Theme: …WAITING IN HOPE!
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday November 14 2021
Daniel 12: 1-3
Psalm 16: 5. 8. 9-10. 11
Hebrew 10:11-14. 18
Mark 13: 24-32
We are moving towards the end of the liturgical year, so also is the civil calendar gradually winding down to the end. Next Sunday will be the feast of Christ the King. And the following Sunday will be the first Sunday in Advent – the new year in the liturgical calendar. So the Liturgy of the Word today takes advantage of this time of the year to remind us of a difficult theme, namely, The End of Times!
So the question is put before us and it is one that we must face collectively. More importantly, however, is the fact that each one of us must face the question personally. What is the meaning of my life? What is the purpose of my life? What happens to me at the end of my life? The theme of ‘the end of times’ or ‘the end of the world’ is indeed a difficult one. So are the readings of today.
I personally found the preparation of this reflection quite difficult. But I still believe someone definitely would be touched by this message.
Our first reading today comes from the Book of Daniel. This book was composed in the 2nd Century BC, when the Jews were persecuted by the Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. And the gospel text of today, from Mark, is part of the answer that Jesus gives to the question of some of the Apostles concerning the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the end of the times (Mk 13:3-4). It is also important to understand that by the time the Gospel of Mark was being written, the Jews were suffering fresh persecutions in the hands of the Romans, and the temple of Jerusalem was at the verge of destruction.
As we can see, then, the situations that gave rise to the composition of these texts (of the Apocalyptic literature) are very difficult and negative from the point of view of human experience. But the purpose of these passages is not to threaten the people the more, but to offer hope, drawing their attention to the action of God even beyond the present human history. Apocalyptic literature would always talk about ‘new heaven and new earth’ and the triumph of good over evil. So it is very important not to lose this point.
This sense of hope that characterises the apocalyptic literature is seen in the last lines of today’s first reading: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3). In the gospel passage it is the reference to the “Son of Man” that brings the sense of hope (Mk 13:26).
Both in the recent and not so recent time past, there have been notable prophecies and predictions of the actual day and time for the end of the universe. We could spend the entire space recounting these prophecies of the end of the world, their proponents and the accompanying failures; the list is long and I will resist the temptation to even start mentioning any in particular. We all know of some of these predictions. In any case, all these predictions overlooked the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew (24:36): “No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come- neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, the Father alone knows”. (See also Mk.13:32).
These apocalyptic predictions and prophecies have only brought about fear and panic among people. But instead of fear, panic and despair, Jesus leads us to entrust the future to divine providence. God is in control, and even the most fearful events are really signs that final redemption is close, that Christ “is near, at the very gates”. Our call is to live the present moment faithfully, knowing we will one day account for how we used God’s gifts. Our first reading today prophesied about the situation of things after death and judgement. From this reading, one thing is certain for all humans, awaking from the dead. However, some, whose names have been found written in the book of life shall receive the reward of eternal life, while the condemned shall be rewarded with everlasting horror and disgrace.
Today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity. Beginnings can be endings and endings can be beginnings. Beginning to live differently today ends the ways we lived yesterday and in the days of our past.
So as Christians, we have an advantage in dealing with these questions concerning the end of time. We have the advantage of hope. We can have hope based on what Jesus Christ has done for us, and not only done in the distant past but also what He has done for us in our own personal lives. We should not allow ourselves to despair. Christian faith is built on hope! God is still in control of the world. God is still part of our history. And even amidst human frailty God still loves the world. Therefore, we do not wait for the last days with fear, confusion and despair, but we wait with eager longing. We wait with hope.
On the other hand, those who had been gullible with the predictions of the doomsday prophets seem to forget that our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Be on your guard and do not let anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying I am the Christ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). In another place (Matthew 24:23-25) he says:
If anyone says to you Look here is the Messiah! Or there he is. Do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear; and they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s elect if possible. Listen I have told you this before it happens.
Beloved in Christ, the end is sure but should it bring about fear or faith? Should we be worried about the end of time or about living good and acceptable lives? St. Paul had to battle with a similar situation at various points because people were aimlessly starring at the sky waiting for the second coming of the Lord. In his first letter to Timothy (I Tim.6:14-15) he advised that people should focus on obeying the commandments faithfully until the Lord comes again at the right time appointed by God.
There are basically two reasons why people obey rules; one is positive while the other is negative. One is out of love, commitment and appreciation while the other is out of fear of punishment. In Nigeria for instance, some people scramble for their seat belts while driving and they sight the Road Safety officers on the way; this is obedience out of fear of punishment rather than obedience in appreciation of the need for safety. We should be moved to be in heaven by our love for God, our appreciation for His goodness and commitment to doing His will than the fear of going to hell and being eternally punished. We should be sustained by faith in heavenly reward than by fear of hellish punishment!
As the liturgical and civil year draw to an end we are reminded that we are in this world for a moment! There is an end in view. Actually when anyone of us dies his or her time comes to an end. Evidently none of us has the gift of forever. In any case, what we should be more concerned about is eternity than the fear of the end of the world which is certain to come but at a divinely appointed time and not by human predictions. The question that could be more productive is: “How ready am I? If the Lord should come today will I be saved?”
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*