November 13, 2018

O. T. XXXIII (Nov 18th) Sunday homily

1-page Summary of OT 33 [B] (Nov 18) homily on Mk 13:24-32 (L-18)

Central theme: Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary uncertainty concerning the end time when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  Each year at this time, the Church asks us to consider the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – as happening to ourselves.

Scripture lessons summarized:  The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer.  2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion.  3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living.  The first reading, taken from from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people persecuted by a cruel pagan king. It advises us to live wisely and justly in the present time, instead of worrying about the unknown future.The author of the Hebrews in the second reading, challenges us to look to the future with hope and serenity because Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is the mediator who has secured the forgiveness of our sins and our sanctification through his sacrifice on the cross. Today’s Gospel, taken from Mark (AD 69), offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, reminding them of Jesus’ words about his glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge to gather and reward his elect. Daniel and Mark continue to remind us that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns us all to read the “signs of the time,” reminding us that we must be ever prepared to give an account of our lives to Jesus when he comes in glory as our Judge, because we cannot know “either the day or the hour” of his Second Coming.

 Life messages: 1) Let us recognize the “second coming” of Jesus in our daily lives through everyday occurrences, always remembering that Jesus comes without warning. But let us not get frightened at the thought of Christ’s Second Coming because he is with us every day in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in our worshipping communities. We will be able to welcome him in his Second Coming as long as we faithfully do the will of God daily by serving our brothers and sisters, by recognizing Christ’s presence in them, and by being reconciled with God and with our brothers and sisters every day.

2) We need to “learn the lesson from the fig tree.”  This means that we are to watch and wait in a state of readiness.  Instead of worrying about the endtime events, we are asked to live every day of our lives loving God living in others, by our committed service to them with sacrificial agape love.

OT XXXIII [B] (Nov 18) SUNDAY: Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32

Homily starter anecdotes #1: Scientists on the end of the world: Scientists have fueled public anxiety by citing a series of possible ways in which the world could come to an end, e.g. (a) Sucked into a black hole. A large dead star which has collapsed and has become so incredibly dense that even light cannot escape it, a “black hole” is thought to be a fatal attraction for any nearby matter; (b) Climate change. Another ice age or glacial period is expected in 2,000–10,000 years; if and when it occurs, over eight billion people will try to survive on 30% less land mass; (c) The Greenhouse Effect. A predicted temperature increase of 6o F is expected by the year 2030; if this occurs, polar regions will thaw, ocean levels will rise and vast areas of earth will be flooded; (d) Collision. Earth may be hit by a meteorite, asteroid or comet; (e) Cosmic Rays. Earth’s magnetic field is waning at present, making it susceptible to the rays of an exploding supernova and/or solar flares; (f) Nuclear War and its Aftermath. A familiar and frightening scenario: a possible nuclear war could wipe out up to 90% of the U.S. population and 50% of that of Russia; (g) The Death of the Sun. Considered as the ultimate disaster, the eventual cooling of the sun will occur only after an intense period of heating up which will boil away earth’s oceans and bake its crust unto lifelessness. [Patricia Datchuck Sánchez, Celebration.] But Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary human uncertainty concerning the end time when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” So, the Church advises us to entrust the unknown and unknowable future to God’s caring and capable hands.

# 2: $ 57, 000 for Jesus’ shopping in his second coming: In 1981, a man left $57,000 in his will to Jesus. It was for His own use when He returned at the Second Coming. The money was to be invested at the highest interest in the meantime. Does anyone really think that Jesus will be shopping at a posh department store for a new seamless robe and sandals upon His return? Does anyone feel money is what He shall require from us at the Parousia? Is this what the Nazarene is all about? Christ is more interested in the way we conduct our lives this moment rather than tomorrow. He is more eager to see us improve life for others today than He is to remove us from it. Andrew Greeley has some wise thoughts on this point. The Second Coming, the New Age, the New Epoch, he says, can and should be happening throughout this day and week. I saw the Second Coming at a Soup Kitchen where I worked. A white woman volunteer gave a black man soup, pasta, and coffee. As he was leaving, he thanked her. Then she noticed the bad condition of his shoes. She told him to wait. From the clothing closet, she brought several pair. The woman got down on her knees and fitted each pair. Finally, she found his fit. In this forty-minute encounter, Jesus in His Second Coming was present. I was watching Him washing His apostles’ feet all over again. I witnessed the New Age today at a fast-food restaurant. A busload of children treated their waitress with kindness. “Please” and “thank you” were more plentiful than hamburgers and cokes. They cleaned their table. They left a generous tip and a happy waitress. There was no doubt but that the Lord was present. I see the New Epoch every time one of you gives me $100 and asks me to give it to a family having a difficult time. If one looks sharp enough, you can see a smile on Christ’s face. I observed the New Order yesterday. I was lost and could not find the correct road. I asked directions of a young man. Though he was in as much a hurry as I, he U-turned and told me to follow him for several miles. Then he put my car on the correct road. Can you not hear Jesus applaud as I tell you this story? I heard of the Second Coming yesterday. A mother told me of her return from a long journey. On her kitchen table, she found a dozen carnations waiting to greet her. The benefactor was her teen son. That day she saw Christ in her boy. I saw the New Epoch last week. A priest had heard that hostiles in a parish were gleefully giving another priest, whom he hardly knew, a hard time. He phoned. “May I buy you a good lunch?” The trip cost him not only the restaurant bill but also a round trip of 140 miles, and over half a tank of gas. Was not the Nazarene riding with him that day? You, I am sure, can fill in the blanks and tell me of the times when you saw the Second Coming this past week. And hopefully you were the cause of it.        (Fr. James Gilhooley)

Introduction: Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary human uncertainty concerning the endtime when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  Next Sunday is the Thirty-fourth and last Sunday in our liturgical year when we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and the following Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season with a new Liturgical Cycle.  Each year at this time, the Church asks us to mediate on the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell — as they apply to us. The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer.  2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion.  3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living.  The first reading with its vision of the archangel Michael, taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people, persecuted by a cruel pagan king. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 16) reminds each of us that God Himself is “my allotted portion and my cup,” and that “with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” In the second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews consoles believers suffering from “endtime phobia” with the knowledge that Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is our mediator. By his sacrificial death, Jesus forgave our sins and sanctified us.  Today’s Gospel, taken from Mark (AD 69), offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, reminding them of Jesus’ words about his glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge in order to gather and reward his elect.  Though Daniel and Mark describe frightful scenes, their accounts also remind their audience that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns us all to read the “signs of the time,” and reminds us that we must be ever prepared to give an account of our lives to Jesus our Judge, because we cannot know “either the day or the hour” of our own death or of his second coming.

The first reading Dn 12:1-3, explained: This first reading taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people being persecuted by a cruel pagan king, advises us to live wisely and justly in the present time instead of worrying about the unknown future.  In the second century BC, the Jews were conquered by the Greeks.  The Greek king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, tried to Hellenize the Jews by imposing Greek norms on them, by forbidding them to practice circumcision, by stripping the Temple of its valuables, by burning the Torah scrolls, by introducing the worship of Greek gods to the Jews and by forcing the Jews to join in the worship of these pagan gods.  In this frightening and dangerous time, the Lord God’s prophetic message to Israel through Daniel addressed the needs of the suffering Jewish people, bolstering their morale and promising them the sure and definite intervention of Yahweh, their God of power and glory, even if they faced persecutions and hardship for a short term.  Hence, they believed that Yahweh was on the verge of stepping into the world and definitively changing everything (Dan 12:1-3).  This short passage also describes the “great tribulation,” the “resurrection of the dead” and the Divine Judgment with its rewards for the wise and righteous and its punishments for the foolish and wicked.  Thus, today’s selection from Daniel introduces the belief in the resurrection of the dead and makes the first mention in the Bible of “everlasting life,” while such a doctrine was almost unprecedented among Jews even in the second century BC.

Second Reading, Hebrews 10:11-14, 18: This reading challenges us to look to the future with hope and serenity because Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is the mediator who secured the forgiveness of our sins and our sanctification through his sacrifice on the cross. The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, in part to help them cope with the loss of the comforts they had enjoyed within the institutions of Judaism and from which they had been excluded by their conversion.  The author’s intent was to show that Jesus himself had replaced those old institutions and exceeded them.  In today’s passage, the institutions in question are priesthood and sacrifices.  The author asserts that the old, repetitious sacrifices were futile, while the one sacrifice of Jesus makes us perfect forever and wins the forgiveness of sin, rendering further sacrifice unnecessary. Through Jesus’ saving gift of himself, perfect praise has been offered to God, sin and guilt, have been expiated, and absolute, intimate union has been achieved.  Jesus continues his priestly work in Heaven by his intercession for us in the presence of God, the Father. Furthermore, Jesus, the new and the only High Priest, has a seat at God’s right hand, closer than any other priest has ever come to Him.  For Jesus’ sacrifice made possible the forgiveness of sins and the formation of a new relationship between God and humankind.

Gospel exegesis: The context: Mark’s Gospel, written some 40 years after Jesus’ death, is the simplest, shortest, and oldest of the four Gospels.  This week’s Gospel text is taken from the thirteenth chapter of Mark, which, together with Matthew 24 and Luke 21, is often called the “Little Apocalypse.”  Apocalypse literally means unveiling. The whole of Mark’s thirteenth chapter is full of apocalyptic imagery and predictions borrowed from the Old Testament.  Verses 24-27 are taken from images appearing in the prophecies of Joel (2:10), Isaiah (13:10; 34:4), Daniel (7:13), Deuteronomy (30:3), and Zechariah (2:10).  Jesus skillfully weaves all these various strands into one powerful vision.  The Gospel of Mark was written in the year 69 AD, just one year before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, at a time when the Romans were suppressing Jewish protests and persecuting Christians.  Many Christians began wondering why Jesus did not return as he had promised.  Some even wondered whether he had really been the promised Messiah.  Hence, Mark tried to strengthen their faith by quoting Jesus’ predictions of the coming persecution of the faithful (13:9-13), the destruction of Jerusalem (13:2, 7-9, 14-20), the rise of the Anti-Christ (13:5-6, 21-23), the end of the world, and Christ’s Second Coming (13:24-26).  Mark also offered hope to a persecuted community by reminding the people of Jesus’ promise that wars, natural disasters and betrayal by family members would be overcome when the Son of Man returned to earth to gather in his loved ones.

The glorious coming of the Son of Man: In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the displacement of celestial bodies at the end of the world, followed by the appearance of the Son of Man in glory to establish the Reign of God.  The coming of the Son of Man, “in clouds with great power and glory,” echoes a passage in Daniel.  Cosmic disturbances of the sun, moon and stars are images traditionally associated with the manifestations of God’s judgment on Israel. In the Creed we recite at Mass, we proclaim that Jesus “will come again to judge the living and the dead.” The New Testament writers used the Greek word Parousia which means the arrival and presence of a king, to describe this second coming of Jesus. Although no time-frame is given in the Gospels for the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the final coming of Jesus as King and Lord of all, the early Christians believed that Jesus would come in their lifetime, based on their understanding of Jesus’ promise in Mark, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”

Parable of the fig tree and warning for watchfulness: Jesus gives a warning lesson from the fig tree, using stock prophetic expressions well known to his listeners (Ezra 9:3; 13:1; Baruch 27:5-13; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10, 3:15; Ezekiel 32: 7, 8; Isaiah 27:13, 35; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 10:6-11).  The fig tree sprouts its leaves in late spring heralding the summer season.  The application of this image to the end of the world suggests that the end of the world will mean good times, or summer, for Jesus’ disciples, because their God will be bringing things to a triumphant end, and His Truth, Love and Justice will prevail forever.  But we must always be well prepared to face our judgment because we do not know the day nor the hour, either of the ending of the world or of our own call from this life.  Hence, true disciples are to watch and wait in a state of readiness.  Instead of worrying about the endtime events, we are asked to live every day of our lives in loving God in Himself and as living in others by our committed service.  Thus, we will enter into a deeper relationship with God, which will continue when we pass through death into a different kind of life.

Life messages: 1) Let us recognize the “second coming” of Jesus in our daily lives. Today’s Gospel reminds us of a “coming” of God which we tend to forget, namely, God’s daily coming to us in the ordinary events of our lives.  We must learn to recognize and welcome Him in these everyday occurrences – happy, encouraging, painful or disappointing – always remembering that He comes without warning.  Let us remember that the Lord is present wherever people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness.  Hence, let us try to bring Jesus to earth, as St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) puts it: “by doing little things to others around us with great love.”

2) Let us take heart and not be frightened: The end of the world should never be thought of as depressing, disheartening or frightening because we are in the hands of a good and loving God.  Christ’s second coming gives us the message that God is journeying with us in the trials and difficulties of life, and that His word is ever-present as a light of hope.  He speaks to us through the Bible.  We have the Eucharist as a sign that God is with us, in our midst.  Holy Communion is our point of direct, personal contact with God.  That is why the holy Mass is special: the more fully and frequently we participate in the Mass, the more deeply the Lord can come to us, and the more completely He can remain with us. Let no one frighten us with disturbing descriptions of the end of the world because “the end” is all about the birth of everyone and everything into eternity.

3) Are we ready to meet our Lord with a clear conscience?  Suppose we were to learn today that we had just one year to live – that we would die on November 18, 2019.  What changes would we make in our lives?  How would we spend our time, talents, wealth?  What changes would we make in our priorities? Would we be concerned about the petty quarrels and bickering of life?  No!  The next twelve months would be the best year of our lives because we would spend our time doing loving, holy and worthwhile things.

4) “Learn the lesson from the fig tree.”  Jesus tells us that our personal “endtime” is a prelude to eternal happiness.  However, we are all so taken in by our secular culture’s fascination and glamour that we are sometimes embarrassed or saddened by the signs of our own approaching end.  We foolishly consider growing old as an evil thing, rather than as a warning from a loving God to prepare to meet Him and to give an account of our lives.  Our aches and pains and frequent “doctor’s appointments” in our senior years should remind us of God’s warning that we are growing unfit to live in this world, and that we have to get ready for another world of eternal happiness.  Hence, let us take the spirit of the 27th Psalm: “Wait for the Lord.  Take courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord” (v. 14).

JOKE OF THE WEEK

#1: “You’ll wish you were Jewish!!”  A Protestant minister and a Catholic priest enjoyed teasing their Jewish rabbi friend, continually asking him when he was going to convert to their Faith.  When the Holidays rolled around, the rabbi sent them a card with the following: “Season’s Greetings!  Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish; When the Messiah comes, you’ll wish you were Jewish!!”

#2: Missed the “rapture” by a minute:  A certain man, Herbert Washington by name, was so taken up by the nearness of Christ’s second coming and “the rapture” that he became a pain in the neck to his coworkers.  So his coworkers hatched a plan to pay him back in his own coin.  One day, when Herbert went to the washroom, they laid their work clothes on their chairs and hid in the supply room.  When Herbert came back from the washroom, he thought the rapture had taken place.  The Muslim janitor, who was part of the joke, pretended to have witnessed everyone disappear and ran around the office feigning panic.  Herbert fell to the ground clutching his heart and screaming, “I knew you’d forget me, Jesus!  What did I do wrong?”  He was rushed to a local hospital with what was diagnosed as a mild heart attack. (Fr. Munachi).

#3: The Second Coming. A Sunday school teacher asked his class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?  “NO!” the children all answered.  “If I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”  Again, the answer was, “NO!”  Again the teacher asked, “Well, then, if I were kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?”  Again, they all answered, “NO!”  “Well then how can I get into Heaven?”  A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”  Good insight for a five-year old!

#4: Somnambulist or Methodist? “Be constantly on the watch!  Stay awake,” Jesus commands.  The signs-of-the-times are such that, clearly, this is no time for somnambulists.  A somnambulist, as you know, is a person who walks in his sleep.  On the eve of his wedding, a young man decided to confess all to his fiancée.  He went to her and said, “My love, there is something I feel I must tell you before we are married; something you must know. It may make a difference in your feeling toward me.  You see, I am a somnambulist.”  The young lady thought for a moment, then replied, “Oh that’s all right.  There’s no problem.  I was raised a Methodist.  We can go to your Church one Sunday and to mine the next.”

The Websites of the week

1) A handy link for all things Catholic:  http://www.catholicusa.com/

2) Questions on Church teaching: www.catholic.com

3) Courses on the Bible: www.salvationhistory.com

4) Information about Catholic and Christian faith: www.americancatholic.org

5) Mark 13: 24-32 commentaries: http://www.4catholiceducators.com/gospel-mark-13-a.htm

 

24 Additional anecdotes:

1) The end time phobia: French “prophet” and astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566), foretold that the world would end when Easter fell on April 25.  This happened in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943; it will occur again in 2038.  In 1379, St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419), a Spanish Dominican monk, basing his prediction on the number of verses in the Book of Psalms (2,537 verses), predicted the demise of the world in AD 3936.  By the end of 1998, the Mount of Olives Hotel, run by Palestinian Muslims, wrote to 2,000 Protestant Christian groups in the U.S. asking How would you like to be reserving your rooms at the Mount of Olives Hotel, to wait for  the ‘second coming’ of  Jesus on the first day of the new millennium,  2000 A.D.?”  Some scientists fueled public anxiety by citing a series of possible ways, including nuclear war and collision with a comet, in which the world could come to an end.  A very popular book in 1989 was 89 Reasons Why the World Will End in 1989.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses frightened gullible followers at least 3 times during the last century with their “end of the world” predictions in 1914, 1918 and 1974It is this paranoid fear that led people to die in the mass suicides organized by Heaven’s Gate and Jim Jones.  The film Omega Code, released in October 1999, was an independent movie funded by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Evangelical Christian TV network in the U.S.  It was promoted by a team of 2,400 U.S. Evangelical pastors.  The plot involved a portrayal of the raptureat the imminent “Second coming” of Jesus, when “born again” and “saved” Christians, both alive and dead, are supposed to fly upward in the air to meet Jesus.  The film was rated in the top 10 grossing movies for October, 1999.  Over 17 million copies of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ “Second Coming” novel, Left Behind, were sold by July 27, 2000.  This is how modern man reacts to the reality of the coming of the end of the world.  Hence, today’s readings remind us that we should be well prepared and always ready to meet Jesus at any time, daily in our brothers and sisters, and at His Final coming for us — at the end of our lives or the end of the world, whichever comes first.

2)  Bingo first! Who cares about the Second coming? There is a second group of people who ignore Christ’s Parousia and stick to their addictions. A woman was hurrying home from work. This was her Bingo night. Suddenly she spotted this fellow standing on the edge of the pavement holding aloft a placard which read: The end of the world is near. She went up to him and said, “You say the end of the world is near.” “That’s right, missus,” he replied. “But are you sure?” “Quite sure, missus.” “And you say it’s near.” “Yes, missus.” ”How near?” “Oh, very near.” “Could you be more precise?” “This very night, Missus.” She paused for a moment to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, “Tell me, son. Will it be before or after Bingo?” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

3) The Judgment Day: President John F. Kennedy was very fond of a particular story, which he often used to close his speeches during his 1960 presidential campaign. It is the story of Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives back in the year 1789.  One day, while the House was in session, the sky of Hartford suddenly grew dark and gloomy. Some of the Evangelical House representatives looked out the windows and thought this was a sign that the end of the world had come.  Uproar ensued, with the representatives calling for immediate adjournment.  But Davenport rose and said, “Gentlemen, the Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not.  If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment.  If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.  Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.”  Candles were brought and the session continued. Today’s readings contain the same message: we need always to be prepared to receive Jesus at his second coming by accepting him now as our personal Savior and doing now what he has commanded us to do.

4) Left Behind: The scene is the interior of a Boeing 747. It is the wee hours of morning and the plane is somewhere over the Atlantic en route to London. The captain leaves his cockpit and strolls down the aisle intending to flirt with the senior flight attendant. She is in shock. People are missing. They have vanished leaving shoes, socks, clothes, jewelry-everything behind. An elderly lady, sitting in first class, cries as she holds her husband’s sweater and pants. She has been left behind. (Matthew 24: 40): “Two men will be in the field, one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill, one will be taken and the other left.” So begins Left Behind, the first novel of the immensely popular fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Sixteen volumes are now on the market with 62 million copies sold for $650 million, along with a movie, web site, 2002 calendar, and survivor kits for children and youth. Tyndale publishers tripled their company’s profits in two years.  But the truth is that Left Behind is fiction, not fact. It has more to do with finances than faith. Its miracle lies in its marketing, not its theology. The Rapture, on which the whole series is built, is the remote idea that believers will somehow be caught up in the clouds with Jesus to avoid the great persecution spreading over the earth. Matthew knows nothing about “rapture” when he talks about the endtime. Just read the text. In Verse 36 we read, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Who of us is smarter than Jesus? Jesus didn’t even know. Why should we try to second guess the Savior? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/end-times-election-result_b_777865.html)

5) Additional endtime predictions: People have been predicting the end of the world since the first century. St. Paul thought Christ would return in his lifetime. Hippolytus, one of the early philosophers, predicted Christ would return in AD 500. In 960, German theologian, Bernard of Thuringia, calculated the end of the world would come in 992. Some were so sure the world was going to end in 1000 A.D. that they did not bother to plant crops. Astrologer, Johann Stoeffler, said the world would be flooded on February 20, 1524. Solomon Eccles, in 1665, ran through the streets of London carrying blazing sulfur on his head announcing that the world was going to go up in flames within the year. In 1874, Charles Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluded that Christ had already returned, but people would have another forty years of grace. In 1914 the denomination was forced to revise its timetable. Herbert Armstrong, in his publication, Plain Truth, set the date for the end of the world as January 7, 1972. The Year 2000, and more specifically, the projected Y2K computer problem, caused many to think that the “end was at hand.” Some people made statements such as “a United Nations world-takeover is imminent” and that “Y2K will be the event that they use.” Some even claimed that Jesus spoke of Y2K in His Olivet Discourse, using Luke 21:25 as justification: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

On September 12th of 2001, a false quotation of the 16th century French astrologer, Nostradamus, spread across the Internet, saying, “Metal birds, striking twin brothers, will mark the end of the world.” The Bible says our times are in God’s hands. We think in minutes. God thinks in millennia. Psalm 90:4 states, “For a thousand years in Your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night.” Martin Luther said in the 1500’s, “We have reached the time of the white horse of the apocalypse; this world can’t last any longer.” On April 3, 1843, one-half million Seventh Day Adventists waited for the end of the world. Some even climbed mountains hoping for a head start to heaven. Remember the Y2K scare at the turn of the last millennium? (http://www.tnnonline.net/tribnews/paranoia/milmadness/index.html)

6) More endtime fixations:  Endtime fixations are not exclusive manifestations of ancient communities. On October 23, 1844 thousands of Christians sold their earthly possessions, dressed in white robes, climbed to the tops of the highest mountains they could find, climbed to the tippy-tops of trees to get even higher, and waited for Jesus to return. They had been told this was the date by William Miller, a farmer from western New York who dabbled in apocalypticism which led him to declare this as the date of Jesus’ return based on his exegesis of the Scriptures. When no one went anywhere but down the mountain, he announced a calculation error. The real date was to be six months later, which also came and went as his followers now went . . . away . . . for good. Jim Jones was another apocalyptic leader. In the 1970s he moved his People’s Temple Full Gospel Church from San Francisco to Guyana, where he could wait for the endtime by creating a community that would live as if the endtime had already occurred. On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones and 911 of his followers ended their wait for the endtime by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Other apocalyptic communities, from Mother Ann Lee’s Shakers to John Humphrey Noyes’ Oneida Community, sublimated their endtime energies into crafting, the first, Shaker furniture and the second, Oneida silverware. Jesus’ words to his disciples this morning warn us against such idle speculations or apocalypticism.  Apocalypticism can be defined as a set of beliefs and behaviors flowing from the assumption that humans are able to discover the date of the coming consummation of time, the coming Day of the Lord and the return of the Son of Man by using the speculations, learning and lore of sages and scholars, ancient and modern.

7) Still more Doomsday bluffing: Anticipating the end of the world in 1975, twenty-four men, women, and children from Grannis, Arkansas, moved into one tiny house and waited there for ten months. The end did not come as they had expected, and they were evicted for not paying their rent. In 1986 a man named Richard Kieninger of Garland, Texas, organized a group of people to survive the calamities of the end of time. On May 5, 2000, Kieninger’s followers planned to witness the last day from a dirt pile. Similarly in 1525, a German preacher. Johann Stoeffler, predicted the end of the world by flood. All of his parishioners built boats and rafts to survive the end. When the flood did not come, they threw Herr Stoeffler into a deep pond. Such was the case on October 22, 1844. The followers of William Miller, a farmer turned preacher, donned white ascension robes and waited on a hilltop for the Second Coming of Christ. When Christ did not come, they adjusted their beliefs and formed what is now known as the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jesus said that we should not wait by trying to guess the date. Said Jesus, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of Heaven nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt 24:36). He wanted his followers to be ready for the day of the coming of the Lord at any time. He said that we must be ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour we least expect. Jesus’ call is clear. He calls his followers to expect the end – of our own lives, as of the end of the world – to come at any moment.

8) Christ is coming; be prepared: When the bi-partisan 9/11 commission members made their final report to Congress, they began their report with these words. “September 11, was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States. The nation was unprepared. …. The 9/11 attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise.” What follows is a long list of warning signs that had been generally ignored by the Clinton and Bush administrations in their pursuit of other matters. Things have changed since then. Now the unofficial creed of the American Homeland war on terror is, “Be Vigilant, Be Watchful, and Be Prepared.” We must not be caught off-guard again. There are Christians who approach the coming of Christ the way the government deals with the war on terror. They ring out a danger and they announce a warning. With concern, they say, “You’d better get ready!  You’d better watch out — because before you know it, Christ will come.”

9) Jesus is the living Lord who will come again:  To live by Faith also means we will do what we can to offset the threat of the annihilation of life on earth, first of all, by registering our outrage at the atrocities that war, by itself, inflicts upon people. Not many of us can afford to do what Joan Kroc, the widow of the founder of McDonald’s fast food chain, did just after Memorial Day had been celebrated in 1985. She bought full page advertisements in newspapers and had the following quote from the late former-President Dwight D. Eisenhower printed beside his picture in his military uniform: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” Beyond our voiced or written objections to the arms race or the bomb race, it is for us Christians, as the expression of our Faith in God, to do the good works of love and mercy – feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, telling people the Good News in Jesus Christ – incumbent upon those who believe Jesus is the living Lord who will come again. [George M. Bass, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, (CSS Publishing Company, 1986), 0-89536-817-X]

10) “Does anybody really care?” The musical group, Chicago, recorded a song several years ago asking, “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?” When it comes to predicting the end of the world, Jesus says, nobody knows what time it is but God, so why should the rest of us try to learn it?

11 “He’ll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.” There is a beautiful Afro-American Spiritual song about waiting for the Lord’s second coming doing one’s duty faithfully:

There’s a king and a captain high, and he’s coming by and by
And he’ll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.
You can hear his legions charging, the regions of the sky
And he’ll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.

12) Saints and endtime: St. Francis of Assisi, Saint of Nature, was hoeing his garden one day. A philosopher friend approached him and asked, “What would you do if you learned you would die before the sun sets?” St. Francis reflected for a moment and replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden. I would be faithful to what I am doing now.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was asked by critics, “Why do you expose yourself to all this danger? Jesus will return any day and all your work and suffering will be for nothing.” Bonhoeffer said, “If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I will rest from my labors, but today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until I am finished.”

13) Wake up and stay awake: Ever since the attack on the World Trade center in New York on Sept 11, 2001, there have been nonstop warnings to be alert to possible terrorist attacks. In U. S. airports repeated public announcements from Homeland Security advise whether the level of alert is yellow, orange or red. People are asked to be vigilant. Today’s second and third readings want us to move to red alert. Paul wants the Romans to wake up and Jesus warns us to stay awake. (Sr. Dr. Barbara E. Reid, NT professor at CTU, Chicago)

14) In the end all will be fineRobert Muller was an undersecretary of the United Nations. He wrote practically using apocalyptic imagery: “We are witnessing a unique moment of evolution, the birth of collective organs in the human species. For the first time humankind is emerging as a global organism with a common blood stream, a central nervous system, a shared heart, a corporate brain, and a common destiny.” He said it is a secular way. The prophet and today’s Gospel uses more mystical terms. Let us live with this vision: humanity in labour to give birth –through distress and pain –to that human and divine organism of whom Jesus is the head, [Joseph Donders in Praying and Preaching the Sunday Gospel; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

 15) “Then comes the dawn:” Years ago an old municipal lamplighter, engaged in putting out his lights one by one, was met by a reporter who asked him if he never grew tired of his work in the cold dark night of labour. “Never am I cheerless,” said the old man, for there is always a light ahead of me to lead me on.” “But what would you have to cheer you when you have put out the last one?” asked the writer. “Then comes the dawn.” said the lamplighter. A man of the world might have asked Jesus the same question. One light after another did he put out: the lamp of popular acclaim, the lamp of patriotic approval, the lamp of ecclesiastical conformity –all for the sake of God’s love which burned in his heart and showed him a better way. At last even the light of his life was to flicker out on the hill called Calvary. What then? We hear his voice, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” and then the dawn came. [Carl Knudsen in The Living One; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

 16) The sound of the Gospel: I read recently of a small foundry town where mills are kept running day and night. The steam hammers, some of them several tons in weight, are constantly kept busy, beating out the huge masses of molten metal. The inhabitants of the town had become accustomed to the constant noise, and could sleep soundly through the night without being disturbed. One night, because of some breakdown in the machinery, these hammers suddenly stopped working, and the consequence was that nearly everyone in the town woke up. What awakened them? Not the oft-repeated stroke of the heavy hammers, but their sudden stopping. This reminds us of the state of millions of people in our day. While the Gospel hammer is kept at work, millions within sound of it are fast asleep. But the time will come when the Lord shall return and take his people away, and then the hammer of God’s word shall suddenly cease. Then there shall be an awakening of many-Gospel hardened sleepers, but it will be too late. [C. Johnson in  Quotes and Anecdotes; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

 17) The coming of the Lord: A 200-seater amphitheatre, costing 20,000 pounds, was built overlooking the Sydney Harbour, Australia, in 1925, for the second coming of Christ. Members of ‘The Order of the Star of the East’, led by Hindu mystic Krishnamurti, believed that Christ would soon return to earth in human form and walk across the Pacific Ocean to the amphitheatre, When he did not arrive in 1929, the group dissolved, and a block of flats now occupies the site. May we be aware of the signs of His coming and always be prepared! [Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho.].

18) Cry, the Beloved Country: Alan Paton was a South African writer. Among the books he wrote was the haunting story, Cry, the Beloved Country, which poignantly described the situation in South Africa under apartheid. Paton had a dream. He dreamt of a new day for his beloved South Africa, a day in which there would be justice and equality for all. For this reason, he entered into politics and fought to end the iniquitous system of apartheid. For decades, he followed his dream, and worked generously and courageously to make it a reality. It was a dream that many said would not be realized. Yet it was. Unfortunately, Paton did not live to see it. He died before the dawn. The prophet Isaiah had an even bolder dream, a dream of universal brotherhood and peace. Isaiah’s vision was a splendid one. It would only be realized by the coming of the Lord Jesus. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

19) Death comes sometimes in a most unexpected manner. Atilla was the fearsome ruler of the Huns from AD 434 to 453. He was a public enemy to the Roman Empire. Twice he attacked the Balkans; he marched his army through France; and his rulership spread from Germany to the Ural River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. Many today regard him as a monster, a cruel dictator who ruled through fear. His death was really mysterious. He died on his wedding night from a simple nosebleed. Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was on the set of the film The Crow in which he was playing the lead role. One scene required Lee to be shot by a prop-gun firing blanks. The gun had been used several times before in filming but a cheaply made round of blanks had lodged part of the lead in the barrel of the gun. It caused his death. Jesus said: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it.” Hence he asks us to be prepared. None of us is guaranteed the next breath. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

 

20) I shall return!” The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. Soon after, they invaded and occupied the Philippines. The US General Douglas McArthur was stationed in the Philippines, and on March 11th, 1942, he was forced to leave the islands. Before leaving for Australia, he promised the islanders “I shall return.” On October 20th, 1944, two and a half years later, he kept his promise. He landed on one of the islands and announced, “I have returned.” This heralded freedom for the Philippines. -Jesus assures us: “Heaven and earth shall pass away before my word passes away.” (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

 21) Vision of a better future: The leader of a certain Indian tribe was dying, so he summoned his three sons and said: “I am dying; before my death, I must choose one of you to succeed me as the head of our tribe. I have the same task for each of you. I want you to climb our holy mountain and bring me back something beautiful. The one whose gift is most outstanding will be the one who will succeed me.” The following morning the sons set out on their search, each taking a different path up the mountain. After several days the sons returned. The first brought his father a beautiful and rare flower that grew near the summit of the mountain. The second son brought his father a valuable stone, round and colorful which had been polished by the wind and the rain. The third son, who came empty handed, said to his father: “I have brought back nothing to show you father. As I stood on the top of the holy mountain, I saw that on the other side was a beautiful land filled with green pastures. In the middle of these pastures is a crystal lake. I have a vision of where our tribe could go for a better life. I was so overwhelmed by what I saw and by what I could see that I could not bring anything back.” The father replied: “You shall be our tribe’s new leader, for you have brought back the most precious thing – the gift of a vision for a better future.” Today’s Gospel on the end time warnings gives us a better vision of how to lead our lives. (Dennis McBride; quoted by Fr.      Botelho). 

 22) Making Adjustments: An old sea captain named Eleazar Hall lived in Bedford, Massachusetts, during the time of the great sailing ships. He was renowned, legendary, and revered as the most successful of sea captains of the day. Captain Hall was often asked about his uncanny ability to stay out so long without navigational equipment. Eleazar simply replied, “Oh, I just go up on deck and listen to the wind and rigging. I get the drift of the sea, look up at the stars, and then set my course.” Well, times changed at Bedford. The big insurance companies moved in and said they no longer insured the ships if the captains didn’t have a certified and properly trained navigator on board. They were terrified to tell Eleazar. But to their amazement he said, “If I must, I will go and take the navigational course.” Eleazar graduated high in his class, and having greatly missed the sea, he immediately took off for a long voyage. On the day of his return, the whole town turned out to ask him the question: “Eleazar, how was it having to navigate with all those charts and equations?” Eleazar sat back and let out a long low whistle. “Oh,” he replied, “it was simple. Whenever I wanted to know my location, I’d go to my cabin, get out my charts and tables, work the equations and set my course with scientific precision. Then I’d go up on deck and listen to the wind and the rigging, get the drift of the sea, look at the stars, and go back and correct the errors I had made in computation.” When I heard that, I prayed, “Lord, I want to know you that way. I want to go up on deck, hear Your quiet Voice in my heart, consider Your eternal Word, and then go back down below and make adjustments to all those fine, logical, scientific plans I’ve drawn up in my head.” Ron Mehl from Surprise Endings; (quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

 23) It began in “the hole”! There is a story of a hardened criminal serving a life sentence, who felt such despair that life had no longer any hope for him. His behavior got so mean that he was sent to solitary confinement for three weeks in what was known as “the hole.” One day while in “the hole” a remarkable thing happened. He was lying on the cold cement doing sit-ups when he noticed that something was wedged into the back corner of the cell, under the sleeping platform. He had no idea how it got there but figured a former resident of “the hole” must have left it. He wiggled it out. It was, of all things, a copy of the New Testament. Now the thing that is so remarkable is that the inmate actually began to read from it. The inmate had always been a dynamo of power and energy. Suddenly, he began to wonder what would have happened to him had he used his power and energy for good rather than evil. The thought completely boggled his mind. For a long time he lay there thinking: “Why did God create me? Why did God create someone who would end up behind bars? Why did God create someone who would die to goodness and love and be buried in a tomb of evil and hate in a prison cell?” What happened next is hard to describe. A surprising thought entered the inmate’s mind. The greatest event in history began in a tomb- a tomb just as secure and guarded as his cell. That event, of course was the resurrection of Jesus. A second thought jolted him. What happened to Jesus could happen to him too, in “the hole.” Because of Jesus’ new life and glory, he too could be reborn. He too could be re-created. In a sense he too could rise from the dead. At that moment something roused deep inside him; he felt it stirring. He asked Jesus to come to him and raise him to a new life, to re-create a hardened criminal into a new person. And what happened to Jesus in the tomb happened to the prisoner in his tomb, “the hole.” The resurrection power of God brought him new life. That man was Starr Dailey, who after being released from prison became one of the pioneers of prison reform in the United States. (Mark Link).

 24) But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it.” Atilla was the fearsome ruler of the Huns from 434 to 453 AD. He was public enemy to the Roman Empire. Twice he attacked the Balkans; he marched his army through France; and his rulership spread from Germany to the Ural River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. Many today regard him as a monster, a cruel dictator who ruled through fear. His death was really mysterious. He died on his wedding night from a simple nose bleed.

Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was on the set of the film The Crow in which he was playing the lead role. One scene required Lee to be shot by a prop-gun firing blanks. The gun had been used several times before in filming but a cheaply made round of blanks had lodged part of the lead in the barrel of the gun. It caused his death.

Jesus said: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it.” Hence, he asks us to be prepared.fr. Bobby Jose).

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 62) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com (L-18)

Visit this website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.