Homily For The 33rd Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year C
Malachi 3:19-20 /Psalm 98/ 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12/
Agorsor Aaron Agbeshie
Theme: Your endurance brings salvation
The readings of today deal with the “last things” namely Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Jesus describes the coming tribulation in four ways namely the destruction of the temple, the description of the age, the return of the Lord and the responsibilities of believers.
The prophet Malachi lived in Jerusalem after Israel’s exile in Babylon. For the Israelites, unlike their Babylonian counterparts, history is moving toward a goal determined by the Lord; towards the realization of the promises that the Lord had given his people about the eschatology and the Parousia.
What the prophet Malachi envisages namely the ‘Great Deliverance’ had been foreshadowed and exemplified by the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt and would, therefore, be heralded by tribulations similar to the plagues that preceded the Exodus.
It is such tribulation that the prophet Malachi speaks of in the First Reading of today. “ The day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:1-2a). This means that whenever and however it may be, the Lord’s saving will will be carried out and this will mean vindication for the upright and judgment for the wicked. It also means that there will be new order of things.
It is this new order of things that Luke captures in the Gospel Reading of today. In their admiration of the beautiful things of this life, the disciples were disappointed at Jesus’s answer that such things will not stand the test of time.
One day a young boy called Nyamekye was walking along the Elmina beach. Suddenly, he found a bar of gold which has been watched ashore. He became so happy and said: “Now I never have to work again in my life”. But when he tried to sell it, the buyers put him off because the money they wanted to offer was not worth the gold. Several days later, Nyamekye found out that his life was in danger because the buyers wanted to kill him in order to possess the gold. He had to choose between the gold and his life. With the gold buyers looking on, he went to the beach, took his gold, and threw it into the sea as far as he could. The question is:
“What hold do our material possessions have on us? When wealth is lost, nothing is lost, when health is lost, something is lost, when character is lost, everything is lost”.
Instead of worrying about something we do not have control over namely the Parousia, let us rather focus on what preparation we are making to await the Messiah. The interesting thing is that even in our suffering, Jesus is asking us to bear witness to him and that is the only way we can win our salvation. Thus before Jesus comes “… Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment and bring you before kings and governors because of my name and that will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12-13). Last week we learnt that as Christians, we are called to witness to the resurrection. Today, Jesus reminds that this witnessing entails suffering; it entails making a fundamental option for Jesus even if it means a detachment from family traditions or ties. This is because “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends…” (Luke 21:16).
The decision to follow Jesus is personal and it demands a radical response. The story of the seven brothers and their mother in last week’s First Reading should spur us on.
This generation is an evil generation because it is a generation that looks for a sign. “ For the Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentile but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:22-24). What are you looking for?
The faithful Christian is never surprised at the coming of the Lord. The emphasis in today’s Gospel is on Christian preparedness or watchfulness in the service of the Lord. To be watchful means to be vigilant. Jesus is by this urging us all to be vigilant, to resist evil and to overcome temptation especially the temptation to give up. The point is not that we should cut down our sleep, but that we should be careful to lead fully Christian lives, untainted as much as possible by the values and aspiration of the sinful world around us. It is a Christian who falls into sin, remains in sin, omits to pray and watch who will be surprised by the unexpected arrival of the Master. “You must also be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40).
St. Paul had had his share of trouble with false messiahs who said that the end of the world was imminent and so some Thessalonians have stop working in preparation for the Parousia. For Paul, the solution is that “If anyone who will not work, let him not eat “(2 Thessalonians 3:10). For some of us instead of working we find ourselves interfering with other people’s work. Our life must be productive otherwise it is not worth living. Man is by nature a ‘Homofaber’ (a worker). Homo faber suae quisque fortunae (“Every man is the artifex of his destiny”)
In sum, prediction about the Parousia is utterly impossible; indeed that impossibility is an essential part of the doctrine. Jesus’ teaching on the subject quite clearly consisted of three propositions: That he will certainly return; that we cannot possibly find out when; and that therefore, we must always be ready for him.