33rd Sunday of the Year (b) 2018
There is no lightness in our readings today. No funny lines, no light relief, no humour. You could say ‘all is doom and gloom.’ The first reading, from Daniel, speaks of Michael, the Archangel, standing up and announcing that there will be time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. And Jesus, in the Gospel, doesn’t get any lighter, when he says, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. However, then he goes on to say ‘ before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place.’ Yet, he made this dire prediction 2,000 years ago and yet nothing has happened. Of course, every now and again, there are people who think they know best, and predict when ‘the time of great distress unparalleled since the nations first came into existence’ is about to begin. And often they go up on high mountains, and wait there for this imminent dreaded day. Then, eventually, they have to come down, and admit they got it wrong; till next time.
However, I expect anyone who was involved in the great wars that raged through Europe would have thought that it was a ‘time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.’ They were dreadful times. So, what is the point of these readings; are they to frighten us so that we repent? To make us give up our sinful ways and turn back to the Lord? There may be an element of truth in this but it is not the main message of these readings. I think that is deeper. There are times when the Church forces us to take life seriously. What do I mean? Well, we live in such a happy go lucky age, an age of consumerism, of materialism, of having fun; an age when the principal thing most people do on Sunday, is go to garden centres or car boot sales, or play football. And in such an age the last thing one thinks about is the meaning and point of life, never mind the end of life.
So the Church, in its wisdom, takes these last few Sundays of its year, to force us to have sober and deep thoughts. Christ finishes the Gospel today with the words, ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father.’ I presume this is talking about the hour of our death. I don’t know about you but I am rather glad I don’t know when ‘that day or hour will come.’ We don’t usually talk about ‘days or hours’, but, people do say things like, “life is short”.
The Lord does not want to frighten us by the words of the Gospel. The clear message of the Bible is summarised in the life and words of Christ, above all by his death and resurrection. It is a message of hope and encouragement that should leave a person feeling uplifted and stronger, more confident and happier with themselves; and certainly without fear of death.
I think if there is one message I would want us to take home with us from these sober readings, it is the need to pray. Prayer keeps us in touch with ourselves and with what really matters in life. Because when we pray we get in touch with our inner selves, and in doing that we get in touch with what is really real, and that is God. God dwells within each and everyone of us, but all too often we can be too busy with our lives to have time for God in prayer.
Give yourselves five or ten minutes each day to pray; to close your eyes and enter within. Don’t let the modern world with all its attractions draw you away from the one thing necessary, which is God. And a person who really knows God, loves Him. He or she will be ready for whatever comes, when it comes. You have God’s word for it. He won’t let you down.