33 Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2019
A friend passed me a book that left me a total couch potato for three full days. A real page-turner. I could not put it down. It was fiction, but the characters and the plot were so well developed that it seemed like a true story. Basically, it described the age-old struggle between good and evil. As the story unfolded, it was hard to predict which would prevail. With only about 10 pages left, it was still anybody’s guess whether the bad guys would crash and burn, or continue on a path of greed, corruption, and violence. Then, all of a sudden, the story ended.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise; after all, I had almost reached the back cover when the author started to wrap things up. Still, the way the book ended was definitely surprising…even shocking, and bitterly disappointing.
After close to 400 pages of nail-biting action, the author simply killed off the bad guys in a few totally unrealistic paragraphs. The good guys were sent off into the sunset to live happily ever after. The book ended in such a way that no sequel is likely (not that I would ever read another book by this author). The conclusion to a story that held my attention for three solid days left me feeling that I had completely wasted valuable time that I can never get back. Bad endings are like that. A disappointing conclusion can totally ruin a great book, play, or movie, or even an exciting football game, i.e., Michigan State last Saturday.
Our story…the story of salvation…the history of humankind is the ultimate “thriller” for those serious enough to commit to it. But, it’s not a matter of committing to simply reading “The Good Book.” We are called to live it. Christians are expected to participate in the great battle. Armed by Christ with our Sacraments and emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are sent out to engage the enemy.
During certain chapters in salvation history, this has involved actual combat, but the war is also one of ideas. In our Second Reading, Paul explains that discipleship requires stern resistance to any ideas that disrupt or undermine the order of the Gospel. When peace, justice, and charity are threatened by “disorderly” laws or policies, Christians are called to arms. Moreover, the early Christians were sternly warned that failure to live according to God’s battle plan is a lost opportunity to overpower the enemy…a waste of valuable time that can never be recovered. That warning holds true throughout the history of humankind…and is especially relevant during this 21st century.
There is no doubt that the story of salvation involves a constant struggle between good and evil. And, as in all confrontations, suffering and persecution are to be expected. However, we do know the ending. It is neither surprising and certainly will not be disappointing for those who have placed their hopes in God. Throughout Scripture, we are assured that God has not lost control, but is guiding human history according to an eternal plan. And He has invited people of faith to share in the fruits of victory by joining in the battle. The final outcome has been described in different ways, in both the Old and the New Testaments. But, in the end, good wins!
We are not given the details of just exactly how and when The Author of Life…God…will write those words: THE END!
However, we can be certain of this: The day of the Lord is coming. And those who have helped to bring Gospel order to the chaos caused by sin will go out to welcome Christ with joyful hearts!