Judgement as a Place of Hope

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (year B)

Readings: Daniel 12:1-3 | Hebrew 10:11-14, 18 | Mark 13:24-32

WOULD you agree if somebody said as a society, we’ve become less resilient—that we cannot handle bad news or to use a famous line from the movies: “We can’t handle the truth.” And so we try to soften every bad news we encounter, use euphemisms to soften the blow. Or we go into denial. For example, if a wife asks her if she looks good in a dress, the husband cannot say “NO you look terrible.” That would be the end of him! So he would say: “You’re cute on that one.” By the way, a friend some time ago told me: “Cute” means ugly but presentable.”

Same thing with biblical messages. Some modern scholars and critics don’t like Gospel passages like the one we just heard. They say passages like this were later additions to the Gospels and therefore not really spoken by Jesus, because Jesus was too gentle and forgiving to say such harsh things.

Related imageBut in fact, Jesus did say these things, and he said them precisely because of his deep love for us. Christ knows that the battle between good and evil will continue throughout human history. But he also knows that this ongoing battle will provide the opportunity for his grace to spread throughout the world. And once that expansion has reached its fulfillment, he will come again to establish the definitive and everlasting victory of his Kingdom. These are facts; and key elements of God’s plan for our lives.

We profess our belief in these truths every Sunday, when we say “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end.” Since this is the way things are, it would have been cruel and heartless for Jesus not to tell us about it. Telling us about it gives us a chance to organize our lives accordingly, to build our lives on the everlasting rock of Christ our Saviour: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus doesn’t speak about these events in order to scare us, but in order to motivate us.  It is so easy to fall into a purely natural outlook on life, getting so wrapped up in our daily to-do lists that we forget the big picture, and we neglect our friendship with Christ. Jesus knows that nothing could be worse for our happiness, now and forever – and that is what interests him most.

Even his predictions of the end of the world, then, are a reminder of his endless love and a teaching on the virtue of hope. In fact, Pope Emeritus Benedict calls the final judgment a “place of hope,” a “setting for learning and practicing hope.” He says: “From the earliest times, the prospect of the Judgement has influenced Christians in their daily living as a criterion by which to order their present life, as a summons to their conscience, and at the same time as hope in God’s justice.” The fact that we know Jesus is coming again to set all things right makes a huge difference in how we look at ourselves and the world around us.

On the surface, our Lord’s predictions about the end of the world may seem harsh and frightening. But he tells us these things because he loves us too much to leave us in the dark. And we are the fortunate ones. Since we know how things will end, we can arrange our lives wisely, giving our friendship with Christ and our obedience to his commands the priority they deserve. But popular culture is not so wise. In our society, narrow interests are trying hard to focus on merely the present. They try to convince us that what is objectively disordered and bad as something good and what is good as something bad. Unfortunately, we all know people who will believe the delusions of the world than the gospel. We all have friends, colleagues, teammates, even family members who will not be coming to Mass this morning, who will not be reminded of the eternal truths.

Related imageBut we can do something. We can spread the good news that Jesus hasn’t given up on them; that he is not indifferent to their eternal destiny; that he knows their names and gave his life for them. This week, we have a chance to tell them all about it. Invite them again to our weekly celebration. Just as Jesus showed his love for us by telling us the good news of the gospel, we also have opportunities each day to show our love for him and for our neighbours. This is by sharing that good news with others, through words, prayers, example, and actions. In today’s Mass, let’s ask God to give us the courage this week to do just that. ###