Reflections on the Readings
November 17, 2013
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Living in the End of the Age
"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." - Jesus
The Sky is Falling!
I've heard my share of doomsday preaching! As a child squirming in the old slat pews at the Full Gospel Tabernacle I heard hell preached hot, and that the end was near. There's nothing wrong knowing that hell is not a vacation destination, but on a hot summer night during Revival Meetings, it was not hard to imagine how hot hell was given we had no air conditioning in the Tabernacle. That fact provided a built in prop to support the message!
I also vividly remember when I seriously wondered to my self if time would run out before I could get married. I must have been 12 or 13 at the time. I did carry in my memory bank an intense memory about some over zealous Pentecostals who predicted the exact day that the world would come to an end. They camped out at the Marengo caves in southern Indiana waiting for the 'end.' I guess they thought Jesus could find them and take them home from there. That memory is sealed forever in the mind and emotions of a little 6 year old. I remember going outside on that predetermined date on that already hot summer morning. It seemed to me that the sunshine was a hazy orange on that hot and humid morning - it was almost eerie. Eventually that summer Brother Ted and his family and those who where with them went back to their homes and jobs and life went on. But as for this little boy now 58 years old, I will never forget that!
Maybe that's why I have little patience for anyone of any denominational or church stripe whose perceived calling is to scare the hibbie jibbies out of people; whose message is mostly that the sky is falling; predicting or imagine that they know how every piece of the end time puzzle will fit together. Maybe it's because I know better, and believe Jesus who told his Apostles, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:7)
Now, but not Yet!
I believe in the second coming of Christ and the fulness of the Kingdom. We live both in this world and in the promise of the world to come. It's absolutely true that we have here no permanent city. In today's gospel Jesus warns to not be led astray. I take that to mean that we are to keep our eye on the goal. Don't be distracted by the distractions. Many deceptions are out there. Some will announce themselves as the Christ. Others will say that the end is at hand; that the time is at hand, meaning it's over. Don't believe that crap. And don't be terrified. The end is not yet.
Recall the early centuries of the Church. Horrendous persecution inflicted the cause of Christ and his Church. The Roman Emperors saw the Christians as a threat - especially their King. I can imagine that those early believers prayed often and hoped deeply for the soon return of Christ. That is a good and necessary prayer in any generation. For every generation since the Ascension lives in the tension of this age and of the age to come. It is for us during this age to live for Christ and to proclaim his life and love. We are witnesses of the blessed hope that Christ gives. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the same Lord, Jesus Christ for all of time as long as time shall endure.
In today's Gospel we hear that the Temple will not last forever. It's demise actually was a 'sign' that Jesus predicted. When it fell under the Roman forces in A.D. 70, led by Titus, that event meant the end of the centrality of the Temple. Jesus taught that true worship was in the Spirit. That's why the priest invites us to 'lift up our hearts.' And we respond as people of the Spirit, "We lift them up to the Lord." In the celebration of the Mass we truly experience a foretaste of when time shall be no more. And that's not scary, is it? Nope!
The Crux of the Matter
Jesus invites us to be faithful. His words are meant to encourage us. He knows that we will have trials and tribulations. Not everyone will always speak well of us. Read the headlines. Some do not think that the Church matters nor is it very progressive some complain. But no matter where the opposition comes from, we must live in the power of the age to come. Our life in the Spirit comes from having tasted the heavenly gift; we are partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God. Lofty words from the writer to the Hebrews and what he thought about Christians and how they are sustained in this age.
And when we are called upon to give an account of our allegiance to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say. For that is our destiny. To be submissive to the Holy Spirit and to go and do and say what he puts in our heart. That is the crux of the matter - the decisive and most important reality of our time in time.
Jesus teaches us through the Gospel today that fear is not our destiny. Faith, hope, and love adorn the life of the believer. This is the wardrobe of the Christian. So let us settle it in our minds that always and for as long as there shall be time to willingly bear testimony to the love of Jesus. For the word or deed Jesus gives us to do for a testimony of his love will be powerful. "I will give you a mouth," says Jesus. And if the response is hatred and maltreatment because of our speaking and acting in Christ's name, not a hair of your head will perish. Our endurance, our faithfulness to Christ will bring us deeper into His life. For He whom we serve is the sun of Justice. He will rise like an eagle and spread his wings of healing over the nations, until he makes all things new. This is the missing piece, the center piece if you will, of the end time puzzle most often neglected by those who have endless speculation about the end. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com