Sunday Sermon for November 17, 2013, the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Mal 3:19-20a; 2Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
As we come to the end of another Church year we once again hear the readings regarding the end of the world. Perhaps it is just me but it seems that the number of people claiming that the end is near keeps increasing. It is easy to write these “crazies” off, but I suppose if they keep it up there will come a day when they will be right. However, that is not now.

In fact, the first reading is clearly not about the end of the world. It speaks about the healing rays of the sun of justice rising for those who fear the Name of the Lord. While one could suggest that this is about eternal life, the context suggests that it is something that will happen in time, not at the end of time. We can certainly recognize a reference to Jesus here and, perhaps, we could even say that the fire blazing like an oven is what happened in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.

What occurred then is definitely a prefiguration of what will happen at the end of the world when all of the elements will be burned up in fire. It is also the image of what will happen at an in-between time when God will purge the world of evil and set the Church on the course of preaching the Gospel and saving souls.

As things continue to spiral out of control, people wonder when the Lord is going to do something. I think that He is letting us do things to ourselves; we cannot blame God when everything goes wrong because it will have been self-inflicted. However, our Lord gives us some indicators in the Gospel for which we can watch. Since earthquakes, famine, plagues and war have gone on since the time of Christ, we cannot really look at these as sure signs of what is coming. There are many claiming to be Jesus (or the Messiah by another name) in our day, but this still is not enough.

The Lord tells us that there will be awesome sights and mighty signs coming from the sky. Today we have satellites watching the sun and we can all be amazed at the intense ejections that emanate from our star. But the fact is that these are also natural and they have been happening right along. Shortly before the year 70 there were signs in the sky. For instance, there were flaming horses and chariots that we seen regularly in the night sky. Obviously these kinds of these are not natural and they would provoke a far amount of awe in those who see them.

I would expect that God would give some warning before He acts, but we have to keep the eyes of our souls open. Some people want to see a sign in everything while others will not accept anything, even if it is blatant. In order to interpret properly what is going on, we have to pray. If it is the Lord Who will provide the sign, then He will also provide the grace to recognize the Author of the sign.

All of this is speculative and can easily cause us to get off track. We do not need to worry about anything as long as we are rooted in prayer and are seeking to do the Lord’s will. In the meantime, we need to pay attention to the words the Church gives us today from St. Paul when he says that we are to work quietly. We need to be about our daily work and the duties of our state in life. If we do this we will be fine. God may allow things to collapse around us, but if we are doing His will, we will be blessed.

So far in North America we have not had to suffer much for our faith. There are many people around the world suffering as our Lord foretold in the Gospel. They are being persecuted and led before kings and governors because of the Name of Jesus. Persecution of Christian people is beginning in America, as witnessed by the recent (and multiplying) actions within the military.

This is of great concern because is shows that they know they can get away with it. There is cause of rejoicing at the same time because our Lord tells us that that will be an opportunity to witness on His account. Are you willing give witness to Jesus? Quietly doing the duties of the state in life is one way of giving witness to Jesus; we must never underestimate the power of such action backed by prayer. Being persecuted gives us a different opportunity. Regardless of the circumstances, we need to remain faithful always keeping our hearts centered on Him Who will remain faithful to us.

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