Catholic homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: PONDERING THE FOUR LAST THINGS
By: Rev Fr. Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday November 14 2021
R1 – Dan 12:1-3
R2 – Heb 10:11-14,18
GOSPEL – Mark 13:24-32
Over the years, the concept of the end time (Parousia), has been a recurring issue in the history of Christendom; which often evokes feelings of fear, panic and abberatious predictions on the ‘exact time’ of the Parousia by prophets, scientists and conspiracy theorists. For example:
(i) French “prophet” and astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566), foretold that the world would end when Easter fell on April 25. This happened in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943; it will occur again in 2038.
(ii) Hippolytus, one of the early philosophers, predicted Christ would return in AD 500.
(iii) In 960, German theologian, Bernard of Thuringia, calculated the end of the world would come in 992. Some were so sure the world was going to end in 1000 A.D. that they did not bother to plant crops.
(iv) Astrologer, Johann Stoeffler, said the world would be flooded on February 20, 1524.
(v) Solomon Eccles, in 1665, ran through the streets of London carrying blazing sulfur on his head announcing that the world was going to go up in flames within the year. In 1874,
(vi) Charles Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluded that Christ had already returned, but people would have another forty years of grace. In 1914 the denomination was forced to revise its timetable. Herbert Armstrong, in his publication, Plain Truth, set the date for the end of the world as January 7, 1972.
(vii) The Year 2000, and more specifically, the fake prophecy about three days darkness to mark the end of the world threw everyone into panic.
Beloved in Christ, each year at this time, the Church asks us to ponder and consider the four last things, viz: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. That is why, Saint Philip Neri wrote, “Beginners in religion ought to exercise themselves principally in meditation on the Four Last Things.
The eschathological undertone of the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, does not call for panic or raising undue alarm or issuing fake prophecies, conspiracy theories or scientific predictions about the end of the world, like we see in the fake and misleading introit stories and events. It only calls for preparedness, alertness and promptness, that we may not be consumed by the ephemerality of this transient existence. Remember, Jesus says in the Gospel reading, “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father” (Mk 13:32).
The first reading, taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people persecuted by a cruel pagan king. It advices us to live wisely and justly in the present time, instead of worrying about the unknown future.
The Markan Gospel (AD 69) from which the Gospel reading is generated, offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, by reminding them of Jesus’ words about His glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge to gather and reward the elect. Daniel and Mark continue to remind us that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him.
*THE FOUR LAST THINGS*
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there are four last things, viz: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. These phenomena are celestial realities that every human being – both believers and non-believers will have to face at the end of time (CCC 1006). Jesus Christ himself spoke about the certainties of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell in the Gospel.
Death is the end of earthly life; the separation of the soul from the body. The theme of this Sunday’s liturgy reassures us of the Latin saying, “Omnibus moriendum est.” (All must die). Death itself is an undeniable and inevitable reality. In the words of St Augustine, “Death is certain and uncertain.” Certain in the sense that all must die and uncertain in the sense that no one knows when” (igwe nile ga aga na uzu).
So, for us Christians, the “end of the world” refers not to the annihilation of the planet but to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Rather than a day to be feared of, it is a day filled with hope because it ushers in the final completion of history and the full reign of God. Remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment (CCC #1007)
“The Church believes that a person faces the particular judgment at death. God judges our souls and
finds us either able to enter heaven immediately, needing to go through further purification in purga-
tory or capable of hell because of our refusal to detach ourselves from sin and our unwillingness to repent (CCC #1022). The New Testament Scripture is replete with the day of reckoning, when Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead as we equally see in the gospel reading and Daniel’s prophecy today. The scripture says that there will be reward for those who keep right (the righteous) and punishment for those who diverted to the left (the wicked and wrong doers): “He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left” (Mtt.25:33). The yardstick for the judgement shall be based on the principles of love and value for God and humanity.
After judgement, comes reward or punishment. Those who maintain the principles of love, value for God and humanity shall be rewarded with beatific vision (Eternal Life) – a life of constant communion and fellowship with God.
The CCC affirms that, ‘Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified, live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face (CCC #1023). What then can separate us from this beatific vision?
After judgement, the wicked and evil perpetrators shall be damned in hell fire, a life filled with sufferings and gnashing of teeth.
The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell – “eternal fire” (CCC #1034). The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs for.
(1) *LET US BE CONSCIOUS OF THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS IN OUR DAILY LIVES.*
St Augustine once said, “When I remember death, I begin to live well.” The consciousness of a life here-after should propel us to live well and pattern our lives according to the precepts and commandments of God.
Moreover, God comes to us daily in the ordinary events of our lives. Let us not loose sight of the fact that the Lord is present wherever people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Hence, let us try to bring Jesus to earth, as St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) puts it: “By doing little things to others around us with great love.”
(2) *DO NOT BE FRIGHTENED*
A lot of Christians, most especially prosperity preachers and admirers of prosperity gospel are always frightened by the tone of the this Sunday’s liturgy. The end of the world should never be thought of as depressing, disheartening, or frightening because we are in the hands of a good and loving God. Such fearful dispositions are spurred by unpreparedness. God speaks to us through the scripture. We have the Eucharist as a sign that God is with us, in our midst. Holy Communion is our point of direct, personal contact with God. The more fully and frequently we participate in the Mass, the more deeply the Lord can come to us, and the more completely He can remain with us.
Do not allow yourself to be frightened or distracted by the descriptions of end time and the fake prophecies of men of God and scientists about the second coming.
(3) *WE MUST BE PREPARED ALWAYS TO MEET THE LORD WITH A CLEAR CONSCIOUSNESS*
Suppose we were to learn today that we had just one year, one month, one week, one day, one hour or one minute to live; What changes would we make in our lives? If, to our dismay, we find that there are several things which have to be put right before facing our Judge we will start right away to put them right.
Finally, St Francis of Assisi – the saint of Nature, was hoeing his garden one day. A philosopher friend approached him and asked, “What would you do if you learned you would die before the sun sets?” St Francis reflected for a moment and replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden. I would be faithful to what I am doing now.” This response indicates a continuous and constant readiness, alertness and preparedness to meet the Lord in his second coming. Are you ready?
Beloved, I put it to you, “What would you do if you learned you would die before the sun sets?” Would you be found putting your family in order; writing your Will for peace to reign; making peace with God and our neighbors. How would we spend our three Ts – Time, Talents, Treasure? What changes would you make in your life? Would you be preoccupied by petty quarrels, rifts and bickering of life? No! Let us begin now to make the best out of our lives, spending our time doing loving, holy and worthwhile things.
MAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD WHO HAS BLESSED US WITH HIS DIVINE WORD TODAY, GRANT US A HEART THAT IS FREE FROM ANXIETY AND EPHEMERAL PURSUITS OF WORLDLY HAPPINESS AND ENABLE US TO PURSUE BEATIFIC GOALS. AMEN
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*FR GERALD MUOKA.*
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