Luke 21:5-19, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As the liturgical year approaches its end, the Church is reminding us today of the meaning behind that small phrase in the Creed that we solemnly profess everySunday: “Jesus will come again in glory tojudge the living and the dead.”At that time, all the injustices of human history will be rectified once and for all. Those who refused Christ’s friendship andignored or abused their neighbor will find no place in the redeemed world which theyshunned. Those who carried their crosseswith Christ will be healed of every wound and given the utter fullness of life.But the Apostles also wanted to know dates and times: they ask, “Teacher, when will this happen?” They were curious, just likeus.Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer. Instead, he explains the pattern of events that will berepeated in every period during the final stage of human history – the age of the Church.In so doing, he points out the three most critical facts about the future:He will return to bring to completion the eternal Kingdom that he founded through the Church. In the meantime, he is sending his disciples – the Apostles and the Christians of all ages – to invite all people into that Kingdom. Although this mission will be challenged by suffering, humiliation, andopposition of all kinds, he will continue to work in and through his faithful followers by the power of the Holy Spirit.This is privileged knowledge given by Jesus to us, his followers. It is exactly what weneed to know about the future. It enables us to face life’s inevitable hardships withconfidence and joy, always staying focusedon what really matters: following Christ and helping others to follow him.We should be grateful to Jesus for revealing the future to us, and for teaching us how toshape our future through following him and his teachings. His revelation in this regard was a pre-emptive strike against destructive temptations – temptations to know and control the future through evil means.A certain John Gibson is a case in point. He started dabbling in the occult in college. His friends got him interested in Tarot Cards, and then he began exploring Wicca, the contemporary and new religious movement of pagan witchcraft. He spent the next five years building an immense Internet forumfor these false religions and became chairman of the Pagan Leadership Conference. Eventually, a powerfulconversion experience led him to the Catholic Church.This Neo-Pagan-Wiccan-turned-Catholic has seen from the inside the destructioncaused by unhealthy quests for knowledge and control of the future – even when that quest begins with apparently innocentthings like mildly occult games andjewellery.He sums up the lure of the occult like this: “… the more deeply you get involved, the more enticing it becomes… “The inherentdanger of ‘magical’ addiction is that the more power you raise, the more intoxicatedyou get. “You start gathering more and more power for yourself, and it takes over your life.”Jesus doesn’t want us to become slaves to the false, diabolical promise of power. He came to free us, by revealing the truth. And the truth about the future is that he willcome again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and until then we will run up against hardships and obstacles amid thejoys of building his Kingdom.And that’s all we need to know. Striving formore is a self-destructive slap in the face to our Lord.But there is a danger that comes from knowing what Christ has taught us about the future. The Christians in Thessalonica, the ones St Paul was writing to in the Second Reading, were the first of manyChristians throughout history to fall into this danger. They believed strongly in Christ’s Second Coming. They thought it was going to happen any day. And as a result, some of them started getting lazy. They neglectedtheir familial, social, and spiritualresponsibilities. They thought, “If Jesus is coming so soon, why worry about making a living and building up society and the Church? History is going to end in a few days anyway.”In the Second Reading, St Paul corrects that misinterpretation. He tells those people to get to work and stop acting “in a disorderly way.”We are vulnerable to a similar temptation. We can use our privileged knowledge of God’s love and his future plans as anexcuse to be lazy. Instead of reaching out to others with the faith, we tell ourselves that God will be merciful to them. Instead ofstriving to overcome sin and live a Christ-like life, we tell ourselves that God willforgive us. Instead of using our God-given talents to the maximum for the benefit of the Church and our fellow men, we use them to build up little self-centered kingdoms, because they are more comfortable.Jesus revealed the future to us not to give us an excuse for laziness, but to give usmotivation and courage to fight for what istrue and good with all our might and all ourlove.Today, when we once again profess our faith in the future of his Kingdom, let’s also renew our commitment to building it.