SUNDAY REFLECTION: “IN PREPARATION FOR DEATH AND THE SECOND COMING OF THE SAVIOUR”

“IN
PREPARATION FOR DEATH AND THE SECOND COMING OF THE SAVIOUR”

Following the death of Mohammed Ali at
the age of 74, tributes celebrating the life of “the boxing legend” were posted on social media; many shared a
video of an interview where Ali (years back) was asked what he would do when he
retires. I was particularly touched by his response. He talked about the
importance of the amount of time people actually spend living their lives. Part
of what he said: “…I’m 35 years old, 30 more years I’ll be 65(…) out of 30
years, I might have 16 years to be productive.” He then says the best thing he
can do in the next 16 years is “GET READY TO MEET GOD”; before going
on to speak about his belief in divine judgement, heaven and hell. He
adds: “God wants to know how do we treat each other, how do we help
each other, so I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name and popularity to
helping charities, helping people, uniting people.”
We are familiar
with the saying, “Life begins at forty.” However, our spiritual life does not
begin at forty, but commences with the very day we get incorporated into the
mystical body of Christ (the Church); put differently, it commences with our baptism
(being born anew by water and the Holy Spirit), thus, giving our lives to
Christ, becoming sons and daughters of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Let us not waste our lives by losing out on the most important of all, which
is: “friendship with God”.  
Today’s reading from the Gospel according to Luke 12:32-48 is one of three eschatological
discourses in the Gospel. All three of the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’
concern for warning his disciples to keep alert, to keep watch over themselves
with careful attention. Jesus’ words in this passage have two senses. In
the narrower sense, the words refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, but in
the broader sense they refer to the time of our
own death, when God will call us to meet Him and to give
Him an account of our life on earth. Since the precise time of
each is unknown to us, the proper attitude for Jesus’ followers is “constant
watchfulness”. Jesus’ own words are “See that you are dressed for
action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return
from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks.
Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (Luke
12:35-37). Jesus tells us what our real treasure
should be and how we may keep it safe. The treasure God offers is of far
greater value and is more secure than any earthly treasure; an inexhaustible
treasure in heaven that no thief
can reach nor moth destroy; for where your treasure is, there also will your
heart be. Nevertheless, it is possible for us to lose this treasure if
we do not guard it carefully. Hence, “our hearts should be fixed on the
things above, not on the things on earth…” (Col.3:2) This message is addressed
to all believers to encourage “wakefulness” and “preparedness”.
We must be vigilant like the servant in the parable waiting for his
master’s unexpected return or like the wise homeowner who was
well prepared for the unexpected break-in of a thief.  Since the time
of our death is quite uncertain, we, too, must be ever ready to meet our Lord
at any moment. Christ should find us carrying out our task of love,
mercy and service; He should also find us at peace with God, ourselves and with
our fellowmen.
In line with the foregoing, the First reading, (Wisdom 18, 6-9), explains this
theme in a more dynamic way. The book of Wisdom
was written about a century before the coming of Jesus, by a faithful, learned
Jew living in cosmopolitan Alexandria in Egypt. One of his purposes was to
bolster the Faith of fellow Jews living in a world indifferent, and sometimes
hostile, to their beliefs. A favorite theme of the writer is how the providence of God has protected the Chosen People throughout their history,
especially during the time of their enslavement in Egypt and during their
Exodus to freedom and the Promised Land under Moses. The author goes over these
events in great detail. Our verses today interpret Exodus chapters 11 and 12 where,
while the angel of the Lord was striking down the first-born of Pharaoh and
other Egyptians, the vigilant Hebrew slaves were both obediently offering
grateful sacrifice to the Lord and eating the meat of the lamb to fortify
themselves for their coming escape. That night was the first Passover. Consequently,
when the Jews eat the Passover, they eat it in alertness and with the hope of
the coming of the messiah to free them from their difficulties and hardships. The celebration of the Passover meal with Christ
gave it a different outlook. He was the promised messiah, but the Jews did not
recognize him. In Christ, the Passover meal becomes the “Holy Eucharist”. (The
word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.”). In the
Eucharist, Christ offered himself in thanksgiving to the Father as the
sacrificial lamb under the appearances of bread and wine (Matt. 26:26ff). For the early Christians, the Messiah had already
come so their hope during their celebration of the Passover which is now he
Eucharist was for the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah; the coming of God’s
kingdom. So in fact the Messiah came during the Passover but in a different way
and the Jews did not recognize him; He came in the Eucharist. The Eucharistic
celebration (the Christian Passover) is the fulfillment of the Jewish hopes for
the coming of the Messiah, and a way of looking forward to His return in glory
on the last day. Like those Jewish slaves
in Egypt, we, too, have been called to cling to the Hope of a future (the
coming of the kingdom); thus we are expected to be vigilant, steadfast in our
Faith, even when we see no signs of the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Therefore,
we resort to faith, believing and trusting in the promises of the kingdom. Little
wonder the author to the letter to the Hebrew addresses the importance of faith
in the Second
Reading (Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19). It
contains an explicit definition of religious Faith in the Bible: “Faith is the
realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
 Like our first reading, the Letter to
the Hebrews was trying to bolster the Faith of the Jewish Christians (Hebrews),
by appealing to the example of their ancestors who had believed in promises yet
to be fulfilled. To bolster their Faith, the author provided a complex
treatise showing that, in their new life in Christ, they were more than
compensated for what they had lost. They were given the assurance that Christ’s
promise for his believers exceeds the promises given to their Jewish ancestors;
and this promise resides in the heavenly kingdom. Hence, we ought to be ready
and vigilant, and strife harder to attain it. It is when we do this, then, we
shall be chosen by God, and sing and rejoice like the Psalmist in the Responsorial
Psalm of today (Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-2): “Exult,
you just, in the LORD; for praise
is fitting for loyal hearts. Blessed
the nation whose God is the LORD, the
people he has chosen for his own inheritance…”

Dearest friends in Christ,
being vigilant and waiting for the coming of Christ entails doing God’s will by
rendering humble service to others, by combating poverty, by ending the hatred
that divides us, by establishing peace among individuals and nations, by
curbing the pride that causes us to become confrontational, and by building
social structures that respect the dignity of individual humans. We must wait
for the Lord in our daily lives by learning to see Jesus in the least
of our brothers and sisters.  In other words, we must be prepared to
serve Jesus in whatever form he takes. What we frequently discover in
“serving” other people is that God comes to us through them.

God loves you!

Happy 19th
Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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