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November 17, 2019 Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

A mother says to her ten years old son, “If you study hard all year and you get passing grades, next summer, I will buy you a new bicycle.” In other words, if her son does not study hard all year and he does not get passing grades, he will not receive a new bicycle next summer.
A man goes to a store and tells the manager, “If you can get me the carpet that I want, I will buy it from you.” In other words, if the store manager cannot get the carpet, the man will not buy it from him.
Have you noticed that by reversing what is being said, we often get a better understanding of what was said? For example, Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” [Lk. 21:19] If we reverse these words, we get, “If you do not endure, you will lose your souls.” Notice how reversing the sentence highlights two important things: first, the need to endure; secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the second.
Why is it absolutely necessary to endure in order to be saved? Today’s readings answer that question by teaching us the importance of endurance. During the First Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in righteousness. In the Second Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in our imitation of the saints. And in the Gospel Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in our living faith. To summarize all of this, we must persevere in our living faith through righteousness and the imitation of the saints.
During the First Reading from the Book of Malachi, we heard the Lord say, “‘See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.'” [Mal. 4:1]
In other words, the evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. When they die, there will be no tombstone to mark their graves. Over time, their existence will fade away from the memories of the passing generations until such a time when no one will remember that they ever existed.
But those who revere the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. This refuge is Heaven, the safe place where the Lord rules forever as the Shepherd.
During the Second Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, we heard St. Paul’s harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints, their brothers and sisters in Christ. Admonishing the disorderly, St. Paul told them that if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat. [2 Thess. 3:10]
Why were some unwilling to work? Like nowadays, some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His Kingdom. As such, why work? It is much easier to just wait for Jesus to arrive and then all the problems of the world will be fixed! Right? Wrong! According to St. Paul, living in idleness, they were bored with themselves and they had become busybodies. They occupied their time with small talk, rumors, hearsay, slander, all of these things leading to disharmony and division. Because of their disorderly lives that disturbed others, they neglected fruitful work for the glory of the Lord.
To such persons, St. Paul commands and exhorts in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Every Christian, when he is able to do so, he must support himself and not live off the income or wealth of the others.
In his exhortation, St. Paul was not trying to be mean to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, as a senior authority of the Church, he was simply re-establishing order in the Christian community where disorder had creeped in.
Reviewing today’s Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus’ discourse on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Approaching the end of His ministry on earth, many of Jesus’ followers recognized Him as the Messiah and they wanted to crown Him as their King. So when Jesus spoke of destruction or anything that could be associated with war, His followers assumed that the day was near when Jesus would rule over them. They were wrong because “the Kingdom of Jesus was not of this world.” [Jn. 18:36]
The same false belief has been held throughout every generation, even to this day. Some people only read part of a Gospel Chapter and take the written Word of God out of context from the entire discourse of Jesus. What we find in Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke is a repetition of Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew and Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark. In each of these Chapters, we read the words of Jesus that say, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.”
In other words, what Jesus was talking about around 30 A.D. were events that were to take place in the days of His generation. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D., they saw the completion of Jesus’ prophecies that are found in today’s Gospel Reading. So if anybody believes today that the events mentioned in Chapter 21 of the Gospel of Luke are about to happen, they are in error. They will wait in vain and nothing will come to pass.
As Saint Paul said in the previous Reading, we must not be idle, awaiting things that will not come to pass. We must move on with our lives, be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will proceed Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.
But while waiting for these great moments to come, we must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did so that we too may arrive to our eternal glory.
We must never forget that Jesus warned us when He said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.” [Lk. 21:8] Jesus said, “Do not go after them.” In other words, “Do not believe them.”
When Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your souls” [Lk. 21:19] He was referring to the suffering that the early Church Christian had to undergo following the crucifixion and death of Christ and His glorious Resurrection. He was warning His followers that some families would be divided because some would accept Christ as their Savior while others would not. Consequently, those who believed in Jesus as their Savior, they would endure the death of martyrs. Others, fearing death, they would betray family members, relatives, friends, etc… renounce their faith and disown Jesus as their Savior.
While today’s Gospel Reading was prophetic in nature and applied to the days of Jesus, if we set aside the prophecies, the remaining words of Jesus still apply to us today. We are still called to persevere in our living faith. This teaching of Jesus has never changed. It is echoed over and over throughout the New Testament. “To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”
Some of us do not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. From day to day, they persist in their living faith in Christ, not knowing if, because they are Catholic, they will be shot tomorrow, or if they will be slaughtered as lambs by extremists. Indeed, the cross is very heavy for many to bear. And we must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for one another, that we all endure until the end so we will gain our souls.

 

 

 

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