MALACHI 3:19-20A | 2 THESSALONIANS 3:7-12 | LUKE 21:5-19
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the end of the liturgical year becomes a metaphor for the end of the world as we know it. Our world with its violence, its greed and power lust, its injustice, and its oppression will be exposed, judged and purified. We can clearly see this theme in the readings for this Sunday.
In the passage from the prophet Malachi we hear his prophecy of a day of universal judgment. “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire.” He concludes his prophecy, however, with a word of hope. “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
In the gospel passage, Jesus was teaching in the temple and overheard people commenting on the beauty and opulence of the temple. He remarked, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” He then continued his teaching using language very similar to Malachi’s.
He cautioned his disciples not to be terrified when they heard of wars and insurrections because nations and kingdoms would inevitably rise against each other. There would be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place. There would even be mighty signs in the sky. In addition, another dynamic would be taking place as these events were unfolding. Jesus’
disciples would be seized and imprisoned. They would even be handed over by friends and relatives. They would be hated because of their association with him. Some of them would be put to death. But this would not be the end of the world.
Malachi’s prophecy recognized the darkness of the world we live in, but it also looked to a world purified of injustice and oppression, of war and violence. We Christians, always hopeful, anticipate “a new heaven and a new earth,” a world in harmony with God, a new Eden. However, this new world won’t be forced on us. There won’t be a great rapture during which bad people would be obliterated and good people rise into the heavens.
We Christians hold that the new world will come to life though our self-sacrifice – our living, not for ourselves, but for others. This is the central teaching of Jesus. He modeled this teaching when he washed his disciples feet. He modeled it when he took up the cross. He asked us to follow him. To do what he did. To live as he lived. To continue his mission.
The new world will reveal itself gradually through the loving and sacrificial lives of people like you and me – people who take to heart what Jesus taught and modeled in his own life. In spite of the dismal condition of our world today, we can’t lose hope. We must be devoted to the vision of a new world. We must, no matter what it will cost us, live our lives for others.