HOMILY OF THE 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Theme: “BY YOUR PERSEVERANCE YOU WILL SECURE YOUR LIVES”
A few days ago, a sign was seen in the skies somewhere in Israel, it was a great ring of clouds accompanied by sounds like that of a trumpet. NASS later interpreted it as a normal phenomenon. It was largely suspected to be a pattern drawn in the skies by drones and surveillance planes set to prevent a possible air strike while top world leaders were in Jerusalem to pay final respects to Shimon Peres, former President of Israel. Some Pessimists who are always excited by negative news and some Christians who eagerly anticipate Christ’s second coming are not satisfied with any interpretations other than the mysterious sign being a fulfilment of some of the apocalyptic signs to accompany the second coming of Christ.
The basis of such agitation is found in such writings as the readings of today. In the readings of today, being the penultimate Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the year, the tone is highly eschatological. The readings speak about the end time and the final things. Whether or not the “signs” in the sky are true fulfilment of the apocalyptic anticipations, one thing is important, that one should always be prepared for his or her own last day.
In the first reading, the prophet Malachi speaks of the day of reckoning, when the Lord will annihilate the wicked and the evil-doers. Speaking of root and branches might imply the old retributive justice which even affects the offsprings and entire lineage. However, the same day of reckoning brings rays of justice upon the just and those who fear God’s name.
The Psalmist in Ps. 98 is certain of the Lord’s coming when justice shall prevail on the earth and invites all nature to rise in expectation.
In the second reading, Paul asserts firmly the immediate consequences of indolence. This was to shun the laziness orchestrated by some overzealous Christians who were spreading wrong teachings on the proximity of Christ’s coming, thus causing many to wait in idleness.
Paul presents himself as a model to the Thessalonian Church, along with Timothy and Silas, his fellow Missionaries. They had toiled day and night spreading the gospel and yet providing for their own needs. He spoke to them of the reward that accompanies hardwork and insists that the one who has not worked should also not eat. This also has an eschatological implication. We are servants of God here on the earth and must give account of our stewardship. If we work well, then heaven
is our reward. If not, heaven may elude us.
In the gospel, Jesus was nearing his final days and was preparing his disciples for his departure. The setting of the gospel was the temple in Jerusalem, the pride of the common Jew. Jesus had earlier on placed value on the widows mite, rating it above the rich contributions of the wealthy into the temple treasury. It was as though he was trying to open their eyes to true values. Now he observed the vain admiration of some over the ornamentation in the temple, and he spoke to them, “All that you see here, the day shall come when there will not be a stone left on the other, which will not be thrown down”.
This statement by Jesus has been understood to have an immediate fulfilment in the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem by Titus around 70AD. There is wider interpretation that sees the words of Jesus to imply the final end awaiting all things. Surely, the glamours of the earth will wear out. At that time only eternal things will stand the test of time. Emphasis should not be placed on that which does not last but on the things that are eternal. The beauty of the human flesh and all the treasures of the world will not last, but the beauty of the soul and the treasures of heaven will subsist.
However, many Christians in our time are easily excited. They go hysterical at the slightest hint of end time and inspire unnecessary fears among others. Fear is not an instrument in. God’s work. He lovingly draws all to himself, and certainly not by fear. The words of Jesus encourages the believer to be focused, not to be carried away by deceptive teachings. The disciples asked when the time will be, but Jesus rather answered when it will not be! He said, these things will happen but it will not immediately be the end. He also says, “see that you are not deceived, for many will say ‘I am he’ and ‘the time has come’. Do not follow them!” The imperative is clear. Many false teachers these days are fermenting fears in order to attract members, and against the teachings of Jesus many are following them. A lot of people are generating visions of hell fire and how many people are pouring into the fire, they tell tales of the angels lifting the trumpets and all, Jesus says “do not be afraid!” Focus on being a good Christian. The challenges will be plenty but his grace will abound.
As we all journey amidst the difficulties of the present time, there is great need for perseverance. The challenges and tribulations will be great but the grace of God aids us to persevere till the end, that we may not know damnation, but experience the glory of the rising Sun of Justice, through Christ our Lord, amen.
-Fr. Precious Ezeh