33rd Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin

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

The liturgical year of the Catholic Church covers all times in our salvation history, past, present, and future. In Advent we enter into the mood and vision of people who had to await the coming of the Savior. From Christmas to Pentecost we walk with Jesus through His earthy life and ministry while He was present in His human form among us. During Ordinary Time we live out the mysterious presence of God’s grace among us by the power of the Holy Spirit in our ordinary human days of living.

Today’s reading direct our attention to the end of the world, known in Scripture as The Day of the Lord. How does the Catholic Church want us to think about that event and try to understand it? What is the right attitude and vision we should have as we look through our uncertain days toward that certain future ending?


Well, first of all, we should recognize that every age in human history has had doomsayers who proclaim that the end of the world is about to happen. We hear them now in our own days. Every age has had its wars, earthquakes, famines, and calamities. There will always be preachers who deliberately whip up anxiety and fear in folks by declaring that the end is near.


By the time St. Luke wrote his gospel had to deal with similar anxieties and fears found in the people of early Christian communities. Many of the people for whom he wrote his gospel believed that Jesus was about to return in glory and that the end of the world was about to happen. St. Paul was likewise dealing with that situation when he wrote his letter to the Thessalonians. We, too, see and hear T.V. preachers who constantly tell us that scripture, especially the Book of Revelation, has predicted the end of the world in our time. The Last Day, they proclaim, is just about to happen.


Now the Catholic Church does not ignore the fact that the world will come to an end and that Jesus Christ will come again in judgment on The Last Day. But our Church does not ask us to spend so much time worrying about exactly when He is to come again so much as to ask us to live our lives in the context of the fact that He will come again. Up until The Last Day we should be about the task of revealing His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Our energies should be focused on living our ordinary days in Christ’s presence among us now. Spending our time and energy in calculating when He will come again can divert us from the importance of what is happening now.


Still, it is important to consider that our own personal last day can occur at any time. Strokes, heart attacks, automobile accidents, hurricanes, and other natural disasters can unpredictably strike us at any time. It’s important to realize that death is coming to us because our death gives meaning to how we live here and now. If we ignore our own death then we will forget about how we should be living tomorrow, this coming week, and all the rest of the days of our lives. The Day of Judgment ought to cause us to think more about what is valuable to do today and in our immediate tomorrows. St. Paul thought that his Thessalonian Christians were giving up on living because they were so focused on dying.


The Church puts the Last Day in front of our eyes so we can judge what is right and what is wrong in what we our doing during the days of our ordinary living. A popular writer in past years, Rollo May, once wrote: “The most effective way to ensure the value of the future is to confront the present courageously and constructively.” It helps us to put our present day values in a proper perspective. This is so because the world will become more beautiful through our efforts today and tomorrow. The result will be that our world will shine in glory on the Last Day. The more glorious our ordinary days, the more we will live in glory in the life to come.


The end of the world should be important to us because it make our earthly responsibilities and values more important both now, as we live out our lives, and in the next life when we will live with them eternally. If we ignore our own personal judgment when we die, if we don’t concern ourselves with our own personal last day, then we won’t care about how we are treating ourselves, treating others, and treating the world God has given us in which to live. If the end of our lives is not important to us then our ordinary lives will not be important to us. Ordinary human living will then slip into anarchy, crime, drugs, violence, and so forth. We will abandon this life and let the devil have it. Satan will have his day; Satan will have our world.


Jesus taught us what we know of as The Lord’s Prayer. Each word and phrase in it was very important to Him. Today we should remember in a special way the phrase: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The phrase “on earth” is controlling. Our ordinary days should be filled with the extraordinary presence of God’s kingdom here among us, here on earth, as we live out each and every day of our lives.


It is true that you and I may die tomorrow but our destiny in the next life will depend upon what we do today, tomorrow, and the rest of the days of our lives. We should plan and work like we are going to live forever (because we are), and live like we are going to die tomorrow. Today is, as they say, the first day of the rest of your life – and your eternal life as well. So don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. Love others and forgive others before it’s too late. The more beautiful you become today and tomorrow, and the more beautiful you help others to become, the more we will all shine in glory when the Lord comes to take us into the fullness of His time.

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.”