ARE YOU PREPARED?
Since the age of 12, I have been in boarding schools. One of the exciting times in such schools is towards the end of term when there would be an opportunity to return home. There would be that mathematical genius whose task every morning would be to announce the countdown to the great day of going home: the days, the hours, the minutes, and the seconds. And finally that great day would arrive. We excitedly went home. We enjoyed our holidays – especially during Christmas. And then sadly, the holidays would end. I remember, learning one of the powerful lessons of my life from this experience – that everything comes to an end. School days came to an end, so did the holidays! Such is human life.
We are moving towards the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday will be the feast of Christ the King. And the following Sunday will be the first Sunday in Advent – the new year in the liturgical calendar. The Liturgy of the Word today takes advantage of this time of the year to remind us of a difficult theme, namely, the end of times!
Christianity believes in seven last things (eschata): death, resurrection of the body, judgement, heaven, hell, purgatory and Parousia (the second coming of Jesus). Today’s liturgy is inviting us to prepare ourselves worthily to receive our Lord at the end of time as the universal judge. Judgement takes place every day in our life. We are judged by God daily. There will be an two-fold judgement after our death: immediate judgement and final judgement.
Today’s reading talk about the final judgment and Jesus as the universal judge. Are we serious about preparing ourselves for the day of judgement?
We need to be wise enough to distinguish between temporary gain of fulfilling one’s duty and a permanent reward of fulfilling God’s commandments.
Today’s liturgy invites us to reflect on eschatological realities. The readings bring out three aspects of Jesus’ character as the eschatological judge:
1. Jesus will judge the world with justice and mercy: the first reading focuses on God’s infinite mercy on his chosen people. It is out of his mercy that God will appoint Michael the Archangel to guard his people. The wise will shine brightly and the just will be like stars forever because of God’s goodness towards them.
2. Jesus assumes this office of a judge not by force and sword but by His sacrifice and blood: the second reading emphasizes Jesus’ role not as a strict judge but as a loving redeemer. He seats himself at the right hand of God because he has shed his blood as a ransom for many. His judgment springs from his desire to save human beings.
3. Jesus’ appearance as a judge will be sudden: the Gospel speaks of the signs of the time regarding the appearance of Jesus as the final judge of the universe. The natural calamities and the appearance of the angels would alert human beings. One needs to be awake and watchful because Jesus’ arrival is certain but its time is uncertain.
There will be a false messiah in different forms in today’s world telling us of the end of times.
- There will be conflict of Nations: Do not be afraid. Trust in God, trust also in me (Jesus).
- There will be natural disasters: in these moments seek the Lord; in doing so you will not lack anything.
- There will be persecution: take them in love and these suffering brings joys.
The end is certain. Our Business is not to speculate, but to be Prepared. We should not live in fear.
It was a Friday and a woman was hurrying home from work. This was her bingo night. Suddenly she spotted this fellow standing on the edge of the pavement holding aloft a placard which rad: ‘The end of the world is near.” She went up to him and said, ‘You say the end of the world is near.” ‘That is right madam,’ he replied. ‘But are your sure?’ ‘Quite sure, madam.” “And you say it is near, how near?’ ‘Oh very near.’ ‘Could you be more precise?’ ‘This very night madam.’ The woman paused for a moment to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, ‘Tell me, son. Will it be before or after the bingo?’
Throughout the history of Christianity, some groups have broken away from the Church precisely because they were impatient with our Lord’s refusal to give details on this issue.
They wanted to be able to determine the exact time and place of Christ’s second coming and the end of history.
Today, one of the fastest-growing heretical sects continues to make this kind of prediction, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Also known as the Watchtower Society, it was founded in 1884 by Charles Taze Russell.
Since then it has grown to over 6 million members and 91,000 congregations in 235 different countries.
According to their own statistics, they add almost 300,000 new members every year.
Members commit to 5 weekly hours of door-to-door witnessing, leading a monthly Bible study, and selling a dozen subscriptions to their Watchtower magazine every month.
Although they use Bibles and claim to be Christians, they deny most of the basic doctrines of the Creed, like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the reality of grace, and the existence of Hell.
One of the characteristic aspects of their doctrine has to do with predicting the end of the world.
The Founder, Charles Russell, predicted and prepared for Jesus to come again in 1914. He died, disappointed, in 1916.
The new leadership revised the prophecy for 1925.
Later, they revised it again, predicting that Jesus would come at the end of World War II.
Another revision moved the date back to 1975, and still another to 1989 – all of these predictions were published in The Watchtower.
It is good for us as Catholics, members of the Church that Jesus himself founded, to be aware of groups like this, who are greatly mistaken in their efforts to follow Christ.
We should never let ourselves or our loved ones be deceived by them, and we should do what we can to help lead them back to the Good Shepherd’s true flock.
We should be grateful that Christ’s own Church has preserved the true doctrine: that Christ will come again to bring history to its close, and that we should live every day with that in mind.
As we have heard in the gospel, it speaks of Jesus’ second coming. To prepare for the coming of Christ is to make Him present in this world with our love, generosity, gentleness, thoughtfulness, understanding, helping hand, kind works and compassion.
We should be able to spend our time here on earth being able to do all this, and in doing so we will be ready for the second coming of Christ at any moment of our life.
Here is a proverb to motivate us. “I sought my God; my God I could not see. I sought my soul; my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor, and I found all three.” We ask Jesus, “How do we prepare for dying?” He responds, “By living.” The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity and thoughtfulness.
We all know the expression “Pay it forward.’ This week why not see how many times we ourselves can bring Jesus back to earth by paying it forward?
Jesus wants us to live each day of our lives to the full, loving God and loving our neighbor.
That’s why he doesn’t tell us exactly when the end of history will come, just as he doesn’t tell us exactly when our own death will come.
It is enough for us to know that it could be today.
Every time we hear an ambulance siren, we are reminded that the world has come to an end for someone.
Every time we drive past a cemetery, it is an opportunity for us to take stock of our lives, to change whatever needs to be changed so that we can die with no regrets.
Some people consider these thoughts morbid, but they are just realistic.
The really morbid thought is to blind ourselves to what Jesus has revealed and pretend that history will never end.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.