“The day is coming that will set them on fire… but for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Words from 3rd chapter of book of Malachi from our first reading today – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
I have a glass here, and I would ask for your opinion. What can you tell me about the glass you see here? From their point of view:
- The pessimist says the glass is half-empty.
- The optimist says the glass is half-full.
- The cynic wonders with contempt who drank the other half.
- The realist says you indeed have a glass.
- The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by tomorrow.
- The insomniac will be up all night wrestling with this question.
- The engineer says you have more glass than is required for the given amount of water present.
- The entrepreneur says there is a T-shirt possibility in here somewhere.
- Mom says don’t put your glass on the edge of the ambo or you’ll make a mess.
There are many more possible answers, of course, each of them with some merit. I do think it’s interesting to see how our own unique perspective will influence how we come to answer even this simple question about a glass of water. I wonder what your perspective is then, when it comes to hearing these readings about the end times. As we approach the end of our liturgical year, the readings the Church lays out for us are made to prepare us for those final things. They are forming us to look towards that time when it is God who shall at last be all in all – when Christ shall reign over all of creation as King, which we will celebrate with next-week-Sunday’s feast. So, what is it that you heard? Do words like war, destruction, famine, plagues, fire, and evildoers jump out at you? Or did you hear the words: do not be afraid, mighty signs, wonders from the sky, healing, security, preservation, and justice? Is your perspective towards the end-times one of fear or hope? Do we have unfinished business? Do we trust in God? Or is there something else going on in our hearts?
According to salvation history, we are already living in the so-called “end times.” From the beginning of creation, God has always been at work in the world and, even when humanity came along and messed things up, God spoke through the prophets and established covenants with us so as to restore us and bring about salvation. But the coming of Jesus Christ has established a new, definitive point in history where God’s Kingdom has been established forever. In that we already have access to the Kingdom of God, and that God dwells among us now, and that we are currently moving towards that final culmination where God will be all in all, says to us that this period of time, right now, in which we are living is the time of fulfillment when everything is coming to its ultimate completion and end.
I think the Catholic Christian attitude and perspective towards this is something of a hope-filled, realism. For certainly we do not deny that there is much suffering in the world, which comes from a wide range of sources. There are many terrible calamities mentioned in the Gospel today, and for us mortal beings, there is no getting around it. Indeed, we claim the cross as our symbol. Catholicism is not out of touch with realities we have to face. But there is also great reason for hope amidst all of these things. As our response today indicates, God is going to re-establish justice and rule the peoples fairly. Thanks be to God! No more war, no more famine; hatred and violence will cease. Our first reading points out that God’s coming justice will be healing. Jesus tells us not be terrified. He promises us that not a hair on our heads, all of which has been counted, none of it will be destroyed and that through persevering in faith our lives will be secure. With a sense of eagerness, we proclaim in the creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Mind you, while we await the coming of the heavenly Jerusalem, it is a mistake to think that we are thus entitled to evade our earthly responsibilities as St. Paul points out in our second reading; this is to forget that precisely because of our hope we are all the more bound to transform the realities that make up our lives. For us who are here, who have faith in God, who are diligently working out our salvation on earth, the news of the end times actually should bring joy. While we certainly recognize that our glasses might be half-empty indeed because of the suffering we endure, because of the suffering we all too often inflict on others, let us also have the courage to press forward in Christ Jesus in the great hope that with him, our cup shall not only be full but runneth over!