All three readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time point to a future that is on its way. We can’t stop or delay it. However, through expressing God’s compassionate concern, the word of God tells us that we need to prepare for it.
In the first reading, Malachi uses the imagery of a fiery conflagration. “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…”
Stubble is what is left over after the grain is harvested; it has no value. Malachi tells us that the proud and evildoers will be stubble.
On the other hand, for all those who “fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Here, the rising up of the son of justice, Jesus Himself, is compared to the rising of the sun each morning which helps the grass take in the moisture of the dew so that it can be strengthened for the heat of the day.
The son of justice will reward all who lived according to God’s plan. However, it will bring destruction to those who defied the Son of God, by planning rebellion against the Holy One. All earthly life will cease when the Son of Justice returns to reward the just and give justice to all evil doers.
In the Gospel, Jesus applies this same teaching to the destruction of the temple. Some bystanders were marveling at the costly beauty of the temple. Jesus opens their eyes to a future already on the way. Man can’t stop it, but must prepare for it.
“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.’”
When they asked Jesus for a timetable, He responded by changing the subject to the need for preparation. “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!”
Christ suggests that if we have Him within us, we need not fear anything that comes, because He will be revealed through us.
“…(T)hey 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.”
What a favor Jesus gives us in telling us ahead of time what will happen and how to prepare ourselves. All of this will lead us to give testimony to Jesus. Giving this testimony will give us great joy in the midst of suffering. Our faith will be a sort of anesthetic that will give us a joy to replace much of the physical and psychological suffering.
Remember, in the Book of Hebrews we are told: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him He endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). What happened in Jesus’ life will also happen in our life, if we give witness to Him by the way we conduct ourselves.
In the second reading, Paul tells us a similar thing. He has always sought to set an example of living in Christ so that others might emulate his behavior. “For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.”
These readings tell us one simple thing. The end of the world, and the end of our life in the world is on its way. God tells us how to prepare for it and to look forward to the glory God has in store for us.
When God’s word is alive in us, we find ourselves doing what God desires of us. Many times, this is difficult and painful, but in that very moment we will have a peace about doing the will of God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:34: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The more we nurture ourselves by the daily reading of Scripture and by reflecting on these words, the more we will experience kindly deeds flowing from our hearts.
When we steep ourselves in the word of God, we discover God’s goodness flowing from our hearts into good deeds. This is the heart of evangelization. This is how we translate the kingdom of God into actions that lead others to come to know God.
Effective parents know that their children are more moved to goodness by the good example they give their children than by their mere words alone. The children need to see goodness in actions in order to be attracted to that goodness and to be moved by it.
Finally, when the word of God is truly alive in our hearts, we will find ourselves patient and joyous in the midst of adversity.
If we embrace the will of God in our lives, then that word is living and active, and it energizes us to have patience and perseverance. We don’t perform good deeds to receive consolation from God but to glorify God by our witness to others. That means we don’t complain every time something doesn’t go our way. Rather, we remain peaceful because we realize that God does something through us every time that we strive to be faithful His will. Participating in His goodness is a sign that He is very alive within us.