Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: LAST THINGS AND LASTING THINGS
By: Fr. Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
1. Tombstone Jokes. Some people are so humorous that before departing this life, they ensure that their loved ones put their humor on their tombstone. I share 3 such epitaphs. 1. “I was hoping for a pyramid”. 2. “Joke’s over, let me out now”. 3. “I told you I was sick”.
2. Last Things and Lasting Things. Dear sisters and brothers, as we approach the end of the calendar year and the end of the liturgical year, the Church presents Scripture readings that remind us of the things that will never end, and the events that lead to such lasting things. In the first reading (Dan 12:1-3), the events that lead to lasting things are described in apocalyptic terms that sound frightening but actually give hope: “it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress” is quickly followed by “your people shall escape ”, apparently from the distress. In unmistakable terms, the reading gives two everlasting fates: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” The Gospel reading (Mk 13:24-32) presents these same last things and lasting things in terms of death, judgement, heaven or hell. Our Lord alludes to His 2nd coming, a 2nd coming that will inaugurate the Kingdom of God in its full glory. In other words, there will be an end to the world as we know it now, giving way to an everlasting new reality yet unknown to us. Of course, before then, every minute, on this planet, someone is experiencing the end of the world as they knew it, through death. The lesson is unmistakable: the need to live now in readiness for the end of the present world for me, a readiness for eternity. Our Lord encourages us to learn by observation, observation of nature: “learn a lesson from the fig-tree”.
3. A Useful Riddle. What lesson from the fig tree? A time comes for tender branches and sprouting leaves. That signals a new cycle of life. Preparing for death also signals new life, eternal life, life without pain, life without sickness, life of perfect happiness. Our preparation for death can therefore become a matter of expectation, a matter of joyful hope. Such preparation enables us to focus on the things that bring about the expected better life, the things that truly matter. Dr. Kubler-Ross wrote a book called Death and Dying. It grew out of her work with terminally ill people. Commenting on their feelings about life as they looked back on it close to the moment of death, she writes: “They saw in the final analysis that only two things matter: the service you render to others and love. All those things we think are important like fame, money, prestige, and power, are insignificant.” But service to others comes with trials. Love calls for sacrifice.
Here is a useful old riddle to help you and me keep making loving sacrifice for the sake of others, for the sake of lasting things. What is greater than God; more evil than the Devil; the poor have it; the rich don’t need it; if you eat it, you’ll die; and when you die, you take it with you? Of course, the answer to the riddle is “nothing.” Nothing is greater than God. Nothing is more evil than the Devil. The poor have nothing, sort of. The rich need nothing, kind of. If you eat nothing, you’ll die. And when you die, you take “nothing” with you. Sisters and brothers, anything we cannot take with us upon death, is better shared with others before then. Otherwise, they will take it anywhere, and we become double losers. Thus, sacrificial love that makes us share, actually makes us double winners in this life and in eternal life, to the glory of God.
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