Thirty Third Sunday in the Ordinary Time
13th November 2016.
Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19.
Christian vocation is to witness to the gospel. Witnessing to the gospel involves living out the values of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross in order to deliver humanity from the contagion of the ‘sacrifice’ that leads to auto destruction. Victimization is the sacrificial mechanism of scapegoating that on the one hand brings relative peace; and on the other hand, leads to self-destruction. It brings relative peace when the majority unites against an innocent victim perceived as the cause of the crisis. It leads to self-destruction wahen rivalry controls human relationship. True witnessing lies in the imitation of Jesus Christ whose desires does not lead to rivalry; whose desires to does not promote victimization of the innocent. These are the evils he revealed while hanging on the cross.
Today’s gospel opens with those who are entangled in the contagion of victimization. They were more interested in finding out when the destruction of the temple will take place, rather than why the temple would be destroyed. From their question – ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’ – it is perceivable of a people looking for a scapegoat to blame for the destruction of the temple. If they had asked ‘why’ the temple would be destroyed, then we are engaging a people dedicated to the course of the gospel. The emphasis should not be on ‘when’ and the ‘signs’, rather it should be ‘why’ and ‘possible remedy’. From the response of Jesus Christ – ‘Take care not to be deceived’ – we perceive his conviction about the authenticity of his listeners towards the course of the gospel. What follows afterwards is the admonition that is capable of stabilizing the mood of the people towards the end that must come. His closing words – Your endurance will win you your lives – we notice an encouragement to remain focused to the course of the gospel.
The first reading reminds us that those whose focus is different from the gospel will bear the taunts of the end times. For it will befall them in a manner that is similar to destruction. The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. There would not be any cause for fear if our focus is the gospel i.e. living in peace and harmony with one another. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the need to imitate him as he imitates Jesus Christ. As I mentioned above, the imitation of Jesus Christ is the solution to rivalry and victimization that often characterize human relationship. The desires of Jesus Christ are on those things that promote peace and harmony. Those interfering with others’ businesses are reminded to engage themselves in meaningful living.
The prophecy of Jesus Christ concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, reminds us the end time. The disposition to the end time should not be that of fear. Even with all the information on how the end will come, will not be enough to calm our anxiety. But Jesus Christ offers us in today’s gospel a new disposition hinged on the ethics of the cross. The cross is a symbol of sacrificial love towards peaceful coexistence. Our course of action should always be to recreate this peace in our relationships. Once on this course, the end will always meet us with joy and not fear. When faced with difficulties while on this course, we shall be given what to say in defense of our actions. Our endurance in the course of the gospel will secure our lives.
Anthony Ekpunobi, C.M.