The Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (C)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today the Psalmist exclaims to all who will listen to his words, “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice” (Psalm 98:9). He cries out to creation, “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 (Psalm 98-7-8).
If the natural world rejoices at the announcement of the coming of the Lord, what is our response? The prophet Malachi adds today to the Psalmist’s proclamation, declaring what will happen when the Lord comes:
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 (Malachi 3:19-20).We ought to receive these words with exuberant joy, but so often we hear them with some trepidation, because we have not imitated the lives of the saints who themselves imitated Christ.
If we know the Lord Jesus Christ, the promise of his coming is not a cause for fear but of great joy.
Though there “will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky (Luke 21:11); though we may be seized and imprisoned, betrayed by those we love and put to death, we are not to be afraid, because the Lord will be with us.
The Lord himself makes this especially clear: “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” (Luke 21:14-15).
The Lord himself will be with us and we must remain fiercely loyal to him because, as he says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Luke 21:19).
My friends, if the announcement of the Lord’s coming as King leaves you filled not with joy but with fear, it can only be because your perseverance in the faith has been weak, because you have not been fiercely loyal to the Lord of Hosts.
Upon those who allow the Lord to rule over them with justice, “the sun or righteousness” – Christ himself – “will shine out with his healing rays” (Malachi 3:20).
This light, the light of his grace and truth and holiness, is far more beautiful, far more splendid, than the glories of the Temple.
This light is attractive and irresistible. To some, the light of holiness attracts with its call for imitation. To others, the light of holiness attracts because they want to denounce it and trample it.
But with those healing rays, for those who allow the rays to shine upon them, comes also the strength and the power to bear a faithful witness to the love of God and with such a witness comes a joy that neither famine nor plague, tumult nor devastation, can take away. Even in the midst of betrayal, the joy of God’s love remains. To this great truth the lives of the Saints bear constant witness.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you want to be joyful and no longer fearful, you must endure in what Saint Paul called “the good fight” and you must run the race so as to win (II Timothy 4:7; cf. I Corinthians 9:25).
If you live in this way, with your eyes fixed firmly on the prize of everlasting glory, then the day of the Lord will cause you no fear.
There is a story told of Saint Francis of Assisi that, one day, as he was hoeing a row in a field, someone asked him, “Holy father, if you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you do?”
The Saint thought for a moment and answered, “I suppose I’d finish hoeing this row.”
Why did he not respond with the words so many of us might use: I’d go to confession; I’d tell my family and friends I love them; I’d visit so-and-so one last time? These answers come from our lack of endurance in faithfully following Christ.
Because Saint Francis persevered so well, he knew and radiated the joy of the Lord and call upon all of creation to echo his song. He could simply finish hoeing the row because he already longed to meet the King who comes.
May the same be said of us. Amen.