Sunday Sermon for November 15, 2015, the Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
In the second reading today St. Paul says that Jesus waits now until His enemies are made His footstool. As we look around, it appears that we, the followers of Christ, are being made the footstool of His enemies. When one considers the horrific things that are taking place in the Middle Eastern and Western African countries as well as the frequent losses of liberty for Christians and the massive influx of Muslim immigrants in the West, one would need to be a bit off kilter to suggest that the enemies of Christ are being trampled under foot.
However, when we consider the other two readings today, both speaking about events that will happen at the end of the world, we recall that the world will not end because it became truly Christian and everyone was living according to the Catholic Faith. Instead, Jesus tells us that there will be a tribulation and Daniel tells us that it will be a time unsurpassed in distress. In other words, the forces of evil will have pretty well conquered the world and even most baptized people will have apostatized.
With this in mind we can confidently say that when the end comes it will appear as if the enemies of Christ will have made His Church their footstool. Many people are looking at the events in the Church and in the world today and, like Chicken Little, are crying out that the sky is falling. Some Catholics, and many Protestants, are boldly proclaiming that the end of the world is near. I hate to disappoint them, but they are wrong.
I have pointed out many times that I believe the time we are privileged to live in will be a prefiguration of what will happen at the end of the world. In other words, when the end comes, the people alive at that time will be able to look at our times and have an idea of what they can expect. We have to remember that God never changes, so the way He has dealt with something in the past will provide an idea of how He will deal with similar things in the future.
In the Gospel our Lord tells us to learn a lesson from the fig tree. One can know that summer is near when the fig branches become tender and begin to sprout leaves. Just so, as we see the lack of faith and the moral decay that is taking place around us, we have to apply this same principle. I think it is reasonable to say that we are drawing near to some kind of a divine intervention into human history. If we look back, as I suggested above, to a time similar to our own to see how God dealt with things, we will find that the time of our Lord’s passion and crucifixion is very much like our own.
God came into our world in a hidden way and, in a manner that seemed unthinkable, He redeemed us and won salvation for those who would believe in Him. His Church, which is His Mystical Person, has been in the world for two thousand years. At times she has been very visible, but for the most part she carries on her work in a quiet, hidden manner. This is very similar to the way our Lord worked during His public ministry. But the time came when He had to lay down His life for our sake. I think this is the present mission of the Church.
When the Church rises from what appears to be her destruction, the celebration of the enemies of Christ will come to an abrupt end. The Church will rise victorious and the faith in and love for our Lord will flourish. However, before that time comes, things are going to be difficult for those with faith. It is a time of testing, a time of tribulation and of distress, as today’s readings will call it. We know that many will fall away. The question is: will you?
If you answered with great confidence that you would never fall away, then I have to warn you that you are in great danger of doing so. I say that because there is no way that we will simply be able to tough this out on our own. Our only hope is the Lord and if fail to recognize our own weakness and seek His strength, we will fall away, regardless of our best intentions.
Daniel tells us in the first reading about the appearance of St. Michael in the end times. He will be active in our times as well. Call upon him, rely on the strength of Jesus and the guidance of our Lady to shine like the stars in the present darkness.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.