33rd Sun [C] 1998

Fr. Charles Irvin

Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

Have you ever had someone ring your doorbell and find yourself confronted with a question such as: “Will you be saved? Are you ready for the end of the world?” That’s happened to you and me a number of times, and each time we’ve had to wait for the persons to get through their canned speech before we could even begin to answer.


And, I’m sure, you’ve read articles and watched TV news reports about people who know the exact date and hour when God will appear and end our world. As best I can remember,  the pope has not made any public statements about the date and hour and place in which Jesus will come again in glory. And I doubt if the pope ever will. After all, on that day, he will be out of a job!

But, seriously now, the Catholic Church does not  ignore the fact that the world will come to an end and that Jesus Christ will return on the Day of Judgment. It does, however,  put the emphasis on what we do on a daily basis to make the kingdom of God real in our world. We need to remember that Jesus told his disciples not to worry about when the world will actually end. And following Him, the Catholic Church feels obliged to teach as He taught. What we are to concern ourselves with is bringing His kingdom into our daily lives. Our mission is to establish his kingdom here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. So instead of worrying about when the world will end, every day we pray with Jesus to our Father: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and then work to make that happen.


Now don’t get me wrong, paying attention to the end of the world is important, but the importance is to be found in our living today as if the world will end tomorrow. That’s the attitude we should have about our own death as well as the end of the world. Let’s face it, we should recognize that every age in human history has had its calamities, its earthquakes, famines and such terrible events that even entire civilizations have come to an end. But if we get all riddled with  anxieties and worries about the end of the world we’ll never get down to the mission of Jesus which is therefore our mission, namely that of  bringing God’s kingdom to be established here on earth.


Holy Mother Church puts the scriptures about the Last Days and the end of the world in front of our eyes so that we can judge what’s right and what’s wrong with what we are doing today. If we ignore our own death — and the fact that on the day we die we will be judged by the God who gave us life — then we’ll neglect how we should be living our lives each day. The fact that our life will end and the world will end ought to cause us to think more about what’s really valuable to do right now, what we should be about today. Each new day is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God.


We need to remember that the reason why we were born, the reason why we live our lives here on earth, and the reason why we die is to love God face to face. God gave us life here in order that we might prepare our selves for life with Him forever in heaven. And if we learn to see the face of God in the faces of those around us, then we will recognize His face when we are in heaven. For the attitudes and what we carry in our hearts that we have fashioned for our selves while living here on earth will be the attitudes and heartfelt treasures we will take with us forever into heaven. Along with Christ, and filled with his Holy Spirit, we fashion for ourselves the sort of heaven we will live in for all eternity. God will recognize us according to the way we have fashioned and shaped our selves. What sort of a “face” will you show Him when you see Him face to face? And will you then be able to see His face in those with whom you lived here on earth?


Years ago there was an American author named Rollo May who wrote a number of very popular books dealing with successful and healthy living. In one of his books he wrote: “The most effective way to ensure the value of the future is to confront the present courageously and constructively.” The best way to put our present and daily lives into proper perspective is to pay attention to what they will add up to when we die. Which is to say that how we die and the condition in which we die will depend entirely upon how we have lived.


Allow me to add yet another piece to this jigsaw picture: The more beautiful our lives and our world become through our humble and seemingly insignificant daily lives, the more our world will shine in glory on that great day when Jesus returns in glory. The more beautiful we become now the more we will be preparing for that day when that glory will be ours with God throughout all eternity.


And isn’t that one of the major causes for the mess in which our society finds itself these days? If people were more concerned about how they will be judged when they die and how the world will be judged when it comes to an end, then they would be more concerned about what they do and what they don’t do today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. If the end isn’t important then ordinary living isn’t very important. Ordinary time won’t mean anything and ordinary human life will slip into anarchy, crime, drugs, violence, random shooting, road rage, and all of the other stuff that degrades and threatens us here in America. We will abandon all effort and let the Devil have his way.


A great philosopher and thinker by the name of Edmund Burke once wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We need to see that ordinary neglect can have extraordinary consequences.


One of the more popular of recent movies is the movie “Titanic.” That fantastic, majestic and overwhelming passenger ship seemed to be the crowning achievement of human ingenuity and technological skill. Its builder boasted that it was so safe and so unsinkable that “even God couldn’t sink it.” That ship in many ways symbolizes how many view our society and culture — take a look at what was happening on board the Titanic and what’s happening in the culture surrounding us. The Titanic was a superlative achievement of human ingenuity and technological skill at the beginning of this century. . . and it was lost due to ordinary neglect. 


 And so tomorrow morning when you return to your work and enter into another ordinary week, remember that everything you do, and everything you fail to do, is not without significance. Everything becomes a part of the sum total that adds up you life at the end. Which is why the Church puts us in touch today with the end of your world, and with the end of mine.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”