Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malachi 3:19-20a
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

The most public gathering places in almost any large city have billboard preachers announcing the impending end of the world on a regular basis. Their warnings have become so familiar that most of us tend to ignore them. Nonetheless, they provide a mental context for today’s Gospel. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the future and the end of the material world. The words are similar to those who stand in the public square with billboards. But Jesus is very clear. No one knows when this will happen.

Through the years we have had all of the disasters Jesus speaks about. The temple has been destroyed. There have been wars and rumors of war. There have been earthquakes and famines and plagues. Every natural and unnatural disaster has been accompanied with predictions of the end of the world. And we are still here.

In the end, it is easy for us to miss the greater point. Everything material will end but we will not be abandoned. Our souls will be safe from harm. There is hope in the midst of chaos.

The final words of the First Reading and the Gospel are central to the message of the day: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” “Yet, not a hair of your head will be harmed.” This is always the word of the Lord.

St. Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians at a time very like our own. Many in the community believed the world would end at any time. They were ready to give up. Paul asked them to continue to work for the spread of the Gospel, to remember the Lord’s care for us. Life continues. The sun rises and the sun sets. The needs of those who surround us cannot be ignored. The love we have for others must take form in action.

At this liturgy — and at all time — Christians are challenged to offer hope to a world that seems hopeless, to preach the word of the Lord in good times and in bad, to remember that no matter how perilous the path, the Lord walks with us.

We gather at the altar to remember in a special way those who are experiencing the horrors of persecution, the devastation of hurricanes and famine, the terrorism of hatred. We pray for the reconciliation of those who have lost faith in the Lord because they no longer believe in humankind. We give thanks to the Father for his continued care of us. We look to the day when we will know the peace of being united with one another in him.

The Gospel that frightened us as children should reassure us as adults.