Homily for the thirty-third Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 21:5-19


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"As some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, 'As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.'


"And they asked him, 'Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?' And he said, 'Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, "I am he!" and, "The time is at hand!" Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.'


"Then he said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."





Homily:


"As some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, 'As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.' And they asked him, 'Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?' "


Today, the Church celebrates the thirty-third Sunday of the year. Soon it will be the end of the liturgical year: next Sunday, we will celebrate the feast of Christ the King, and in two weeks, we will begin liturgical year 2002. Now, the liturgical year forms a complete cycle, a time during which the Church relives the entire history of Salvation in Jesus Christ. So, since we are at the end of the present cycle, today's readings speak to us of the end of human history and of the Return of the Lord at the end of time.


Is it useful and important for us to speak of the end of time? If Jesus himself spoke of it, then there is no doubt that it has some importance. And yet, to speak of the end of time is like speaking about the end of our life, and thus about our death... Do people generally want to speak about such a subject? I do not believe so... For many people, death is something to be dealt with later on, not today... This would be true even if death were to unfailingly bring us Heavenly bliss! For we are all so attached to life!


Many years ago, in a time when the secularization of society was not as advanced as it is today, someone wished a lady of a certain age his best wishes for the new year. After having wished the lady happiness, health, and peace, he concluded by saying: "And Paradise at the end of your days!" But the lady cried out: "Do not speak of misfortune!" This is a true story, alas... But are we not a little like this lady? Do we have a true, strong desire for Heaven? Do we truly like to hear about the end of our life?


"And he said, 'Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, "I am he!" and, "The time is at hand!" Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.' "


This passage should be compared to the following from Saint Matthew: "Then if any one says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." (Mt. 24:23-24) Indeed, when the Lord Jesus will return, no one, or almost no one, will be expecting him! For Christ will come like a thief, surprising a great number of people who will not be expecting him. Indeed, Saint Paul recommends to Christians that they live in expectation of the Lord in order that his coming might not surprise them like the coming of a thief: "But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. ... We are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober." (1 Thess. 5:4-6)


Moreover, it will not be necessary to go here or there to see the risen Lord. Of course, Christ will be in a certain, specific place at his second coming. But what will be most important then is that he be in us! For, if Jesus is in us through his grace, then we will see him in us, for what we already are - that is, the Body of Christ - will then be manifested to the eyes of everyone. Indeed, Saint John tells us: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 Jn. 3:2) If Jesus is in us, and if we will be able to see him in us when he returns, it is because, during our life, we had been able to communicate worthily of his Body and his Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (Jn. 6:54)


"Then he said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony.' "


Today, like yesterday and tomorrow, the Church follows her Lord: each day, the Christian is invited to bear his Cross and follow Jesus on the way that leads to Heaven. The disciple is not greater than the Master! If the Lord Jesus underwent the trial of the Cross, the Church must also undergo this trial. This is why Jesus says: "This will be a time for you to bear testimony." But it is precisely because the Church follows Christ that the Church is already resurrected with Christ: it is because of this hope through which she is already resurrected that the Church can worthily give testimony of her faith and of her love for the Savior of men!


" 'Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.' "


The words of the Lord apply to every age and to every persecution that the Church has had to undergo throughout the ages. But as for the final struggle, the final battle, that which we call the "agony", it truly seems, according to the words of the Lord, that this conflict will take place on the level of ideas and words, and not so much on that of physical violence, even if some people will die. Indeed, Jesus assures us: "But not a hair will not fall from your head." Thus, the elect of God, those who will have confidence in the Lord and his Holy Spirit, will be engaged in a spiritual and intellectual contest - one could even call it psychological warfare - from which they will emerge victorious thanks to the very Wisdom of God, in which they will then share.


"By your endurance you will gain your lives." Stand firm, says the Lord! Do not be discouraged! If I overcame first, then you too will overcome!


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary watch over the Church, today as well as tomorrow! May our communion today be our strength and our salvation!



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