33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
4 Last Things: Part 2 (in brief)
The manifest message of western culture today is to avoid thinking about the last things, the great truths like death and judgment. Accordingly, imbued with the cultural creed, the problem for many Christians is not so much anxiety about the end of our world but living as if there were an eternity of tomorrows and no judgement to come. The manipulative message of the YOLO creed tells us to enjoy ourselves while we can here on earth and, don’t worry – be happy. Subsequently we get too focused on a future which is essentially uncertain and mortgage that future against final judgement. We have been indoctrinated to believe that all we have to do is take the right steps, get the right breaks and have enough money to guarantee a future under our control. That living the Christian life means fitting the Gospel into our chosen lifestyle and our chosen future.
That is foolish. It is not the mindset for living that will lead to a face to face encounter with Jesus at judgement, where we hear the words 'well done, good and faithful servant'.
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell
One very important theme we can draw from today’s Mass is that Jesus is the Lord of life. Life that isn’t ended by physical death, contrary to what the Sadducee’s believed. But this truth is a such a central truth, we must consider its import for how we live our lives.
We know or at least we hope Heaven is real and that we’ll get there. We’re taught that hell is real, but we hope it isn’t, except for the folks we hate. We’ve heard there is such a thing as Purgatory but since we don’t understand it, we try not to think about it, much, unless we’re invited to pray for the souls in purgatory and since we have loved ones who have died, on the off chance this matters, we are willing to pray for them.
We don’t really like to talk about death and dying, even though we all know that moment will come for all of us. It’s uncomfortable. It forces us to consider our own mortality, choices, and salvation. It also forces us to consider the future and past loss of loved ones. It may not be fun to think or talk about. But we must.
Let’s not forget the Final Judgement…
There will be a resurrection of all, as St. Paul explains in 1st Corinthians 15. Those who have been faithful to Christ will rise glorious, their bodies transformed on the model of the risen body of Christ. Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all human beings. This is called the parousia, His second coming. It was foretold by the angels as He ascended into heaven: "This Jesus who is taken up from you to heaven, will come in the way in which you saw Him going into heaven". Acts 1:11 The general judgment at the end of time simply solemnly confirms the particular judgments of each person, with the difference that then the body as well as the soul will receive what is due.
If we were asked, what is really our ultimate concern, on what really do we base our lives, what would we say?
Our relationship with God must be our ultimate concern.
31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Please don't judge me... God’s attitude towards those who sin, continuing the theme from last week.
The Gospel tells a story about a man named Zacchaeus, a rich collector of taxes and likely well fed. Then one day because he climbed a tree to see, the Son of God invited himself over for dinner! These guys, the tax collectors, not Jesus, usually got wealthy by destroying the lives of those upon whom they preyed – bleeding them dry through threats, extortion, and murder. Such is the stereotype, but maybe not true of this guy.
This might remind you of that time, in Revelations when St. John painted us a beautiful image of Jesus: “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him and he will eat with me”. Rev 3:20
The crowd, as we heard, was not impressed. They were shocked and scandalized, although maybe moved by some sort of jealousy as well: “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Sure, based on 'the norm' they might have been right, since to them it seemed like a sure thing in light of their lived experience; every tax collector is a crook and even worse a Jew stealing from Jews... the most detested person in the town! But 'the norm' isn't necessarily the truth about everyone. Have you ever been judged in this way?
Undaunted, but humble and fully aware of the meaning of the crowds judgement against him, Zacchaeus confidently tells Jesus what he’s really guilty of: “Half of my possessions I give to the poor; and if I find I have taken more than I should, I pay back fourfold.” Jesus, clear enough to be understood by the crowd, pointed out, “Today salvation, wholeness, has come to this house, because Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham.” ‘Son of Abraham’ was a title for a good-living Jew and sometimes applied to Christians in the early Church. “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost”. As we say today, never judge a book by it’s cover! But, just like those folks in the Gospel, we often superficially judge others.
The words in the first reading, ought to be in our minds and on our lips as frequently, at least, as we are tempted to be more like the crowd and less like Jesus!
“Lord, you love all things that exist,
and detest none of the things that you have made,
for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.
How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?
Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?
You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love all that lives.”
And pray for others, along with St. Paul…
“We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call
and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness
and complete all that you have been doing through faith;
because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
will be glorified in you and you in him,
by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.