be an immediate person - a new king would be raised up, a new prophet, new judge, would come and help the people of God. And they would be saved from their current crisis, but all of those ultimately pointed toward the coming of the Christ Himself, Jesus. In much the same way, Christ speaks to this temple. He says they will come and will destroy it, there will be persecutions of the people, there will be wars and insurrections, one who claim to be the Christ, there will be so many sights in the sky and then the temple will fall.
We don't have to look around too far to find much of the same scenario is still taking place 2000 years later. There is still persecution of the Church, as I mentioned last weekend. Persecution of the members of Christ, abandoned by their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and friends. And some of them die. There is still some who come and say, "If you put your trust in me, I can make it all better." If you click the right button in the voting poll booth, all will be saved, all will be good again. Secular Christs who invite us to trust in them rather than our Lord. Ones who come and we recognize, point out, in the world around us that there are earthquakes and storms and sights in the sky. All of this is simply to point out the fact that we are still waiting for another temple to fall, and it's the temple of this world as we understand it. This world that we live in today, again, it will end, and the day of judgment will come. Malachi prophesied. So we listen to that call, and we have to respond the same way as the disciples did in those first days. Of course, we never know when the end will come. It could be ten minutes from now. It could be ten thousand years from now. Our response right now for every single one of us should be exactly the same regardless. How do we respond? How do we respond to the reality that the Lord will come again in glory at some point?
The Lord Jesus gives us a hint at the answer. He says don't prepare your defense ahead of time, but trust Me that I will give you the words. A lot of times whenever we hear the end of the world is going to come soon, I am always intrigued by the ones who start gathering cans, as if gathering cans of green beans is going to save anything when the end of the world comes. A lot of times that is our approach, whether physically or spiritually speaking. We try to store up our goods, so that when the Lord comes, we already have everything planned out. I got it fixed Lord, don't worry! I've got my system down. Rather, He invites us to a radical trust. Not to pre-plan for the last day, but to trust that He will lead us whenever it comes - if it comes in our lifetime.
I want to invite you to a few specific things - how to prepare:
1) Go to confession! I've said it a thousand times, but so often I still sit in the confessional and pray. I pray my breviary, I pray my rosary, my Divine Mercy chaplet and various other prayers. And I pray, hoping that someday, I won't have time to pray in the confessional because I'll be hearing confessions. Go to confession. It is THE BEST way to prepare for the Lord. It cleanses all of our sins. What better way to prepare?
2) Charity - Love the person in front of you - whoever it is - love them. Love them as if they were Christ Jesus themselves. So many of the lives of the saints, they show us that we can love the other as Christ - they show us how to do it. There are various saint who would go and serve in the hospitals. There was one in particular, I forget his name, but he would go from bed to bed asking for forgiveness for his sins from the people he was serving. Some of them weren't even Christian and he was begging them as if they were Christ, to show him mercy, because he loved them so much, he treated them as Christ. So much the same for us. In the world where there is an opportunity every ten seconds, to find a lack of charity, impatience with others, judgmental-ism, and so much worse - to love the other as if they were Christ because indeed, in a sense, they are. Whatever you do to the least of these, You do to me. And who knows who the least among us is.
3) Pray daily and to pray intensely. A lot of times we content ourselves to offer up just our road prayers, the memorized prayers - Our Fathers', Hail Mary's, Glory Be's, etc. - which are good and holy, and we should pray them. But we can't content ourselves to pray only them. We must have a living relationship with Christ, so that when He comes, He knows us and we know Him. He knows the sound of our voice and we know the sound of His. To spend that time regularly in prayer, certainly at Mass, but even in your own homes, places that you find yourself through the course of the day. To speak to the Lord - there. There doesn't have to happen exclusively in the chapel - to find ourselves with the Lord often and to know that He is with us.
Confession. Charity. Prayer. It's the basic elements to prepare our hearts.
As we come to reflect upon the end of times, and reflect upon the Lord Jesus coming again in glory, we know too that there is one who comes with an army who does not want us to draw close to Christ - Satan. He wants to pull us away from the Lord, wants to pull us even the smallest bits away from the grace of Christ. St. Peter describes in the scriptures as "prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour." A roaring lion waiting to pounce upon us and consume our soul. And so we renounce him and rebuke him. Today we choose Christ.
So I want to invite you to pray with me the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII a little over a century ago. It's a prayer that calls upon St. Michael whose name means "Who is Like God." It's a mockery of Satan. Satan who thinks himself like God, and St. Michael comes and says, "Who is like God? Not you." So we call upon St. Michael to be with us as we go forth in battle today. To be able to allow our hearts to be filled with the charity and love of Christ which comes forth from the Holy Eucharist. And to be able to go forth and to love Christ as He loves us.