Like most of you, I’m not a fan of tragedy in real life. Heck, I’m not always a fan in fantasy either! (Why Disney? Why does the mother ALWAYS have to die????)
So the events in Lebanon, Paris and Mali? They are tough. But I do not fear the world or life because of them.
In today’s Gospel reading, St Luke tells us of Jesus’ words regarding the end times.
“…When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” –Luke 21: 9-11
But wait, didn’t I just tell you I don’t fear the world? Isn’t there an insurrection in Syria? Not to mention everywhere Isis is? Isn’t there still war against extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq? Haven’t we seen crazy bad earthquakes in the last few years? Hunger, devastation? Couldn’t the ebola break-out be the plague Jesus is talking about?
It’s very easy to read Jesus’ words here and believe: this is it! This is how it ends! But guess what, people have thought that in other times in history. WWII, for example. And remember Jesus’ words right before this passage in Luke 21:8
He answered, “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!” –Luke 21:8
So Jesus is telling us about the end times but then tells us not to follow anyone prophesying about the end times, many who will use Jesus’ words as their proof…huh. That’s confusing, isn’t it?
When I first read this reading this morning, I was struck. Struck by just how many people I know or know of who have been spending the last several weeks prophesying about the end times in social media (I’m on a social media fast…more about that later). And then I was struck by who was NOT doing it. Well, my priests aren’t in their homilies. Nope, they are sticking with the Good News. Bishop Robert Barron isn’t. Cardinals I follow in social media: Dolan, O’Malley, Wurl, Tagle, Sarah etc aren’t doing it. My Catholic mom friends aren’t. Most bloggers aren’t. And Pope Francis isn’t. I am sure that plenty of great Protestant ministers are also resisting this, but I don’t follow many of them. Do these people condemn these attacks? Emphatically yes. And they express sorrow over the loss of life. But no one is saying, “The END is here!”
The emphasis, I’m noticing from these corners, is Christ. Christ and His love for us. Love that triumphs over every notion of terror. Love that shows itself on surveillance video when a woman runs into a restaurant to escape a hail of bullets injured and hides behind the bar with a waitress. A waitress who pulls her close and cradles her head. St Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians that Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13: 7-8). And St John tells us in his first epistle, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) and later says:
In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.– 1 John 4:17-18
Let that sink in. If we are truly in communion with God, who is love, we can trust at the time of judgment. And we truly have no reason to fear either at the time of judgment or in our present world because that love of God in us drives out that fear.
I’m not there yet all the time, but this reminder calms me and lets me continue to do as Jesus commanded and “Love one another.” (John 13:34) Because as many a popular blogger has said, “Love always wins!”
So… if I trust in the love of God, I can obey Jesus’ commandments. So I shouldn’t be sad ever, right? Wrong. Remember the shortest verse in the Bible?
Jesus wept. –John 11:35
Even Jesus cried at the loss of a life. In the case of recent terrorist attacks, we weep for life lost in such a horrible way. We weep also that someone not only broke the Fifth Commandment but the Second as well. As Pope Francis well said:
To use the name of God to justify violence is blasphemy.
We weep that these people who perpetrated these acts do not know God, nor His love nor His mercy and therefore cannot see the wrong they do and live in fear.
So yes, I weep and am sad, but yes I have hope in Him still because He is love. And yes, love always wins. And He is our king. As Blessed Miguel Pro shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Reread those last several readings we’ve had from Revelation that declare His kingship and His victory and do not despair! Remember the words of St John Paul II
I plead with you: never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged–be not afraid!
God’s got this. We have to trust Him. We have to obey Him. Especially when it is hard. Only then will we be able to truly live in His love, and apart from fear.