Awaiting the end with hope - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Awaiting the end with hope - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

 

As the end of the liturgical year approaches our Gospel readings present some of the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus. Jesus, conscious of the limited time he has to continue his public ministry, casts his mind towards the eventual conclusion of human history. As the material universe had a beginning, so it will have an end. Matter is not eternal, whereas the spiritual does not end.

The end of the world is painted in dramatic terms. We are told that in the midst of great turmoil, Christ will come “with great power and glory”. This description of the final coming of Christ stands in stark contrast to the initial coming of Christ, his incarnation.

Christ was born in the quiet and silence of Bethlehem. Christ came in humility and poverty. Christ came with the angels singing “glory to God in the highest”. There was joy in evidence – in the heart of Mary, in Elisabeth, in Simeon and Anna. There was a simplicity and beauty about this coming of Christ among us: Emmanuel – God is with us.
The incarnation was the action of God to save, heal and restore. It was an act of love offering a path of salvation. It was a revelation of God as a God of compassion and kindness. It was the time when God revealed his desire to redeem humanity.

The second coming is presented very differently. Now God will reveal his full majesty and splendour to a world which has failed to fully respond to his time of patience and forbearance. This is the time of judgement. This is the time in which evil and good will be identified finally and definitively. Good and evil will be finally separated. The good will go to God, the evil will be banished.

It will be dramatic because there will be a final and full revelation of the nature of God. Heavenly powers will be released. God will call his chosen to himself.

These extraordinary and dramatic scenes painted by Christ give the Christian a source for hope; whatever the sufferings experienced; whatever the struggles endured; whatever the cries for justice; whatever the search for truth. All the trials of the faithful Christian will be shown to have not been in vain. All will be made right.

These images fixed in the Christian mind encourage us as we meet trials and setbacks. There will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and goodness.

The prophet Daniel in the first reading spoke of the moment of judgement: “Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth, many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace”.

The fact that there will be a moment of judgement for us is not so much a cause for fear and distress, as rather an incentive to seek God with greater intensity. We know that eternal blessing awaits us. We fix our eyes on the destiny that awaits us. We are encouraged to leave aside the shallow things of this earth and aim for the things of the spirit. We want to receive all that God has in store for us.

The promise of heaven gives perspective to the things of this earth. In the light of what is in store for us we evaluate what engages us here and now. We become more conscious of those things which are superficial and passing. While we happily enjoy good moments, we invest ourselves more in those things that count for eternity.

Material things lose their attraction, passing pleasures are seen as what they are - passing and of no final consequence. We find ourselves growing in gratitude for the simple things – for moments where love is in evidence, times of contemplation of things of the spirit, the grateful appreciation of beauty. Our souls long for deeper union with God whom we know is the final source of our joy and happiness. The desire for God outweighs the lesser passing joys of life.

We are attracted to goodness. We seek truth. We long for inner peace and contentment of spirit. It is the things of the spirit that give true life.

Contemplating these dramatic scenes depicting the final end of things helps us see this life as a pilgrimage and that something of wonder and joy awaits us. With this sense of things in our hearts we are able to bear the trials and struggles that mark our lives. We do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them because we are able to see the greater picture.

Daniel said, “The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven and those who have instructed many in virtue as bright as the stars for all eternity”. This surely inspires us to want to live our Catholic faith more luminously and seek to bring its beauty and splendour to those whom we can influence. We wish to share something that is the treasure we have found. Even when it is dismissed and rejected we quietly persist.

The final conclusion of things is nothing to be feared, but something to look forward to. We await the end with hope in our hearts. That is why the first Christians cried out with such expectant faith, “Come Lord Jesus”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 15 November 2015