Is The End of the World Near?
“And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds.”
Almost three weeks ago, we saw yet another massacre in a Jewish Temple in Pennsylvania. A week ago, we saw still another massacre in Thousand Oaks. Since last Thursday afternoon, we have seen enormous fires blazing both in Southern California and even worse, in Northern California. In the news, we see more violence, people attacking and hurting others because the color of their skin is different than others, who speak a different language or are fleeing their own countries because of the violence they can’t continue to bear. What’s this world coming to?
The other day we saw an individual attack a manager of a McDonalds because they didn’t have the right ketchup. What is wrong with our world? Is Jesus in the Gospel today really telling us the end of the world is near? People have predicted the end of the world since the beginning of the world. Remember the end of the year 1999? People thought, when the year turned 2000, the earth would start coming apart. It hasn’t come apart and in reality, the world keeps going, babies are born, people live their lives, we live our lives amid constant change, change we have no control over. We live and die. Jesus doesn’t deny the world will someday come to an end, but he admits in all humility, he doesn’t even know when it will happen.
I don’t think this Gospel is about the end of the world. It’s about something more profound than when our own time comes to die; it’s about how we live today and tomorrow and the rest of our lives. The end of the First Reading from Daniel says it so beautifully: “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.” There are two lines in the Gospel so important in explaining how we are to live. In the middle of the Gospel, Jesus says he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds. Then almost at the end of the Gospel, Jesus tells us “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
In the massacres and the fires, we have seen not just needless killing, but we’ve seen the absolute goodness and compassion in people. We saw the police officer in Thousand Oaks who ran into the building and gave his life to save others. With the fires, we‘ve heard story after story of first responders, firefighters’ willingness to put their lives on the line so others wouldn’t be hurt or lose their homes.
We are called to be the angels of the Gospel who lift up the poor, those who suffer from abuse, and those who are silenced by fear. We are the angels who gather God’s elect, whether they look like us or not; whether they’re educated or not; whether they believe in God or not. We can’t be their judge; this is up to God. The wisdom and courage given us by the Holy Spirit have given us the strength to get out of our comfort zone and show God’s love and compassion to those who need it most.
May we dedicate our lives this day at this Mass to be willing to stand for those who have no hope, to bring light into someone’s darkness and to be a mirror of Christ to those who need his healing touch.