The Church approaches the end of its liturgical cycle,
and this is reflected in the readings, together with the signs of time. It is
all about the end times, our own death and final judgement and the coming of
our Saviour – the last (éskhatos ) days. The word – ἔσχατος: éskhatos in Greek, literally means “last”. It is no doubt that the
signs of our times reflect the last days, characterized with conflicts,
political instability, persecutions, violence, terrorism, Nation rising  against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, powerful
earthquakes, famines, corruption, false prophecies; etc. However, Jesus
drives home a message of consolation to each and every one of us today. He
said: “not a hair on your head will be destroyed”. These consoling words
of Jesus to us today continue to be a lamp upon our feet, lightning up our
paths, indicating that we are safe in his hands only if we remain firm and
persevere till the end.
In the light of the foregoing, the First
Reading from the Prophet Malachi (Malachi 3: 19-20) reflects
this message. Malachi foretells this Day, giving the warning that the future,
known to God alone, will bring healing and reward for the just who forearm themselves
with words and works (peace, justice, mercy and truth), and retribution for the
proud and
all evildoers
. The small portion first reading may not be understood by just
merely looking at it. Hence, we ask: What was the context/situation in which
Malachi proclaimed this apocalyptic message to the people? When Judah returned
from exile in Babylon, the people and their leaders showed a tendency, which
they had absorbed from their long contact with the pagans, to lead loose moral
lives.  The priests were irresponsible, ignorant and indulgent leaders, failing
to correct abuses. Hence, in today’s first reading, the prophet Malachi, in the
mid-fifth century (515-458) BC, admonishes them for their religious
impiety, dishonesty and marriages with pagans, for which they hoped,
foolishly, to avoid punishment.  Put differently, the Lord God,
through His faithful prophet, Malachi warned Israel that the day of the Lord
was coming shortly, and that He had taken note of the goodness of those
who feared Him and would have compassion on them in the Day of His coming. But
He would punish the wicked and the proud on the “Day of the Lord by setting them on fire, leaving them neither
root nor branch.”
continues to make sense as we notice that
Malachi is the very last
book of the Old Testament. The prophecy of Malachi in today’s reading ends with
words of consolation “…But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice
with its healing rays”. This is just in line with our theme for today: “no a
hair on your head would be lost” – especially for those who remain firm till
the end.
The Second Reading (2Thes
) is not disconnected
from the eschatological concerns vis-à-vis the coming of the Lord (Parousia – παρουσία). The earliest Christians expected
the Parousia, that
is, they expected
Jesus to come again in His Glory, soon, bringing
history to its climax in God’s Final Judgment of the living and the dead. Some Christians
in the Thessalonian community started abandoning their customary work and
leading lives of idleness. They asked themselves, “Why should we
spend the small amount of time before the Parousia in
hard labour?”  Some of them were more interested in minding other
people’s business. Hence, St. Paul corrects them by asking them to imitate his
own example of manual work (as a tent-maker or leather-worker of some sort), and
preaching, warning them, “If anyone is
unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”
As such, we come about the popular dictum: “no
food for a lazy man”.
Therefore, we are called to keep ourselves
busy by faithfully discharging our duties and actively bearing witness to Christ
through our lives, as we prepare for the coming of Christ. 
The passage of the Gospel according
to Luke (Luke 21:5-19ff) which we
read today is known as the great eschatological discourse of Luke or the
apocalypse of Luke. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to encourage
dispirited people by proclaiming that God is in control of history and that
punishment of the wicked will come about by God’s doing. It is also intended to
encourage believers to remain faithful through the coming ordeals. In
this context, Jesus addressed His words to His disciples and followers gathered
in the Temple for the Passover feast.  Jesus demands our tenacity of Faith
and Hope in spite of our sufferings. In this regard, Jesus prophesied about the
destruction of the temple as a microcosm of what the end of time would be. To
the proud people of Jerusalem, Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the
Temple was a great shock, almost blasphemy in fact, because those words sounded
like massive distrust of God and an insult to God.  For them, Yahweh would
not allow it!  It is not surprising that these words of Jesus were used
against him at his trial before the High Priest.  Yet within forty years,
the prophecy of Jesus was largely fulfilled.  The Temple, originally built
by Solomon (960 BC), demolished by the Babylonians (586 BC), rebuilt by
Zerubbabel and the returning exiles (536-516 BC), and enlarged and rebuilt by
Herod the Great (20 BC– AD 64), was finally destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.
More also, Jesus warns us of false
prophets who would come in His name, prophesying this and that. Jesus says: “Do
not follow them”! This is exactly what we are passing through in our resent day
society. A word is enough for the wise.
Dear friends in Christ, we are called
to review our ways of life, having journeyed within the Church from Advent
towards the end of this liturgical year (Year of Mercy). Jesus prophesied the
destruction of the Temple in his milieu, and thus, it was destroyed in the year
70 AD. Does this have any significance to us? This shows that our bodies are
now living temples of God; or as Paul succinctly puts it: “our bodies are the
temples of the Holy Spirit” (cf. 1Cor. 6:19). Hence, how have we taken care of
this body, the living temple of the Holy Spirit along the course of time from
Advent (the beginning of the Church Year) to the “last days” (the end of the
Church Year)? Have we destroyed the temple by our sins? Here is another excellent
opportunity to repair or rebuild what had been destroyed so that the “Day of
the Lord” would not take us by surprise. We are called to persevere till the
end, just as Christ puts it: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives”.
This is another consolation given by Christ, for those who persevere in faith
till the end. Hence, inasmuch as the Temple was destroyed, Christ affirms the
security of the “temples of the Holy Spirit” – our bodies: “not even a hair
would be lost”. Even if we die, we shall definitely rise to “New Life” on the
Day of the Lord without any loss. Hence, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
(Phil 1:21).
Therefore, let us go about our usual preoccupations
and work without anxiety, fear or worry, but “singing praise to the Lord with
the harp, and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before
the King, the Lord” as we gather to worship him in the Church today; just as
the Psalmist of today puts it in the Responsorial Psalm (PS 98:5-6, 7-8, 9) –
for “the Lord comes to rule the earth with justice”.
it is our prayer that the God would continue to deliver us
from every evil, and grant us peace in our day; in His mercy may He keep
us free from sin and protect us from all
anxiety as we wait in
joyful hope for the coming of our
Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.



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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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