18 November 2007. 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malachi 3, 19-20; Psalm 98; 2 Thes 3, 7-12; Luke 21, 5-19
As the liturgical calendar ends, the readings turn towards the end of time. Malachi, Psalm 98, and the Gospel speak of the final judgment when the “Lord comes to rule the earth with justice”. To me, these readings present a horizon for all Christians. It gives us a vision of where we are going, and the assurance that what we are doing is not pointless, though at times trying and difficult as the Gospel warns us. The assurance is the Gospel’s final verse, “but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
So this Sunday we will talk about two very important things: first, the importance of the end of time and second, St. Paul suggested in his letter to the Thessalonians the way to the final end.
The New American Standard Bible has this passage in Proverbs 29,18: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” In other words, when there is no vision, goal or objective, we become unfocused, lost and directionless. When there is no destination, we will not know where to go. The New American Bible adds another dimension: the people become demoralized. Without a vision, we easily become disheartened and discouraged. We lose our verve, vigor and vitality. Our ideal future encourages us to pursue it; we become excited by the very thought of it coming to reality, like owning a house, securing our children, or finally finding someone to spend our whole lives with. Our guiding purpose gives meaning to our actions and decisions. In our faith, the end of time is the Beatific Vision — finally seeing God face to face, the very source of our happiness.
In our lives, it is important to ask ourselves about what we deeply desire; what we envision ourselves to be in the future. When our goals are clear, it would make our choosing easy. It is simple: if you know that you really want to be a doctor, choosing among a variety of courses will not be challenging: you would naturally rule out the subjects you don’t need.
The Beatific Vision is not something that is given like a free meal. It is worked out, labored, and toiled. Effort is exerted. Sacrifice is a prerequisite. St. Paul said that ‘if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” Having to work, he adds, is acting in an orderly way and conducting ourselves correctly. And having to sweat it out in order to achieve one’s goal has witnessing value: we present ourselves as a model for everyone else to follow. Work acquires a dignity: work helps us actualize our visions and leads us there.
In our lives, do we deserve what we get? Are we free-loaders and opportunists who, as the second reading says, ‘mind the business of others’, but do not keep ourselves busy? There is an image in Filipino literature of Juan Tamad (John, the Lazy) who waited for guavas to fall from the tree. Do we wait for things to happen to our lives or wait for others to make it happen for us?