The End Times
In his beautiful homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly talks about the end times.
Readings for Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
- First Reading: Malachi 3:19-20
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
- Second Reading: Second Thessalonians 3:7-12
- Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
You can tell we’re coming to the end of the year when they read that gospel because it’s all about the end.
Jesus is in the temple now and it is not too many days before he’s arrested and put to death. And he’s in this beautiful temple, a temple that has taken twenty-five, thirty years to build, and it’s really not finished yet.
And everybody comes in in awe of the temple, how beautiful it is, this monument to the presence of God. And there’s the inner chambers and the outer chambers and the holy places and the place to wash yourself clean and a place to speak to God who is behind the veil in the Holy of Holies. Nowhere is God more close than in the Holy of Holies.
And the great teachers and preachers, and those who speak and know the secrets of God Himself, are there teaching their little disciples, carrying on this long, long time, from the time of Abraham up to the present time, bearing the burden of the understanding of God’s ways with mankind.
And then everybody admired, of course, the amount of money it took to make it and the beautiful lights and the beautiful walls and the cedars of Lebanon etc, etc.
And finally, Jesus has had enough of it and he says, “In a very short time, all these stones will be crushed into dust and nothing will be left.”
It’s the end times he’s talking about. The end times was a feeling among the Jewish people that the ultimate desolation would happen in the end times, but out of that desolation would come something special, for the Messiah would come and rescue them all. And so it was that they managed to have hope.
Now Jesus said to his disciples when they asked him, “When is this going to happen? When will it take place? What shall we do?” but he himself said that only the Father knows of that time, but he does speak of nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines, plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
If you’ve lived even in Hong Kong these past short years, you will know that all of these things happened all around you.
In a sense, he is saying, “Yes, the world will carry on what the world does. There will be destruction, people crying for peace and there is no peace, looking for salvation, healing, and there is no salvation and healing, because the selfishness and arrogance of mankind continues to laugh at the joys and hopes of those who follow the Lord, who believe, who hope and who love.”
But he tells them, which is the main point of this terrible thing, is not to be frightened as the Jewish people were frightened of the last days and the end time, but he promises them, he says to them these words: “Not a hair on your heads will be touched, and you will persevere and you will secure your lives.”
Why? Because you have faith in God and not in men. You have a hope born in the promises of God to Abraham that one day the whole world would see His glory and the whole world would understand that He created man not for death but for eternal life.
And so it was that in the Year 70, not long after Jesus died, the Roman armies made his prophecy come true. They came down with great anger and ravaged the whole of Israel. And they smashed into Jerusalem and starved the people out and destroyed the temple.
And over a million people died in that terrible outrage. And they left one wall which people still go to, called the Wailing Wall. And the Wailing Wall was left. And the Jews scattered all over the world, not allowed to even return to their sacred city of Jerusalem.
And it seemed it was the end. But the end with God is never the end; the end with God is another beginning.
And so it began that the Jews, led by the Pharisees, began to shake the dust off their city and their country and rebuild their belief in Yahweh, their hope for the future and what He had told them, that they must be brothers and sisters.
And the Christians who had scattered during that terrible time, because they believed the prophecy of Jesus and knew that when it came it would be terrible, and so they ran to the different places nearby and they regrouped themselves.
They began to understand that Jesus was speaking of a new beginning and that new beginning would not be just Jerusalem. That new beginning, and they would be part of it, would be to reach out to the whole world with the promise of faith, God’s faith in people; of hope, God’s gift to people; and of love, God’s love shared with people.
And this would be the new beginning. And the new beginning reached to the ends of the world, as we can see today, for where everywhere is preached the healing and saving of God, we find that it is preached by Jew and Gentile together and, most of all, following His Son, the Saviour of the world.
Today’s gospel is a lesson in history and the lesson is, as Yogi Berra, the great Yankee baseball player, once said…
There was a game when the Yankees were nine runs behind in the final half of the inning and Cleveland was up and Yogi Berra was talking to the reporters about victory and how everything was great and everything was going fine, when Cleveland scored 10 runs and beat the Yankees in an incredible game 10-9.
So they said, “Mr Berra, what do you think of that?” And he smiled at the reporters and he says, “Nothing is over till it’s over.”
Those words sort of go down in history to all of those who worry about the present and the trouble of the present: it’s not over, it’s only over when it’s over. And it is God who will close it down. And it will be a time of great joy and triumph as all peoples will enter a new way of living.
At times of stress and strain, at times when we feel that things are collapsing all around us, whether it is our nation, as some nations are facing terrible catastrophes right now, whether it is groups of people who are shunned, whether it is our own families, wherever we face this feeling that all is over and all is destroyed and there’s no going back and there’s no going forward, wherever we feel that we are tired, weary even of doing good, this is the time to remember the words of Jesus that God will triumph.
He dies, but a new world is born. The old world dies and we hate to see it go, but a new world is born. People die, but all around them a hope and joy of being with them, perhaps for a short time suffered, but to be with them for all eternity, the new hope is born.
I’d like to end this with a reading that I read when my little niece died last October, very quickly, without warning and after a short sickness, and we gathered in this church to honour her memory, this sweet little eighteen-year-old girl, vivacious and full of life.
And I was asked to read this reading and it’s the reading from Lamentations where all the people saw that even before the Romans came, the Jews were destroyed once before or they thought they were.
And from the book of Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, he saw that Nebuchadnezzar and his army had come and destroyed everything and left them with nothing. And from the ashes he wrote this poem:
“My soul is deprived of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
all that I hoped for from the Lord.
The thought of my homeless poverty
is wormwood and gall;
Remembering it over and over
leaves my soul downcast within me.
But I will call this to mind,
as my reason to have hope:
The favours of the Lord are not exhausted,
his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning,
so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul;
therefore will I hope in him.
Good is the Lord to one who waits for him,
to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence
for the saving help of the Lord.”
Today, at the beginning of Advent, which is going to begin in a couple of weeks, we look at the dark side of life but with new hope, for we know in two weeks Advent begins.
And Advent is the beginning of a new beginning, when we begin to place our hopes on a little child born in Bethlehem with the secret of God’s faith, hope and love — God’s faith in us, His hopes for us and most of all His love.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.