Malachi 3: 19-20; Luke 21: 5-19
Blazing ovens, earthquakes, famines, war, all of this sounds perfect for those that live with that nagging fear that the end of the world is upon us at this moment, as if it’s all going to come crashing down around us. Despite the fact that all of these occurrences have happened since the beginning of time and by the time Luke writes this gospel they have already happened. Yet, we all know that life can change in an instant. Just ask the people of the Philippines how quickly life can change where it becomes about the basic necessities. Even in our own lives, the phone rings and death has occurred unexpectedly, cancer, divorce, loss of job, you name it and it happens and when it does it feels like the end of the world. That’s the thing, it is and this moment will never happen again; but when these events happen in our lives, unfortunately, we often get stuck there and everything about our lives then becomes seen through that lens of hurt and the past dictates how we live, or for that matter, survive in this life. So often many of these external realties and how we see them are a direct reflection of our interior, spiritual life and are an invitation to go through them.
The message Luke and Malachi were not meant to scare anyone. As a matter of fact, we so long have viewed them from that lens of dire situation, but for Luke, it was intended to be a message of hope. At this point in the story the cross is looming large. It is now in sight and nothing can ever prepare the disciples for what is to come. It will not only be the living reality in the world, but it is what they will experience at the cross. When we face such suffering in our lives, where there are no answers and all that we have known has been stripped from us, does it not feel like an earthquake within? Don’t we too face such famine in our interior lives when we question where God has been and how things can happen? Doesn’t it feel at times like we are at war with ourselves, an ongoing battle within? It is even what Jesus faces as he approaches the cross and it is what the disciples will face and will cause them to flee for the pain is too much to bear in their lives.
These readings are really not meant to scare or frighten us in anyway, but rather are an invitation to become aware of the hurt we hold onto from our past. Am I living in the past, burdened by my own pain and suffering? It’s easy to become stuck in those places because we don’t want to feel the earthquake or famine, but in reality, often create a living hell for ourselves by not entering into those experiences. We can do it as individuals but also as a community. This community has had its share of pain and hardship in the past and our natural inclination is to remain, become stuck, hold onto the past, living an eternal Good Friday rather than going through the pain into new life. Most importantly in this gospel is the last line, that when we persevere life will be secured. So often in our lives it seems like the end times and we face real suffering on a regular basis. When we persevere, though, what seems like an end and finality is really the doorway to new life, to something new in our lives. These readings aren’t just about the end times, although they have that feel to them, they are about the time ending right now. When we can grieve our past and our hurts they no longer dictate our lives and where we go; we no longer live in fear of facing the unknown. When we can feel our way through the earthquakes, famines, and wars within, not avoid them or try to dodge them, but go through them, not only will our interior life and lens by which we look at life change, but all of a sudden, with perseverance, the world around us looks, not about survival, but alive as well.