The readings near the end of the liturgical year reflect the events at the end of the world. The light of Christ shines through the three readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Daniel states, “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.”
While there is a warning that there shall “be a time unsurpassed in distress,” there is also hope expressed in the rising of “Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people.” Remember God used Michael to drive Lucifer and the fallen angels out of heaven.
Furthermore, “At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.” Who are these people “found written in the book” if not the very people who tried to live according to the words written in that book? Even if at times they failed, according to the word of God, mercy is available to all sinners who are genuinely repentant.
The author continues: “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.” People who take advantage of God’s mercy shall live forever.
The stakes are very high, but so also is God’s mercy to all who attempt to live by God’s promise of mercy.
In the second reading, the inspired author writes: “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…” Here he is referring to the Old Testament priests who daily offered animal sacrifices to take away sin, but these sacrifices never took away sin. Jesus, our high priest, offered one sacrifice to take away all sin.
The complete forgiveness of our sins is available in Jesus.
Put together these readings, and we notice that at the end of time there will be a final clash of light and darkness. The reference to Michael is more than a reference to his being guardian of his people. If he was chosen to drive Lucifer out of heaven, he will also be available to God’s people at the end of time in their struggle against both sin and the works of Satan.
We also know that at the end, God will overcome His enemies. How He will do this is unclear. The great Scripture scholar William Barclay said: “How that will come is not ours to know; but it may be that this final subjugation will consist not in the extinction of His enemies but in their submission to His love.”
Might we have seen a brief glimpse of this light in the recent debate about the Supreme Court nominee? Regardless of which side of the debate we’re on, it was a surprise to all observers to witness a pro-choice Republican candidate rise above the language of name calling and offer us once again the elevated language of our founding fathers, who said that “a person is innocent until proven guilty.” This happened precisely at a moment when the debate seemed to be at its darkest. From where did this candidate get this inspiration?
Might it be that this is a sign of good things to come? Remember that our Lady of Fatima told us, “in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” I, for one, believe that in our darkest hour, our prayers will enable us to triumph over the darkness that surrounds us. When that time comes we, who are faithful to God’s promises, will be given the grace to triumph over the darkness.
In addressing the end times, Jesus in the Gospel tells us: “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 heaven will be shaken.”
Jesus simply confirms all that the prophets have written about the end times. He adds: “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.”
These readings make one thing very clear. Daily friendship with Jesus is the greatest insurance policy we have. We need to nurture it daily by reflecting on God’s words in the Bible, daily prayer and daily repentance.
I’m not referring to a self-seeking experience but to a God-seeking experience. The more we allow Jesus to nurture our daily friendship, the more we enable others to prepare for their final coming, today or at the end of time.
Make no mistake about it! When you live out a daily friendship with Jesus, countless others whom you don’t know are watching. Even though they never say anything to you, they all have a question gnawing in the hearts: “What will happened when I die?”
When you live in daily friendship with Jesus, He lives in you. He speaks through you to others, giving them hope. He uses you to give others hope in Himself as the answer to the unexpressed question deep in their hearts: “What happens when I die?”
When I was fourteen years old, and thought about the end of the world, I wanted to be close to those happy with God.