33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
VICTORY AT LAST
Readings: 1st: Mal 3:19-20; Ps: 97, 5-7; 2nd: 2 Thes 3:7-12; Gos: Luke 21:5-19
Today is the thirty third Sunday of ordinary time, few days to the end of the liturgical calendar year C. So, the readings of this Sunday point to “the end of time” and our victory in Christ at the last day. Notwithstanding the pains and sufferings the righteous may undergo, there is always victory for the children of God. The readings of today possess an eschatological character. The readings portrayed the times leading to the last day as scary, harsh and retributive, but that notwithstanding, the readings also emphasized on how victory can be achieved at last. It will still be a victory at last for the children of God. Today, we look at the dark side of life but with new hope, for we know in two weeks Advent begins.
The External Adornment
In the gospel, the disciples were talking about the temple and how it was decorated with beautiful stones and gifts” This is the third temple. Solomon built the first temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. When the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylonia, they built the second temple, a remarkable work of faith but inferior to the original temple. Herod tore down that temple in 20 B.C. to make room for his temple—the one that the disciples admire here. Herod’s temple, already under construction for forty-six years (John 2:20) is nonetheless magnificent. The disciples were held spell bound by the beauty of this edifice but Jesus did not join in the bouquet of praises nor join in singing Herod praises, but speaks sternly about the last day which will also witness the destruction of the temple and disappearance. The disciples must have been craved by the beauty of this temple which Jesus observed. It is not that the temple is not important, but here Jesus inadvertently warns that they should not lose sight of the end still, whatever we crave for in this world and whatever will fight to have and build will one day vanish. Despite how magnificent, powerful, beautiful, handsome, wealthy we are, everything has an expiry date.
The disciples failed to see beyond the external to the internal. The disciples see the external adornment, but fail to see the spiritual bankruptcy behind the facade—the hypocrisy (11:37-54)—the oppression (18:7; 20:47)—the rejection of the Messiah by Herod. Jesus stipulates that what matters mainly is the internal and the spiritual. What God wants from us is internal adornment, total change of heart, and beauty of the soul, not pretense nor mere what eyes can see. At the end, only those spiritually renewed will gain victory at last and the things we think we crave for, must one day go into extinction. Today many kill, kidnap and destroy to have earthly possessions; many go a very long way to possess all sorts of things to live, forgetting that there is an end for everyone and everything. St Augustine says that in everything you do, do not forget your end. Secondly, what God sees is not how much you appear to be good or perfect but how good and perfect you are really.
At the End
The readings of today presented the end to be highly retributive and harsh to the wicked and evil ones. In the First Reading of today from the Book of the prophet Malachi, the author addresses the perennial problem, namely, why do evil-doers prosper and the just suffer. What is the value of living just and pious life when the irreligious people look down on the observance of the law? The prophet is prophesying doom for evil-doers and is sounding them the alarm. He tells them that the end of the world and the Day of Judgment will be terrible for the evil-doers, but it will be a joy for the faithful.
The gospel in its own did not promise easy times for the righteous at this time, but first there will be terrible times—war, political chaos, and natural disasters. Knowing that redemption is coming we need not be terrified. Jesus does not, however, promise life without pain. Rather than promising escape from hardship, he offers spiritual resources to cope with it. Events might seem catastrophic, but we need not fear that God has quit the field. His divine plan will ultimately prevail. The truth then remains that the righteous may suffer now, but there is always joy at last. Secondly evil and wicked men can rejoice now but the end is highly disastrous, every man receives his rewards according to his deeds.
The Way to Victory
In the second reading, Paul encouraged us to keep working hard. This is in order to earn both our earthly and heavenly living. The Church does not in any way encourage laziness or idleness. This is diligence in defense of the gospel; we keep working and fighting till the end. For Jesus promised that it is only through endurance that we can win our lives. If faced with persecution and pain along the way, always know that Jesus did not promise the easy way for his disciples or that discipleship will be comfortable (14:26-33). It is only through endurance that we will gain our souls. The way to victory is not always easy. Always know that nothing in this world lasts, everything has an expiring date.
The way to victory favours only those who are willing to endure to the last, who didn’t lose their faith even in the midst of persecution, when everything turns and fight against them, even when everyone hates them because of their strong faith in God, at the end only the good and those who endured to pay the price will win the prize. There is always victory at last for the children of God.