We are going into that “scary” period in the liturgical calendar right before Advent where many of the readings and Gospels focus on the end times, persecution, and final judgment. There are many people who take these apocalyptic verses to extremes. There is the one camp that just ignores these readings or see them as a lot of hyperbole and not events that will eventually occur. The other camp thinks the end of the world will occur every day and finds every shred of circumstantial and coincidental evidence to support their claim. I want to take a more balanced look at these readings and how we can approach them without being hysterical.
The Gospel reading from Luke on November 14, 2010 presents some very grim imagery. Jesus describes wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and persecution (Lk, 21:5-19). I do not think anyone would disagree that these are all pretty terrible things and we would be fortunate to avoid them. In many people’s world view this is how it all ends; people dying in misery and despair. However, many people do not see that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel we call human existence. There is the glory, comfort, and joy of eternal life in Heaven. Last Sunday’s Gospel ends with Jesus saying, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk, 21:19). And that is the central message we should take away from these apocalyptic readings — the joy of Heaven is infinitely greater than any suffering here on Earth.
Think back to your childhood. Do you remember the first time you cut yourself? Perhaps you fell when you were playing. Maybe you poked yourself with a sharp object. I’m sure many of us cried and wailed over that pain as it seemed like the worst torment we would ever encounter. Now as adults we probably don’t have the slightest recollection of that ordeal. This is similar to how Heaven will compare to all our Earthly suffering. The worst wars and tragedies won’t even be a faint memory compared to the joys of Heaven. This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel. In the end, our faith and perseverance will bring us more happiness than we can possibly imagine and make all our earthly suffering seem like nothing more than a scraped knee.
We can pick any Sorrowful Mystery as an example of perseverance through hard times. In this period before Advent, when we pray the rosary, we should ask God for the strength to endure any difficulties in our lives. Perhaps you are having a hard time at work or at home. Maybe you are having relationship problems or there are people in your life that bring you nothing but misery. Take all those challenges and present them to God when you pray. Try to look past the misery and difficulties of this world by reminding yourself that it is all temporary. When you put it all in perspective you will realize that life’s biggest obstacles are so small compared to the joy of Heaven and you will wonder why you even worried about them in the first place.
- Homily for November 14, 2010: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (beliefnet.com)