THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
With an End-of-the-World Mentality Meet the Challenges of Today
First Reading (Dan 12:1-3): The righteous will receive everlasting life, the wicked will be put to shame
Second Reading (Heb 10:11-14, 18): Jesus' once-for-all offering enables us all to be perfect
Gospel (Mk 13:24-32): Predictions about the end of the world.
Chinese Classics :
“Knowing it cannot be done yet going ahead and doing it.” (To dream the impossible dream)
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Moan coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven… “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk 13:24-32)
That scene is about the end of the world, when all of creation must bow down before Christ. Today, that ‘end of the world’ has already come; at least the curtain has lifted a little.
Christ came into the world 2000 years ago and he will come again with great power and glory. He already has overcome evil, then he will have defeated all evil fully and decisively, destroying all misfortune, healing all wounds, saving all creatures.
But today in our actual life we often have many contrary unhappy experiences: many of us fall down before powers other than Christ's. There are many powers that make us fall, such as the power of money or the pressure from superpowers, the attraction all kinds of ‘stars’ or celebrities or the very magnetism of the devil and evil.
Facing life today we must be very alert and lift up our spirits so that we can face the world as it is today. We must live as if it were the end of the world, with that kind of mindset, in order to face today's corruption and the challenges of our present lives.
In most martial arts films there is a final scene which depicts fierce fighting. The hero or those characters who represent innocence and righteousness are beaten up by the evil characters until their heads are injured, they bleed profusely and almost die. At the final and crucial moment, however, the hero who is righteous and innocent destroys once and for all those who were seemingly invincible. When the film ends happily we are relieved and happy: fortunately in the end, our world is still full of hope and righteousness will prevail forever.
Of course there are also martial arts films that end in tragedy. The purpose is to elicit from the audience pity for the characters or to warn us of the cruelty and helplessness of real life.
But the real story of the life of human beings must end with perfect happiness. This is because Christ has risen from the dead, has overcome evil and destroyed the power of the devil. Through his death he overcame death. Through what appeared to be failure he obtained eternal victory. Moreover, he wants his believers and those who live according to the will of the Father to share his eternal victory.
These final weeks bring the year to an end. They are also the end of the liturgical year and the Scripture readings all refer to the final days of the world and humankind. The church traditionally speaks of the ‘Four Last Things’: death, judgment, heaven and hell.
If there is something that MUST happen in this world, the ‘Four Last Things’ are the absolutely inevitable events. We must live today keeping the ‘Four Last Things’ in mind. This is not only because they must come about but also because the Four Last Things inevitably bring us the hope of eternal life.
No matter how hard, dreadful and disastrous our lives are today, we do firmly believe that good will win over evil. The power of evil does not affect Christ or those united with him.
We must have hearts full of confidence and patience and make use of all the strength that comes from life itself to fight against the power of sin and darkness until our very last breath. Because the struggle is for the sake of Christ it will result in final victory with absolute certainty.
Because of this we should struggle fearlessly with all the evil powers, waiting for the time when Christ will ‘gather together his chosen people’ to be with him forever.
Christians must learn to face life with staunch and unmovable faith and do all that one should. Once Confucius' student Zi Lu spent the whole night at the stone gate of the state of Lu. The next day the warden at the gate asked him where he came from. He replied, ‘I came from Confucius' place.’ The warden said, ‘Is he the person who “knowing it cannot be done yet goes ahead and does it?”(1) The meaning is that even if one knows one cannot do it, the person still goes ahead and does it. Confucius was a person who thought that if something should be done, we should try hard to do it. Whether we succeed or not or whether it is easy to succeed was not Confucius' major consideration.
If Confucius could reach the state of “Knowing it cannot be done yet going ahead and doing it,” how much more should we Christians strive with all our energy to do what we “know can be done.” For with the support of Christ’s strength we certainly will succeed.
“Knowing it cannot be done yet doing it” is a kind of moral strength; “Knowing it can be done and doing it” is a part of the faith of all Christians.