The End Of Time

The God of heaven will set up a kingdom
that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people;
rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms
and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. –Daniel 2:44

The kingdoms Daniel referred to were made out of iron, bronze, silver and gold. These metals were considered precious, and some virtually indestructible, but not to the almighty God. God’s kingdom is greater and stronger than any created on earth. This passage is a powerful reminder to place all our investments in Jesus Christ for He is more precious than iron, bronze, silver, and even gold.

The Gospel takes this idea further, and Jesus Christ directly addresses the end of the world and how we will know when it is coming:

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
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

All goods and possessions we hold onto on this earth will be destroyed, and then what will be left? Only God, with His glorious kingdom far grander and more superior to anything we have ever known. It is so easy to fall into the trap of living for this day, the one that marks the end of time. We convince ourselves we need to be prepared for it, but instead of preparing our souls, we prepare for the earthquakes, famines, and plagues. Jesus Christ rebukes us, telling us not to fear these acts of nature, for He will be there and give us what we need to survive. We must be concerned about the condition of our souls. When these “mighty signs” arrive, we will have no control over them, but we will have control over how we respond. Will we seek comfort in the strength of iron, bronze, silver, or gold, or will we seek refuge in Jesus Christ? Jesus also said we will be asked to testify, even be handed over by our own family, but we need not fear because the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak when our time comes.

Turn to Jesus Christ in everything and throughout all time, both now in the present day and in the turbulent time to come. Glory, tragedy, and the basic day-to-day events of life will happen, but as long as we keep our gaze fixed on Him, we can have faith that we will be prepared, not just for the end of the world, but more importantly, for the afterlife as well.

The Kingdom of Heaven

It is often difficult to remember what we are truly meant to do on earth. We were not created for this earth; we were created for the kingdom of Heaven. From that perspective, our earthly lives are spent in a waiting “room” until we are called to return to the home of our heavenly Father. However, we were not made to simply sit idly by until our time to go to Heaven arrives. God is always calling us to a higher purpose, and if we seek the kingdom of Heaven on earth, the riches of Heaven will appear far greater than we can ever imagine. What we do in this life prepares us for the next, but more importantly, it is who we are that can transform us into the people we are meant to be as we enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God.”
—Romans 8:18–19

As we wait upon the Lord, we are filled with great hope. Living the life of a child of God means to live life in anticipation, always living in the hope of the grace to come, knowing that by living this life devoted to Christ, we will inherit His kingdom.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was a perfect example of living in constant hope. Mother Teresa adopted a spirit of gratitude. She endured all the deprivations of grave poverty, yet she never lost her smile and always radiated joy. She could do this because she recognized every good thing, no matter how small, that the Lord placed in her life and she gave thanks for it. Through this act of thanksgiving, she lived each day in anticipation of the kingdom of Heaven.

For the kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed “that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches” (Luke 13: 18–19).

Through each action of kindness and love, we can contribute to the kingdom of Heaven. With every expression of gratitude, we strengthen our hope in the promises the Lord has given to us of what is to come.

Rejection

Rejection is part of life; everyone has experienced it to some extent. It is easy to take rejection and give in to depression, allowing the rejection to influence our lives in an intensified depressed state. What we must remember is that rejection is just as significant in the Lord’s plan for our lives as the successes we encounter in our lives. The path Jesus Christ followed here on earth was determined by rejection. In the passage from the Gospel of Luke for today, He is rejected by the Samaritans, one of the few times in the gospels that Samaritans were actually portrayed in a negative light. Although the disciples want to rebuke the Samaritans, Jesus moved on towards Jerusalem. Jesus knew His fate and that a greater rejection awaited Him on the cross. The rejection of the Samaritans was a sign to Him of what was to come.

As Christians, we are not promised an easy journey through life. If we truly want to follow the path of Jesus, we have to expect rejection, but we should not take on negativity–quite the opposite. With every rejection, we should challenge ourselves to look for the will of God. What is God trying to tell me? What can I learn from this? Rejection can sometimes be seen as a “roadblock” keeping us from what we want to do and where we want to go. It may be a roadblock, but it might be blocking us from what we believe is the right direction but in reality is not the best way for us to follow. Embrace these rejections and move forward, confident that the Lord kept you from taking the wrong path.

“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” —Zechariah 8:23

As long as we seek the Lord in everything we do, we can be certain in faith that we are going in the right direction towards our own Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus knew the road to Jerusalem was the road to His death on the cross, but that death, however, would bring salvation to the entire world.

The Authority of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ had authority over all things, and when He spoke, people were astonished. There is great power in the word; this is a continuous theme throughout the entire Bible from the beginning of time. The Lord actually spoke this world into existence.

And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”
–Genesis 1:3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
–John 1:1

In today’s Gospel we hear the story of Jesus casting out a demon. The people’s amazement made them ask what kind of power Jesus had. The truth is the power is simply in His word, and when He left this world, He bestowed His authority on us. He did this so that His ministry could continue. With this authority, we are also given the responsibility to carry on and share His ministry through the authority of His word.

The first reading speaks of the end of the world. The fear of the end of the world seems to be a hot topic in today’s society. There are many who fear it is coming soon, and they will not be prepared for it. The good news is that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, do not need to fear the unknown because the word tells us that as long as we stay awake and vigilant we will be ready for the end of the world.

For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.
–1 Thessalonians 5:6

Take heart knowing that whether the end of the world comes in 10 years, 5 years, a year, a month, or even tomorrow, as long as we continue to do the work Jesus asked us to do, we will be ready. We have the same authority that Jesus Christ has and we should use it to glorify Him. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as casting out a demon, just bring the word of Jesus Christ into everything you do, and let Him provide the rest of what needs to be done.

Down the Mountain

Have you ever experienced a moment in time when you knew you were in the presence of God?  At such a moment, life completely stops, all your cares and worries vanish, and the world suddenly somehow makes sense.  Most of all, you are overwhelmed by a certainty and trust that everything is “okay.”  This must have been what the disciples felt when they witnessed the transfiguration of the Lord.  They were among the divine, which was so incredible for mere mortal fishermen, that it was simply too much for their minds to comprehend.

“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.” (Luke 9:28–36)

Peter, along with James and John, was given a special glimpse of a meeting much bigger than himself, so he attempts to deal with it in a concrete way, honoring these glorified beings with the only skill he can contribute.  It is essential in a life of faith to acknowledge these moments and give thanks for them, holding them close in our hearts to remember for the future.  While these times are life-changing, they cannot last forever, and we all must return to reality.  On one of my pilgrimages, as we were preparing to resume our daily lives, our priest reflected on the transfiguration, asking us to imagine what it must have been like walking down the mountain, how disorienting for the disciples.  No matter how miraculous the experience, the reentry into reality will always be difficult.  We will once again be confronted by doubt and fear, especially the doubt as to whether or not what we just experienced was actually real.

Although the walk down the mountain will always be a trial, I take heart that the harder the walk is, the more I can have faith that what I just went through really did happen.  The account of the transfiguration gives us hope as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  After the transfiguration, only He remained with His disciples.  This holds true for us as disciples today.  Jesus Christ remains with us, ready to give us courage and to support us as we walk down the mountain and continue our everyday journeys in our daily lives.

To Be Close

The first reading is one of my favorites from the Old Testament, the story of Jacob, who wrestled with the Lord until the Lord blessed him.  The significance this story holds for us today is the physical proof of just how close the Lord can come to us. People commonly believe that since God is all knowing, we, as sinful human beings, have no possibility of changing or altering the will of God, but in this Old Testament story, Jacob actually does, and is blessed for it:  he becomes the father of the Israelites.
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”  Genesis 32:28
God wants nothing more than to maintain a close and intimate relationship with each and every one of us.  Thanks to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who lived among us, we have the gift of entering and exploring a close relationship with our Creator every day. All we need to do is pray. Prayer allows us to transcend this world and enter the realm of the divine. When we pray, anything is possible as we talk with our Creator and Father, bringing our brokenness to Him, asking for mercy. The Gospel reading continues to reveal the compassion of the Lord and His willingness to be close to us.
“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 9:36
As believers, we are also given a mission; we know how to find closeness with the Lord, but so many of the Lord’s people have not experienced His love.
“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Mt 9:38
Jesus Christ calls us to show others the depth of the Father’s love. We have the chance to spread the word of God to as many of our fellow human beings as we can, and this way the power of the Lord’s love can grow. Imagine what the world would be like if the Lord’s love was known to all! Although this may sound over-ambitious, it is precisely what we are called to do. If we actively seek an intimate relationship with God ourselves, we will receive the power from Him to accomplish this mission.

Holy Spirit Inspired

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church. Because the feast of Pentecost was celebrated last Sunday, the liturgical readings for this memorial particularly resonated with me. The Gospel quotes Jesus as He gives His disciples their ultimate mission:  “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 2:4
It is easy to read this passage as history instead of a direct call to action. As a child, I remember reading these passages and being interested in the disciples’ stories, but never making the connection to my own life.  We are the disciples of today, and the harvest is just as abundant as it was back in the earliest days when Jesus’ first disciples embarked on their mission. This past Pentecost weekend I was blessed to attend a rally where one of the speakers pointed out that the Lord constantly makes everything new.  This speaker believed the Lord is doing something new right now, preparing the Church as He did the disciples, but in a way that addresses the new and different times in which we live. The Church is like a volcano ready to erupt and when it does, it will change the landscape of the entire world.
As the disciples of this current age, we have work to do. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, we will succeed. “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1