Your First, Last, and Only Mass!


33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: November 14, 2021

The end of the world.  Something that has always been a source of curiosity, a cause of fear for some, constant speculation by some evangelists and religious groups.  When will be the end of the  world?  What will it be like?  Are things happening in the world today a sign that the end is near?

When I was a teenager, I remember some friends who were influenced by some religious fundamentalists and they were convinced that the end was very soon and that what was happening in the world were the signs of the end.  Fifty years later we are still here.

Today, there are again some people who are now saying that what is happening in the world today is sign that the end is near.  In fact in almost every generation in the past two thousand years there have been certain figures or groups predicting that their time was the end time.

The problem with these warnings and predictions about the end of the world is that the Bible is not a prediction machine.  Some treat it as though if I can just figure out the puzzle and understand the Bible then I can figure out the time of the end.  This is a complete misunderstanding of what the Bible is and what it is not.

Jesus himself in this gospel today is very clear when he says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the Angels in heaven, nor the Son,…”  So, when someone starts predicting the end of the world or pointing out what is happening in the world as signs of the end, do not listen to them.  Unless they know more than the Angels or more than Jesus, it is silly and useless speculation.  It is used to manipulate people through fear and to control people with their supposed insights.

What is Jesus doing when he uses apocalyptic language about the end that is to come?  Jesus does not use this language about the end to create fear.  It is not so much a warning about the end of the world, but rather it is a commentary on living in the world.

He is reminding us that everything in this world comes to an end.  Our things wear out or get lost, our money is left behind either to be taxed or inherited by someone else, our houses and buildings, including our churches, as we know here, all come to an end.  Everything we have and do in this world comes to an end and becomes a quickly forgotten memory.  The only thing that remains beyond this world and into eternity is love.

Jesus is pushing us to live fully alive in this world, to live this day, this moment, this life, this time.  Seize this day and stop wasting life.  Appreciate and live this day fully and with urgency as though the end is here.  So much energy is wasted on regrets and disappointments about the past.  Our failings, our setbacks, but we cannot change the past.  Ask forgiveness and try to be reconciled and hopefully even learn from our past, but do not waste living today because of our past.

So much energy is wasted on fearful worry about the future.  Often about things that will never even arrive.  Life flies by and we miss it.  Live what really matters today.

I have seen in some church sacristies a plaque that the priest could read before Mass.  It said, “Priest of God, Celebrate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, Your last Mass and your only Mass.”  Imagine if you knew that this would be the very last Mass that you would celebrate?  How would you engage and enter into this mystery and appreciate each moment?

Jesus is not interested in predictions about the end of the world, he is pushing us to live fully in the world today.  Do not waste this time, this day.  What do you take with you when you die?  The only thing that will go with you is love.  Appreciate each moment, each breath, each person.

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