In the Spiritual Reflection for this week, Pope Francis says this about God: “It is He, the Lord, Who guides our existence and knows the ultimate purpose of things and events.” This is what we believe as Christians – that God has a plan for the world, and for each one of us. As we approach the end of the Liturgical Year, our readings focus more and more on his plan for the end times. We read about Christ’s second coming and the end of the world that we know. This can be frightening. However, we need not fear if we can see what God is telling us through these readings – that his plan progresses toward a glorious conclusion. The ending of the world as we are used to it is not bad news. It is actually very good news, because what God is leading us toward is something far better.
Our Psalm response for today is, “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.” And the first reading tells us very plainly that “the day is coming.” We see in the Psalm that this “day” is not something to fear. Indeed, we are urged to “sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.” And we are told that all creation will rejoice to see that day: “Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy.”
Why does creation rejoice at the coming of the Lord, and why are we are urged to sing praise to God? Because, on that day, the Lord “will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” The Gospel Acclamation gives us a further reason for joy: “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” And the first reading assures us that for those who fear the Lord, that is, those who reverence him as God and follow his way, there will arise a healing “sun of justice.” So the coming of the Lord will bring us justice, healing, and redemption!
While the readings speak to us of the end of this world, we can profitably ponder our own death as the “end times” of our personal journey through this life. Whether Jesus comes in glory during our lifetime, or we die first and then go to see him in glory, the result is the same for us. Our life here is over and we begin the next phase of our life with God.
Of course, we know that many people do not believe in God, nor do they have faith that he is leading us towards a glorious and joyful future. Many believe that life as we know it today is all that we have. Because of this, they focus on the things of this world. For such people, thinking about the end of their life is frightening because it means the loss of everything that they are living for.
Naturally death is frightening to those who do not believe in God, but we can ask ourselves how we face our own death. If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we can see that we too, like the non-believers, also fear death. This can be a clue to us that we are still living too much for this world and clinging too much to the things of this world.
One of the main things that we tend to cling to too much is our own will. So when we read that the Lord will come to rule, we are afraid, because we know that this will mean the end of our illusion that we are the ones who rule. And perhaps we find it hard to read that “the proud and all evildoers” will be set on fire when the Lord comes, because we know our own pride and our tendency to fall into evil.
We can take courage from the Gospel. Jesus begins by warning those who are focused on the exterior beauty of the temple that this beauty will not last. The world today is very much caught up in the pursuit of exterior beauty. People want to look young and attractive; they want to wear fashionable clothes, have good jobs, live in impressive houses, and drive fancy cars. They post pictures on social media showing how wonderful their lives are. Their focus is much like that of the people who admired the outward appearance of the temple. What is important is the One who dwells inside the temple! Jesus assures us that if we strive to put our time and effort into following him, worshipping the awesome God who dwells within us, then we need not fear the things which will happen to us in this life. He will be with us and will lead us to himself. He can heal us of our pride and redeem us from our sin.
Pope Francis tells us that, while we are here in this world, “The Lord calls us to cooperate in the construction of history, becoming, together with Him, peacemakers and witnesses of hope in a future of salvation and resurrection.” That is what we are to be busy about while we await the coming of the Lord – either when he comes at the end of time, or when we ourselves go to meet him at our death.
St. Paul gives us a good example to follow, and he urges us in the second reading to imitate him: “We did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked.” Let us follow his example, working to further God’s plan in whatever circumstances he allows us to encounter, while we wait in hope and confident faith for him to lead us into the next phase of our life with him.
Believing that God has a special plan for my life, how has it guided my actions and decisions? Am I frightened when I think about my death? Why? How can clinging to my will affect my attitude toward death?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.