33 Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 18, 2018
Last week we saw some of the wealthiest of Americans fleeing their mansions. With little more than what they could carry in their arms, they fled a wall of flames from the California wildfire. Some only had a few minutes’ warning. I wonder if, in the midst of this disaster, they thought of the words of the Prophet Zephaniah?
Near is the great day of the LORD,
near and very swiftly coming.
A day of wrath is that day,
A day of distress and anguish,
A day of ruin and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of thick black clouds. (Zephaniah 1:14-16)
No doubt, the raging inferno that claimed a yet-to-be-determined number of lives must have seemed like “the end of the world” to those directly affected. So, too, for those who are the victims of mass shootings, or tsunamis and hurricanes, or drought, epidemics, famine, or war. Every generation has lived thorough horrific crisis that must have left them feeling like the end had come.
On this final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Old Testament Reading as well as the Gospel is apocalyptic in tone; that is to say, they both speak of the end times.
Blissfully ignorant of things such as atomic bombs and chemical and germ warfare, the ancients nevertheless anticipated “the Day of the Lord” as a final reckoning. Drawing on the memory of the most horrific of human experiences, their image of “the end times” involved wrath, distress and anguish, ruin and desolation, darkness and gloom, and thick, black clouds. Possibly the most frightening thing of all, however, was the inevitable call to judgment.
Jesus certainly reinforces the image of a cosmic event. But, for those who have tried to live a good life, the image of a terrifying, catastrophic conclusion from which there is no escape fades. The notion of a gloom and doom ending is overpowered by the promise of The Son of Man…Christ…returning in glory to announce the conclusion of time and a new beginning…The Reign of God…which will never end.
Our Psalm today should serve to calm all fears about “The Day of the Lord!” Whether we are speaking about the destruction of Planet Earth and the entire human race or the conclusion of our own earthly life, Christ is the Source of all hope for a happy ending.
You will show me the path to life,
Fullness of joys in your presence,
The delights at your right hand forever.
God has kept this promise.
Through Jesus Christ, God has shown us THE PATH to life. Jesus is the path. Jesus is THE WAY! And when the end comes, those who have tried their best to follow THE WAY…will eagerly abandon their homes and belongings, taking with them only their good deeds.
When the end comes, the righteous will not flee in terror from a wall of fire, but rather will hurry forward towards The Eternal Light. When the end comes, those who have tried to live in love, justice, and peace will not be fearful of the judgment seat. All of their hope rests in Christ, whose sacrifice has redeemed the world. Through His holy Cross, Christ has won forgiveness for those who seek to be forgiven.
As we bring this liturgical year to a close, it would seem that the last word about the final times is simply Christ!
As we make our way through the coming week, let us recall that next Sunday, we welcome Him as our Sovereign King.