In those days, I, Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Brothers and sisters: Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
All of us know that we shall die. Many of us were brought up to believe that the world will end. Probably not many of us think about the world ending any more, but that reality is still there whether we think about it or not. Even scientifically, there will be an end.
Today’s readings speak to us about our own death and about the end of the world. They also speak about how to go on living when there is a lot of evil happening in the world.
When we look at any newspaper or listen to news on radio or watch in on television, we know immediately that we live in a world of strife, violence, murder, wars, kidnapping, etc. Any of us can see the signs that are there. Probably in every period of history, these same signs have been there and always there are people trying to guess or predict that now is the end time.
The first reading, from the Book of Daniel, speaks about the times in which there is great stress on the nations. There is reference to a time to come when some of those who sleep in the earth will rise to live forever. Others will be horror and disgrace. This type of literature is meant to make us think about the end times, about our own death and about what our ways of living here mean in terms of a life to come.
Probably most people today do not believe that anyone is in hell. There are still people in many faiths and in our own who do believe that. In our Roman Catholic tradition, it is clear that we believe in hell. There is no definition that anyone is there, but it is a part of our freedom that we can choose against God, even for all eternity. That is an incredible freedom given to us. We, the Church, pray over and over that no one will ever make this choose. It is clear in our teaching that God does not predestine anyone there. If anyone is in hell, it is by a free choice of rejecting God.
So the second reading speaks about Christ’s sacrifice, once and for all, that brings forgiveness of sins and the capacity of living in God with divine life. Because Christ has died for us, we no longer need fear hell at all. We can trust in His forgives. The challenge, of course, is to believe in Him and to love God and our neighbor. This encounter with God and neighbor takes place daily in our ordinary lives. Each day we can stop for a moment and simply take a look at our relationship with God and with anyone and everyone who has come into our lives.
The Gospel brings us to look once again at the end of life and at the end of the world. Does that affect our lives? Jesus tells us that wise people are able to look at what happens around them and understand. Do we understand?
As a meditation, of course, all we have to do is stop today for five minutes and imagine that we will die within those five minutes. What do we think about our life as we live it? Are we ready to meet the Lord? Are there people we need to forgive? Do we need forgiveness of others?
Today’s readings and celebration invite us to rejoice in our freedom and to learn how to use it well for living in this life and for living eternally.