YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: FINAL DAYS
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Predictions about the end of the world are not new phenomena. Hundreds of years ago, in the first century, a Jewish religious sect – the Essenes, predicted the end of the world. According to them, the end of the world was to come during the Jewish rebellion against the Romans between 66-70AD and this event would signal the coming of the Messiah. Martin Luther prophesied that the world was to end in 1600s. According to Luther: "We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse. This world will not last any longer… than another hundred years." And from 1966 onward Jehovah’s Witnesses preached that the final year (Armageddon) for the world was to be in 1975. There were even more prophecies pointing to the years 1999 and 2000 as the years that were to be the end of the world. Among these prophecies was that of the famous Nostradamus, also known as “the Man who saw tomorrow.” He had a fearful prediction about the end of the world when he spoke about a “King of Terror” who was to appear in July 1999. Furthermore, Philip Berg of the Jewish Kabbalah Centre pointed to September 11, 1999 as a day when the world was to be engulfed in a destructive fire. In addition, there were strong rumours in 1999 that all computers would crash as a result of Y2K bug at the end of that year. In the same year, 1999, there arose a fanatical movement in Uganda called The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, led by Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere. These leaders preached strongly about the end of the world. They led about 778 followers into what many commentators describe as group suicide.
There are some religious leaders whose predictions are yet to be fulfilled. For example, Said Nursi, a Sunni Muslim theologian in his writings says the world would come to an end in 2129. History shows us so many failed end-time predictions and prophecies. However, Jesus responds to all people who are seeking to know the exact day or hour when the world would end. He says, “No one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32).
In ancient times prophets and sacred writers predicted and had visions of how the final days of the world would look like. The style of writing about future final events is known as apocalyptic literature. The word ‘apocalypse’ is derived from the Greek word ‘apocalypsis’ which means revelation or opening up what was hidden. This style of writing can be found mostly in the book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation (Book of Apocalypse). Other passages of the Old Testament where the theme of the end of the world can be found, among others, are: Isaiah 24-27, 56-66; Ezekiel 38-39; Joel 2:28-3:21; Zechariah 1-6 and 12-14. Beside the Book of Revelation, other New Testament passages that speak strongly about the end of the world are: Mark 13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 and 2 Peter 3:1-13.
The prophet Daniel wrote his book at a time when Israel was passing through tough times. It was a period when the Syrians occupied Israel and imposed their language, culture and religion on them. There was a stiff resistance by Israel, some of whom preferred to die rather than give in to the Syrians. Daniel assured the people of Israel that many of those who had been killed in the struggle and lay in the dust of the earth would awake and all those with insight who remained faithful would shine brightly like the splendour of the firmament (Daniel 12:2-3). In the Gospel of Mark Jesus announced the destruction of the temple, which was the pride of the Jews. He spoke to them about terrors, troubles, cosmic catastrophes, distress and upheavals that were to happen. He was blunt to his disciples in speaking about the trials that they would encounter in the future. He told them how the powers in heavens would be shaken to the foundations and how they would see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory. This coming with great power and glory would be a time when God would turn all those who eternally oppose goodness, love and mercy into His footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 10:13).
We can summarise the following important points from the words of Jesus and the prophets who spoke and wrote about the end of the world. First, that there would be different forms of disorder in the world, before a perfect order is established; secondly, that God would visit his people even in the midst of chaos and catastrophe; thirdly, that people who suffer pain, persecution and endure to the end will shine brightly and be rewarded; fourthly, that the Messiah ‘Son of Man’ would come back to gather the faithful, re-establish peace and restore order.
In view of the teaching of Jesus Christ, we cannot not know when the world will end, but we can be certain that the world and our lives will end someday. We love to make plans for the future and we are familiar with the axiom, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” That explains why we engage in elaborate strategic plans for earthly goals such as making beautiful architectural designs and making great business plans. Regrettably, in our typical human nature we are so absorbed and engrossed in day-to-day life that we devote little or no time to planning for a life beyond earthly life.
Let us therefore take the following passages as guide towards planning for the final days:
1. Be watchful and be spiritually alert (Mark 13:33)
2. Think of what is above and not what is on earth (Colossians 3:2)
3. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (2 Timothy)
33rd Sunday of the Year; Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14; Mark 13:28-32