As we approach the end of the Church’s liturgical year, the Mother Church turns our attention to the end of time. The First Reading taken from the Book of Malachi, (Mal 3:19-20), stated that “the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble.”
This prophesied ‘day’ is also known as the ‘Day of the Lord’. According to Joel 2:31, the ‘Day of the Lord’ will be preceded by cataclysmic cosmic events like the darkening of the sun and the reddening of the moon; it will be a time of reckoning, when those who have been practising virtue will shine like the lily, and the unrepentant sinners will be reprobated. The ‘Day of the Lord’ has both ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ phases.
The ‘already’ phase has been inaugurated by the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, for he said, “the kingdom of God is among you”, (Lk 17:21). The ‘not yet’ phase will be realised during the second coming of Christ when he will hand everything to God so that God will be “all in all”, (1Cor 15:28:). This period between the resurrection and ascension of Christ and his second coming, (Parousia), is the time for the missionary work of the Church.
In the Second Reading, (2 Th 3:7-12), some Thessalonians thought that the Parousia was imminent, hence, they did not have to work anymore. Paul had to remind them that there was dignity in labour, therefore, every disciple of Christ should be working hard and making a positive difference in the world until Christ comes again. Paul was a tentmaker, (Acts 18:3). He brought to the attention of the Thessalonians that while he was ministering among them, he was able to take care of his personal needs by making tents. Though we are people of hope – because we are awaiting the second coming of Christ, however, we are not to await his coming in idleness, we are called to continue to eke out our living until he comes again!
In the Gospel we read that, “When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’” The Temple in question was the second Temple. It was built by the Jews after they came back from Babylonian captivity in 538 BC.
According to the Book of Ezra, “in the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury”, (Ezra 6:3-4). This Temple which had undergone various renovations; the last of which was done by Herod the Great around 20 BC, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. With the destruction of this Temple, the Jews became a people without a nation of their own until the declaration of the State of Israel following the Second World War in 1948.
Jesus also warned us in today’s Gospel to be aware of false prophets. Many would come claiming to have Christ’s authority, but we should not listen to them. Some of the false prophets have prophesied about the end of the world, but their predictions have come and passed without fulfilment. Jesus warned us not to leapfrog from the occurrence of natural disasters or wars or disharmony in the society to the conclusion that the world is ending. We recall that Jesus had stated that it was only the Father who knew when the world will come to an end, (Mk 13:32).
Our mission is to continue to use the gifts we received through the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission entrusted to us until the Lord comes again.
Persecutions will come our way as followers of Christ, because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”, (Eph 6:1-4). However, Jesus has promised to be with us always through thick and thin, and our endurance will win us the crown. Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp.