“For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stumble … But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:1-2)
Last Sunday, we learnt that death is not the end of our lives but the beginning of another life, where there would be no need for marriage since we shall be like the angels. We saw how the seven brothers willingly gave up their lives rather than commit sin because they were absolutely convinced of the resurrection of the dead and the reward of the just in the life to come.
Today, we hear Jesus in our Gospel passage saying that we too shall face persecution and some put to death for His sake.
Everything that has a beginning must have an end. Whether we are persecuted or not, we cannot escape death and God’s judgement. Malachi tells us that while the evildoers will stumble, those who fear God shall rise to eternal life. Our Psalmist says: God judges in fairness. Surely, God cannot be bribed or threatened to deliver a false judgement like human judges do in court. There are so many lessons for us to take home today:
1. This World is Passing Away: Nothing in this World Lasts Forever.
In our Gospel passage, Jesus saw how people were admiring the beauty Temple in all its glory and shocked them by saying: “The days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” To really grasp what Jesus is saying, apply this statement of Jesus to all the things you cherish right now.
St. John drives home the point when he says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world… For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
The biggest mistake we can ever make is to sell our souls to the devil for the sake of the material riches of this world. As Jesus once asked: “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” (Mark 8:36) No wonder when the devil sought to tempt Jesus with the riches of this world, Jesus did not even give it a second thought. (Matthew 4:8-10).
2. Though We Live in the World, We Do not Belong to this World.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus clearly told us: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19). In fact, in today’s Gospel passage, we hear Jesus saying to us: “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons… 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.” (Luke 21:12-17)
You may wonder, if the world hates us so much, how are we to respond? First, bear in mind that “though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly.” (2 Corinthians 10:3). Therefore, Jesus tells us “not to meditate beforehand how we are to answer.” The battle does not belong to us; our quarrel is not with human beings. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
Secondly, Jesus tells us: “By your endurance, you will gain your lives.” Never give up on doing what is right even when it becomes painful. To endure is to remain steadfast no matter what. To endure is to continue serving God even when you cannot find role models around you. Are you currently thinking of giving up on your goodness? Are you sick and tired of being laughed at, insulted and called names by your peers for being such a God-fearing person? Jesus says to us today: Do not Give Up. Continue carrying that cross, it will save your life in the end.
3. Take Heed that You are Not Led Astray by False Prophets.
True to Jesus’ prediction, we live in an era of false prophets. Christianity in this country suffers from a very bad reputation due to the avalanche of false prophets everywhere. Many persons believe that the coming of the Antichrist would signal the end of the world, but as St. John would say: “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:18-19)
Honestly, it is not everyone who calls himself or herself a pastor or priest that is worthy of that title. A lot of people running churches today are antichrists. Jesus tells us “many will come in my name… do not go after them.” Come to think of it, if you claim to be a Christian, a pastor, an evangelist or whatever, and your way of life (or your actions) is making people turn away from Jesus Christ, or develop hatred for anything church, aren’t you simply an antichrist? If you open church just to enrich yourself, aren’t you an antichrist? If you begin to tell people lies in the name of vision, aren’t you an antichrist?
4. Get Busy; Use Your Talents, Work for your Daily Bread.
There were some people who heard sermons about the end of the world and decided they would do nothing else but just wait for that day. St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians seriously rebuked such persons saying that no one should be given anything to eat if he or she does not work. St. Paul reminded the people how he worked with his own hands (as a tentmaker) to provide his daily bread. The world would surely end, but that should not be an excuse for laziness.
The current wave of prosperity preaching in our land has produced a generation of very lazy Christians who have decided they wouldn’t make use of the great gifts, talents and ability to reason that God has freely deposited in them. You find many Christians today who prefer to shout “I receive it” in church than to handle a hoe and cutlass in the farm. You find Christians who believe that all their problems are as a result of demonic activities; Christians who fear the devil more than they fear to disobey God; Christians who believe that no matter what they do, they are destined to fail because some men or women of God have seen vision for them; Christians who beat their own mother in public because the so-called pastor said she is the one responsible for stagnation in their life. You find Christians who believe that by sowing a seed in the church, they can just go home and do nothing while money begins to shower on their bodies like rain. I can go on and on.
Dear friends, use your head! Even Jesus Christ himself worked as a carpenter. He made furniture for a living to provide His needs before He began His public ministry. He was well known in His village so much so that the people looked down on Him when He visited, and could not imagine where and how He got the wisdom to speak such gracious words. (Cf. Matthew 13:55-58).
Today’s readings were carefully selected by the Church because we are coming to the end of a liturgical year. The simple truth is that the day you die, this world would end for you. Jesus tells us that there would be wars, tumults, terrorism, earthquakes, famines, pestilences and so on, but despite all these things, “do not be terrified.” Relax, and go about your daily activities, earn your daily bread, but in all you do, make sure you “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) so that when your death comes, you will be among those upon whom “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” as Malachi says. Today is world day of the poor. What have you done and what do you plan to do for the poor?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, take far from me anything that would keep me far from you. Amen. Bible Study: Malachi 4:1-2, Psalm 98, 2nd Thessalonians 3:7-12 & Luke 21:5-19).