Until the End
Until the end
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here-- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "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. "Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. 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. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives."
The NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) has been taking place at the Long Beach Convention Center. 2500 teens and their youth leaders have been there: having fun, praying, and getting to know new projects of evangelization. I was impressed by the Conventual Franciscan Masseo Gonzalez, who runs Hip Hop and Tacos. He and his team roll into a city, entertain with rap and evangelization, and then have a taco truck roll in and add to the experience. “El Padrecito,” as he is known, faced adversity in his own life. He lost his leg at 19 in a street fight and had to re-evaluate his priorities. He decided to dedicate his life to evangelization and joined the Conventual Franciscans. His convent is in Guadalupe, California, and he travels the country bringing the light of Christ through his hip hop ministry.
His life and testimony show us the importance of hope. We are living for heaven. Every false pleasure that the world offers cannot leave us fully happy. We are made for heaven. Today’s Gospel, focusing on the end times, reminds us that we need to think about eternity. Every year, we go back over this same text because it can help us get our priorities in order.
Why do we reflect on the end times? What does it mean to follow Jesus? How do we persevere until the end?
St. Augustine reminds us that:
On earth we are wayfarers, always on the go. This means that we have to keep on moving forward. Therefore be always unhappy about what you are if you want to reach what you are not. If you are pleased with what you are, you have stopped already. If you say ‘it is enough’ you are lost. Keep on walking, moving forward, trying for the goal. Don’t try to stop on the way, or to go back, or to deviate from it. Saint Augustine (Sermon 169, 18)
This is helpful because it is so easy for us to become comfortable in our modern world. We can order something from Amazon and it arrives without even the effort of getting to the car and driving over. Food is instantaneous.
Some people get really nervous about the End Times. Over the course of the centuries, there has always been a group that tries to establish the precise date of the Second Coming. “Jesus is coming, look busy!” We are called to be found working in his vineyard when he arrives. But the focus cannot be fear. God does not want fear and anxiety in our hearts. He wants us to discover the joy that comes with being faithful followers of Christ.
Persecution or perseverance
The world in which we live is challenging us to see if we are willing to stay faithful when it is unpopular for society. Will you persevere in the face of adversity. Hard times are coming, but we are made for this. It is part of why I love being a Legionary of Christ. Christian life requires a fight, but I always think, “I was made for this.” One interesting scene comes out in Band of Brothers during the Battle of Bastogne. The German commander sends a message saying that they are surrounded. The response is “we are paratroopers, we are supposed to be surrounded.” In the same way, as Christians, we are called to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel in the midst of an often-antagonistic world.
challenges us as Christians and as a Church: Jesus predicts that his disciples will have to suffer painful trials and persecution for his sake. He reassures them, however, saying: “Not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). This reminds us that we are completely in God’s hands! The trials we encounter for our faith and our commitment to the Gospel are occasions to give witness; we must not distance ourselves from the Lord, but instead abandon ourselves even more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace. (Pope Francis, November 17, 2013)
So, whenever we feel threatened and worn-down by the culture war, let us lift our eyes to heaven and know that God has us all in his hands. Our lives would be different if we remembered heaven more frequently.