We are coming to the end of the Liturgical year and the readings today focus on the end times which sound like a prophecy of doom and gloom. Why would they sound that way when we know that Jesus doesn’t want us to despair? His ministry is a message of hope and resurrection to new life, not death. But we are our own worst enemy. We have a tendency to focus on the wrong things. The scriptures reference the end times but we look at the end times as a scary thing. Why is that? It is the second coming of Jesus Christ. We should be joyous and ready to spend all eternity in heaven with him.
So what are we afraid of? Maybe the truth lies in that we may not feel ready for Jesus to come. Why is that? Of course, when you talk about the final judgement, it is too late at that point to make any changes in your life. But that is the point of today’s readings. We should already be living our lives as Jesus has taught us. If we are, then there is nothing to change, nothing to be worried about. In Luke 5:32 Jesus said: “…I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” Do we need to repent? The challenge during Advent is to look honestly at ourselves. Sometimes we can fool ourselves by how we look at things.
Let’s take a look at a child’s point of view. Children were lined up in a cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted it on the apple tray which said: “Take only ONE. God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note which said, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Are we afraid that God is watching our every move? He knows all, so there is nothing hidden from Him. Does that make us uncomfortable? If it does we should heed the warnings in the Readings today.
We are challenged this time of year to review our lives and see if we are being honest with ourselves and discern what changes we need to make in our lives. If we fear that Jesus would say we should make some changes then there is no time like the present. There is no time to waste as we do not know when our personal end time is. As it states in Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
If you recognize that some changes should be made the next question is: Are you ready to change? We may put parameters around it that makes us feel like we should wait. Don’t listen to that voice in your head. Remember the statement, “Ready or not here I come.” If you are waiting to be ready you are wasting time, take the plunge and make the change. You may feel as though you can’t jump, but close your eyes, take the leap of faith and jump. Jesus will carry you over the finish line.
In Malachi 3:15 it states: “But we call the arrogant blessed; for evildoers not only prosper but even test God and escape.” This makes reference to the injustice we see even today where evildoers seem to get away with doing whatever they want with no repercussions. It may make you feel like it doesn’t really matter what you do. That is the evil deceiver getting into your head. In the following verses in Malachi, which is our First Reading today, God is telling us that it does matter, but they have free will, just like you and I, and make their own choices. God lets them do their thing, but when their end time comes they have already made their choice. Justice will be served.
The Second Reading addresses those who are preoccupied with how other people conduct themselves and stresses for us to mind our own business. Keep doing what you know is right. Be the example others need to see. In the Gospel Jesus reminds us that the things of this world will pass away. He says not to worry about how other people think of you. Don’t worry about the worldly view of what is considered success and what they consider of value. Focus on the values Jesus instills in us and let his love and light be your guide, not the darkness of sin.
The last line of the Gospel is the overriding message to guide our daily lives. It states: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Live your life according to Christ. It will require selflessness and sacrifice. It will not be easy. You may be made fun of and ridiculed for not living by worldly values, but Jesus is in your corner and gives you what is needed to persevere.
There is no need to worry about the end times, no need to worry about Jesus’ second coming. The goal is to be always ready no matter when God calls us home to Him. There is no guarantee on how long we will live, but we know that the reality is we only have a short lifespan, even if we live 80+ years, it is not a long time. No matter what our age is, now is the time to do our part in the ministry of Jesus. We are about to start Advent, it is a great time to look closely at ourselves and we can make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Start now because it is never too late. Ready or not here we come. We are not going to be perfect, but as long as we try we are heading in the right direction. Remember what Jesus told us: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”