Has there ever been a time?

Has there ever been a time or an age with such discord, hatred, trial and tribulation? Terrorism, persecutions, racism, murder violence, armed conflict, famine, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes … the list is endless.

End TIme

End TIme

We too often see the world through the prism of the time in which we live. Rarely do we reflect on the past or admit to our bias for seeing today as the approaching apocalypse, the end times, the last days.

Charles Dickens began his classic book A Tale of Two Cities with this unforgettable opening: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.1 Written one-hundred fifty-seven years ago, I would suggest that there are many who hold that same or a similar view today.

Yet we should ask ourselves whether there has ever been a century without a war or insurrection? Has there ever been an age without plague or desperate times? Has there ever been an age without some natural disaster? When has there been a time when Christians have not been ridiculed and rejected, persecuted for simply trying to live their faith?

Over four-hundred fifty years before the birth of Jesus, an anonymous author, writing under the pseudonym of Malachi, a name derived from the Hebrew expression for “My Messenger” warned:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch.”2

The Jewish community had lost its way upon its return from Babylon. The sharp reproaches against the priests and rulers of the people are the likely reason the author wished to conceal his identity. It was a time of priestly abuses and religious indifference. The people had strayed from their faith in God, choosing to marry pagans rather than marriages with Israelite women. They had in many ways lost faith in God and had turned to rational, secular ways. There is something eerily familiar between that time and today. It would serve us well to reflect on how little has changed in nearly twenty-five-hundred years of human history.

While Jesus seemingly offers a stark vision of the future, one which many have utilized to make self-prophetic prognostications of impending doom and gloom, a critical review of what he said is especially revealing. He told those who were listening “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”3

Such things (wars and insurrections) must happen first? Yet, he doesn’t stop there, adding “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”4 Now astute readers will quickly notice the lack of any indication or mention of an end time. What is evident here is that this is the way life is. Jesus wasn’t prophesying about the end of time, but the condition of every time, from then until well into the future.

There is at least one interpretation of apocalyptic literature (one far more solid than the endless announcements of the end of the world, based on occult reading of scripture) that takes such passages as revelations not so much of what is to come, but of what is now the case.

Each day is the last. Each time is the end time. Each human being faces the end of the world in the span of a life, whether it reach eight minutes or eighty years. The world, its opportunities and losses, passes away for us each night. Every sunset announces a closing of a day that will never come again. Each human death is the curtain on an unrepeatable drama, which, without God, amounts to a tragedy. Every generation, in some way, is the last, the termination. And each generation, like each death and every day, witnesses the signs of the end times.

Everything that Christ predicted has taken place and is taking place and will continue to take place. We need not wait until the millennium or turn to Nostradamus to unlock the mystery. Life itself is the mystery, this great groaning of creation that finds its meaning in hope alone.5

Let us briefly return to Malachi, who concludes: “for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.6 There are many who express fear of the future, of what tomorrow may bring. Yet such unreasoned fear isn’t what Malachi is referring. Fear of the Lord—one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit—is reverential awe and wonder toward the creator, toward God.

This kind of ‘fear’ is crucial for us. Only when we have it can we be ready to begin relating to God, to start maturing in our relation with the Most High. Only then do we begin to suspect what it really means to say that God is Love.7

The truth is far too few lay claim to any fear of the Lord. Our narcissism knows few bounds. We are the center of the universe and all must revolve around the center, including God. God has become, for those who deign even to acknowledge his existence, our assistant, standing by to answer our prayers, to calm our nerves, to bring us peace, to help our favorite team win the game.

If only man would admit his own insignificance to the creative love of God. If only we could admit to the obvious: we are not the center of the universe, God is. All that is, exists only for as long as he wills it. We owe our creation and our continued existence to his love. Yet we, in our arrogance and pride, refuse to acknowledge our complete dependence on our creator God.

Bertrand Russell, an avowed atheist, exemplified the hopelessness that pervades when we deny God. He claimed that an honest philosophy could not deny that “no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave. All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system.”8

Without God at the center there can be no hope, and without hope, life is nothing but a cruel joke.

For those who hope, it is otherwise. As Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, that groaning of all creation is an act of giving birth. “We, too, groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved.”9

History moves us to but one conclusion: our lives are best at peace the closer we are to true center, God. We cannot reach the center as long as we remain seated upon the throne. The longer we hold ourselves in such exaggerated self-esteem we will be incapable of loving any other than our self, an empty love which can never last beyond the grave. It will only lead to hopelessness and despair. Without hope, life has no meaning, no value, no purpose, no love. Without love the universe and all within it are but dust upon the wind.

Some twenty years ago, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote:

In today’s world, including the world of economics, the prevailing picture is one destined to lead us more quickly toward death rather than one of concern for true development which would lead all toward a more human life.10

We urgently need to recognize, with all humility, who is the center of the universe … waiting for us to climb down from our thrones. Amen.

 

Homily #095
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time — Cycle C
Malachi 3:19-20A
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19


1 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859.
2 Mal 3:19
3 Lk 21:9.
4 Lk 21:10-11.
5 John Kavanaugh, SJ, The End of the Ages, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
6 Mal 3:20.
7 John Foley, SJ, A Copernican Revolution, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
8 Bertrand Russell, Free Man’s Worship.
9 John Kavanaugh, SJ, The End of the Ages.
10 John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987, §24.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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