33rd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 18, 2018
Story: A fiery preacher was preaching on the end times and on the kingdom of heaven. Then he called out to the people in the church very excited, “All those who want to go to heaven, step over here to the left.” Everyone stepped over except for one man, who stood his ground. The preacher looked at him fiercely and said, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” The man said, “No.”
Preacher asked him again, “Do you mean to tell me you don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” The man replied: “O, yes of course I want to go to heaven when I die. I thought you were going now!”
We hear Jesus preaching about the end which is to come. He uses very apocalyptic images of the sun being darkened, moon not giving light, stars falling from heaven. But, he also makes it clear than no one knows the day or the hour.
We are not meant to get caught up in wondering if the end times are here, if things happening today in the world are signs of the end time, and trying to predict it based on images in the Bible. The fact is that everything comes to an end. Nothing in this universe lasts forever. Only God is eternal and unchanging.
The end times are not just some final future event, it is the reality that all of us face in our lives. It is important for us to realize and accept that everything in this life comes to an end, that all in this life changes. Then we are able to live much more wisely. To live more freely, not clinging, not fearful, realizing what really matters.
Everything in this life changes and comes to an end. But Jesus says, “my words will not pass away.”
Think about our lives, our health comes to an end in various ways and times, our careers and jobs come to an end, money and things we earn here all come to an end, our relationships and loved ones come to an end, and ultimately, for us all, our life comes to an end.
Realizing and accepting this reality of the end of all things, helps us to live now more wisely. Facing the end of all things causes us to appreciate all that we do have, to be more generous with all that we have and to pay more attention to God and our loved ones. We should let God and those close to us know that we appreciate them, let them know that you love them today as though the end was coming. Do not wait.
Story: There was a famous monastery which had fallen on hard times. It used to be filled with young monks and full of the sound of chant, but now it was nearly deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled around and praised their God with heavy hearts.
Near the monastery an old rabbi lived in a little hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him but they felt supported by his presence.
One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and to open his heart to him. He set out through the woods and the rabbi greeted him warmly and they embraced like long lost brothers.
They entered the hut and as they sat at the table, then the rabbi began to cry, and the abbot could not contain himself and he also began to cry.
After the tears ceased the rabbi looked up and said, “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts. You have come to ask me for a teaching. I will give you this teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must say it aloud again.”
The rabbi looked at the abbot and said, “the messiah is among you.” For a while, it was silent. Then the rabbi said, “Now you must go.” The abbot left and returned to the monastery.
The next morning, the abbot called all his monks and told them that he had received a teaching from the old rabbi and that the teaching was never to be spoken aloud. He looked at them all and said, “The rabbi said that one of us is the messiah!”
The monks were startled, They asked themselves, “What could this mean? Is Brother John the messiah? Or Father Matthew? or Brother Thomas? Am I the messiah? What could this mean?
They were all puzzled but never mentioned it again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them that everyone noticed. They lived with one another as people who had finally found something. They prayed the Scripture together as people who were looking for something.
Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks, while young men were asking to become part of the community again.
Think of a parish where every parishioner believed that one of us was the Messiah. Would we miss Mass if we thought the Messiah might be one of those parishioners sitting in this church? Would we not greet each person more warmly and with a smile if we thought that person might be the Messiah? Would we not notice each stranger thinking that person might be the Messiah?
Imagine if we all came here to Sunday Mass thinking that the Messiah was somewhere among one of these parishioners? Imagine the life of our parish if we all acted as though the Messiah was among us.
Everything comes to an end, all changes, but do not be afraid, do not be disturbed, for God is the foundation that remains underlying it all. Knowing that all comes to an end helps us to appreciate and pay attention to everything and everyone now.