Time Year CReadings: Mal 3:19-20; 2 Thess 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
Signs of the end and readiness to meet the Lord are some of the phrases that help us to focus of the central message of this Sunday. The readings draw our attention to the urgency of being ready for Christ’s triumph over the enemy in a battle that is already taking place. In the first reading from the prophet Malachi, we hear that the day is coming when those who do not listen to the Lord will be burnt up, while those who listen and dance God’s melody will leap like calves going to pasture. Paul in the Second Reading deals with the question of the Second Coming of the Lord, because some faithful in Thessalonica believed that Christ was about to return soon, and therefore there was no need to work. Paul corrects that misunderstanding. As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, the readings turn our attention to the end times, symbolized in the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic events before the end.
Jesus in the Gospel teaches us that before the events of the end take place, we too must undergo persecution, but by our perseverance, we will secure our lives. Jesus also cautions against the danger of false prophets, who try to announce the end of the world. Christians from the very beginning have always been curious about the meaning of today’s readings, and some would want to ask the same question the disciples asked: “Teacher, when will this happen?” They want know when exactly the end-times will be. Jesus confirms that the end times will certainly come, and warns against false prophets. “Take care not to be deceived…because many will come using my name and saying ‘I am he’ and ‘the time is near at hand’... And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen, but the end is not so soon” (Lk. 21:8). Because those are only signs, do not listen to anyone telling you when the end of the world is coming: whether they be priests or televangelists or self-proclaimed prophets or spiritual writers. As soon as you hear any preachers say they know when the end will come, be sure to avoid them like the plague. Jesus in the Gospel does not tell us when the end times will come. He only speaks about signs of the end: wars, earthquakes, insurrections, famines and plagues; “and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven." The point Jesus makes is that we should not be concerned about when the end will be. Rather we should be concerned about our readiness at all times. The Gospel therefore underlines that aspect of readiness: our growth in faith and hope, and gearing ourselves for Christ’s victory, which is also our victory. In the face of suffering and persecution, through perseverance, we will triumph. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.” The message this Sunday may be summed up in three points. 1) The readings draw our attention to the urgency of our readiness at all times for Christ’s triumph over the enemy. The battle is already taking place. 2) We must not live in fear, but in faith and hope, prepared to stand up for the truth; prepared to suffer persecution; ready to meet the Lord. 3) The bottom line is whether you and I will secure our lives; whether we will triumph in the end; whether that day will find us ready, in God’s grace. The choice is yours.
©2016 John S. Mbinda