Every November, as the liturgical year winds down and we head towards the Feast of Christ the King (on November 24 this year), the Sunday scripture readings begin to speak about the end times. But the focus of these readings is not really about the end of the world that is to come, but about how to live faithfully in the world today.
We see this clearly in the Lucan Gospel. Luke has Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple, but the Gospel was being written after the actual destruction of the temple in 70 AD to a community in Jerusalem. The believers at the time were facing persecution and they must have been confused and searching for meaning. This example of apocryphal writing gives the evangelist a way to offer encouragement to a disheartened community in Jerusalem. By having Jesus “foretell” the destruction of the temple, it allows Jesus to encourage the faithful to remain strong in their belief. It is Jesus preaching: Yes, things look bad and things may get worse. But I am with you until the end and you will not be lost from me. Your endurance will win you your lives. This preaching continues to be relevant for believers in every age.
Stories about the end of the world and judgment in the afterlife remind us that our lives in this world are not forever. They are a “wake up call” that invites us to wrestle with the big questions of the meaning of life and how were are called to live our faith. The stories are not to frighten us with the threat of judgment, but they invite us to be thoughtful and intentional in how we live today. What values should guide our lives? What is truly important to us in this life?
The Gospel should encourage us to keep these questions in mind. Jesus invites us into a deep relationship that will stand the test of adversity. He calls us to be a trusting people who acknowledge our dependency on God. He calls us to live with great perseverance and it is a call to remain hopeful when the world seems dark and events in our lives are distressing. A deep relationship with Jesus is grounded in the truth of his message today. With prayer we need to sink our roots deeply into this soil and tend to the relationship through good works and faithful living.
While our curiosity may raise questions about the end of the world and the world to come, today’s message is simple. Live today in relationship with Christ and with hopeful perseverance in times of trial. Do that and our transition from this life to the next is of no real concern. The end of one life will just be the beginning of the next.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. William Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., is the former moderator general of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.