“You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
A Prayer for Perseverance
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in You as my God and my Savior. Make me more faithful to Your Gospel and commandments. By sharing in the Eucharist, may I come to live more fully in the life You have given me. Keep Your Love alive within my heart and soul so that I may become worthy of You. Teach me to value and be thankful for all of Your Gifts. Help us to strive for eternal life.
Grant us, we pray, I Lord our God,
the constant gladness of being devoted to you,
for it is full and lasting happiness
to serve with constancy
the author of all that is good.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
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,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.1 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.2 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.3 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.4 On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”5
1 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3: 19; Mt 3:7-12.
2 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; I Cor 4:5.
3 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
4 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.
5 Mt 25:40.
This reminder of the day of the Lord, of the day of judgment, was chosen for this Sunday’s reading because it is, in a sense, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday is dedicated to the Feast of Christ the King, so it is only right and fitting that we should be reminded of our last end on the last Sunday of our liturgical year. The second reading and the Gospel have a somewhat similar theme.
It is true that many of the prophets of the Old Testament stressed the justice of God very much and seldom referred to his mercy. Malachi belongs to this group. We must not forget that they were dealing with a stubborn, selfish people, who served God more out of fear than out of love. When their earthly affairs prospered they forgot him and all his kindness to them. The vast majority of them thought of him only when some personal or national disaster threatened. Therefore, the prophets, the preachers whom God sent to them, spoke in the language they could understand.
However, we must not forget that they had not witnessed the infinite mercy of God, as shown in the Incarnation, which we Christians have witnessed. Neither had they heard of that divine mercy which our loving Father has for every human being whom he has put on earth. We have this knowledge from the lips of God’s divine Son, Christ our Lord, who tells us that God wants the eternal death of no sinner, no matter how wicked he be, but rather that that sinner be converted and live eternally.
Furthermore, the Jews had only a very limited revelation as regards the future life. They had some vague idea that those who had died in the Lord, at peace with God, would sometime in the remote future live again with God. For the time being, they were vague shadows living some form of inactive, attenuated life in the underworld, a place which they called Sheol. They expected their rewards and punishments in this life.
The prophet’s words, therefore, stressed the frightening aspect of God’s justice, without any hint at possible mercy. He knew the religious, or rather irreligious, outlook of his contemporaries. For the great majority of them, relations with God were governed by fear rather than by love. Thanks to the deeper knowledge of God which his Incarnate Son has given to us, we now know God as a loving Father who wants us all to be his loving, obedient and grateful children. He has made known to us what St. Paul calls: “the mystery hidden for generations and centuries and which has now been revealed to his saints. This mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory” (Col. 1: 26-27). To his Ephesian converts Paul says : “Before the world was made he (God) chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence determining that we should become his adopted sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1: 4-5). With this knowledge of the God of love we can put fear aside. We can strive instead to render all the thanks of which we are capable, for the wonderful, infinite love and mercy he has shown to us through sending his divine Son to us and making us his adopted children.
Children can of course sometimes be ungrateful to the kindest and most generous of parents. Let us look back today over the past year and see if we were always grateful, obedient children of the kindest and most generous of Fathers. If we failed now and then we can make up for that forgetfulness. We can ask him for forgiveness, and it will be gladly granted. We all are another year nearer to our eternal home. Please God we have made great strides on our journey to heaven already. With the help of God’s grace we will make even greater progress in the year or years that God may still give us.
“The sun of justice with its healing rays,” that is, the blessed vision of God in his and our eternal home, will rise for us some-day soon when the darkness of earthly death will close our bodily eyes. So may it be for each and every one of us.
Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth,
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
2 Thes 3:7-12
Brothers and sisters:
You know how one must imitate us.
For we did not act in a disorderly way among you,
nor did we eat food received free from anyone.
On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day
we worked, so as not to burden any of you.
Not that we do not have the right.
Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you,
so that you might imitate us.
In fact, when we were with you,
we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work,
neither should that one eat.
We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a
by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly
and to eat their own food.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.1 Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.”2 Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work3 in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish.4 Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.
CCC 2830 “Our bread”: The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires – all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father’s providence.5 He is not inviting us to idleness,6 but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:
To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God.7
1 Cf. Gen 1:28; GS 34; CA 31.
2 2 Thess 3:10; Cf. 1 Thess 4:11.
3 Cf. Gen 3:14-19.
4 Cf. LE 27.
5 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.
6 Cf. 2 Thess 3:6-13.
7 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 21 PL 4, 534A.
Around the turn of the last century, and the first decade of this, it was customary for able-bodied male emigrants, going from Europe to America, to “work their passage.” This meant that they traveled free of charge provided they worked as crew members on the sailing ships which were then the means of transport across the Atlantic. For the vast majority of them, who had not the wherewithal to pay for their transport, this was not a hardship but a favor. The three to four weeks’ strenuous and tiring labor seemed as nothing when they thought of the land of freedom and plenty which it enabled them to reach.
We are on a voyage, the voyage of life, which will end on the shores of eternity. It is God’s plan for us that during our voyage we should earn entry into that land of freedom and plenty by “working our passage.” For our period of preparation, he created this earth for us to live on. For our needs he gave it the power to produce the fruits and vegetables, as well as the animals of the fields, the birds of the air and the fishes in the sea. He handed over to man all these gifts for his use and sustenance. Man was to use his gifts of mind and muscle to master the lower creatures and put them to his service. In other words, God provided the raw material. By his labor man had to produce the finished article.
From the beginning this was the law of God for man. Christianity did not change his obligation of labor in any way, except that it exalted man’s labor and gave him a more noble motive for his daily toil. The Christian labors not only to provide the necessities of life for himself but thereby to honor God and, where possible, help his needy neighbor.
There were some among the Thessalonian converts who thought that they were freed from this obligation of daily labor, because they should concentrate all their thoughts and time on the eternal life which was around the corner. St. Paul corrects this erroneous, view. He tells them that they must earn their living by honest labor, for the vice of idleness was no preparation for meeting their Judge.
The great Apostle has the same message for all of us too. It is for all, for the millionaire as well as for the penniless person, for the managing director as well as for the office-cleaner. We must all use the gifts of mind and body which God gave us. We are to do so not only to provide for our own temporal necessities but, where possible, to produce a surplus that is so badly needed by our fellowman in less developed parts of our world today. Laziness is still a vice and an evil inclination which can worm its way into any man no matter what his social status in life may be. Perhaps we are inclined to notice it more in the lower social grades, because the number of such workers is greater. Of course, there is no denying that far too many of these workers are not always honest in their dealings with their employers. Too often their ideal is to get the greatest amount of pay for the least amount of labor. Generally the result is that they do an injustice to their employers, to their fellow workers and to the consumers of the goods which they produce.
However, the employers and business managers can also do an injustice to their employees and to the general public. They do so if, through idleness, they waste the time which they should spend in planning and directing and working for the progress of the business concern which they own or manage. Their sin of laziness seldom gets the publicity it deserves, nor does it often register in their own consciences. Yet as far as the progress of his business and the general prosperity of his city or country is concerned, one negligent and idling director can do more harm than a hundred slacking factory-hands.
We all need to examine our consciences and see if we are honestly “working our passage” to heaven. Do we rest on our oars when we feel that we have enough for ourselves? Do we think of our neighbors at home and abroad who could be helped by a little extra labor on our part? Does the father of the family provide for his household or does he waste his working days because of drinking bouts or other sinful habits? Does the mother of the house work honestly and through her thrift and economy provide for her husband and children? Do the teenagers waste their earnings, or their parents’ earnings, on unnecessary amusements and luxuries while neighbors are short of bread?
As Christians, we should set the example to all others. We know that God gave us the mental and physical gifts we possess. We know too that we must one day render an account of the use we have made of the talents he gave us. If we use them honestly they will pay our passage to our heavenly home. If we abuse them and waste them we shall never see that promised land.
While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.1 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth2 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.3
1 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.
2 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
3 Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.
The reason why these verses of St. Luke’s gospel were chosen for today’s Mass is that the Church wants us all to do a bit of spiritual stock-taking this morning. As next Sunday will be the special feastday of the Kingship of Christ, today’s Mass is really the last of our liturgical year. We begin our new liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent, on next Sunday week.
To help us to be honest with ourselves in our stock-taking we are reminded today that this world will come to an end one day. We do not know when or how but that end will come. It will be followed immediately by the general judgment. Christ will come in power and glory to judge the whole human race. Each one will receive the sentence he merited while on earth. The just will enter with him into eternal glory. The wicked will go to their place of suffering, sorrow and remorse.
Long before that day comes everyone of us here present today, will already have faced his or her own particular judgment. It is this judgment which will seal our eternal fate. It is on this judgment that we should try to concentrate this morning. It is to help and encourage us to do just this, that the church brings the thought of the end of the world before our minds. The end of this world will come for each one of us when we draw our last breath. How will we stand in God’s sight when that moment comes? An eternity of happiness or grief will depend on our spiritual state at that moment.
The thought of death is a frightening thought for most people. They would rather put it far from their minds, but of all the other things that can possibly happen to them on this earth death is the one and only certainty. It would be utter folly then to try to ignore it or forget it. It is not the moment or the circumstances or the fact itself of death that matters. The vast majority, even of those dying of a slow illness, do not know that they are on the point of death. What matters is the judgment which follows death. How will we fare in that?
Each one of us can put the following simple question to himself this very moment. How would I fare if I were called before the judgment seat of God today? The best of us would certainly prefer to be better prepared. There is so much good I have left undone, so many faults for which I have not atoned properly, so many uncharitable thoughts about my friends and neighbors in my mind, so many acts of charity I kept postponing, so many acts of thanksgiving and praise I have not made to my loving God.
What of those who have even more serious sins on their consciences? Over two hundred thousand people will leave this world between now and midnight. If we were called, and we have no guarantee that we will not be called today, could we dare to face our judgment in our present state? “Today if you hear God’s voice harden not your heart” the scripture warns us. Today you have heard him speak to you. He has reminded you that your end is coming, that you should put your spiritual accounts in order. This is an act of God’s mercy. He does not need you, It is you who need him. Your eternal future will depend on whether you listen to his call today, as tomorrow may be too late. You can put your accounts straight this very day. Why take a risk with your own eternal welfare?
The Christian who wants to die in the state of grace, that is, in the friendship of God (and can there be any real Christian who would not want to?) has but one way of making sure of this. He is to try to live always in God’s friendship. The man who does this by living his Christian life daily need not fear death. It may be a sudden death, but it will never be an unprovided-for death.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press
Judgement and Hope
It is not simply – as one might expect – God, the infinite, the unknown, the eternal, who judges. On the contrary, he has handed the judgement over to one who, as man, is our brother. It is not a stranger who judges us but he whom we know in faith. The judge will not advance to meet us as the other, but as one of us, who knows human existence from inside and has suffered. Thus over the judgement glows the dawn of hope; it is not only the day of wrath but also the second coming of our Lord. One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (1: 9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says to hum as once in the days when they were crossing the Lake of Gennesaret in wind and storm: “Fear not, it is I” (1: 17). The Lord of all power is the Jesus whose comrade the visionary had once been in faith. The Creed’s article about the judgment transfers this very idea to our meeting with the judge of the world. On that day of fear the Christian will be allowed to see in happy wonder that he “to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28: 18) was the companion in faith of his days on earth, and it is as if through the words of the Creed Jesus were already laying his hands on him and saying: Be without fear, it is I. Perhaps the problem of the intertwining of justice and mercy can be answered in no more beautiful way than that it is the idea that stands in the background of our Creed.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer for a Happy Death
St. Raymond de Penafort
O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before You after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of Your commandments. Teach us to “watch and pray” (Luke 21, 36), that when Your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet You, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.