World Day of the Poor
First Reading (Malachi 4. 1-2) Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 98). Second Reading (2 Thessalonians
- 7-12) Gospel (Luke 21. 5 – 19)
This morning’s gospel reading takes seriously the darker side of life, the painful and traumatic
experiences that come our way in life from time to time. The Lord names there the various
experiences of darkness that we can find ourselves entering at any time of our lives. Yet, he also
declares that he will be with us in the heart of those dark experiences of suffering, of destruction,
of loss. When Jesus spoke those words in the gospel reading, he was just about to enter into his
own passion and death. However, before facing into his own passion, he spoke about the passion of
his followers; before entering into his own valley of darkness, he alerted his followers to the
darkness that would envelope them. He seeks to reassure them, and us, that he would remain with
them as a light in their darkness. The Lord provides in the wilderness. When our own resources are
at an all time low, the Lord will give us the resources we need. ‘I myself will give you an
eloquence and a wisdom’, and we can add to that all the other resources that we might need as we
struggle with our own particular passion, our own way of the cross. The Lord makes a promise to
us in that gospel reading. However, he also asks something of us. What he asks of us is expressed
in the last line of the gospel reading, ‘endurance’. The Lord asks us to keep faith in him, to remain
open to his presence, to be faithful. Sometimes that will simply mean remaining faithful to the task
at hand, staying at our post, as it were, or in the words of Saint Paul in today’s second reading, to
go on ‘quietly working’. Endurance, faithfulness to the Lord, often comes down to that, attending
quietly to whatever it is that needs attending to. Such endurance will win us our lives, because it
will open us up to the resources that the Lord alone can give us. If we remain faithful, we can be
assured that, in the words of today’s first reading, ‘the sun of righteousness will shine out with
healing in its rays’. As these two children begin their journey of faith the sun of righteousness
shines on them in a special way; the light of Christ shines upon them; they are being brought into
the sphere of Christ and he will be their strong resource on the journey that lies ahead of them.
Today the reading bring to our attention reason why we are hesitant and negligent to be in the
presence of the Lord. In our spiritual presence with the Lord we become conscious of our end.
We usually use the word ‘end’ for two purposes. One, to mean the climax or the full stop of all
that start. Two, to mean the goal, the purpose, the aim of what is going on and what we are engage
As regard the first meaning, our end is not disputed. It is there. Anything in this world, that starts
breathing, will one day have its last breath. Everything that is in this universe and everything we
have created would have its end. We should read the history of the universe, and mankind.
Jesus makes a clear distinction between the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world.
‘The end is not so soon’ he says in that gospel reading. The loss of such a significant institution did
not mean the end of the world.
We can sometimes associate a significant loss with the end of our world, whether that significant
loss relates to a place, like the Temple, or to a job or a role we have, or to a person who is hugely
significant for us. When we contemplate the loss of something, or, more significantly, someone,
who has been a central and indispensable part of our lives, invariably we find ourselves looking
into an abyss; we sense that our world is coming to an end. We find it difficult to conceive of life
beyond such a loss, just as the disciples would have found it very difficult to conceive of a world
without the Temple. Yet, in the gospel reading, Jesus conveys to his disciples that his purpose for
their lives does not cease with the destruction of the Temple. Indeed, Jesus declares that his
purpose for their lives endures beyond not just the destruction of the Temple, but beyond the
suffering that awaits them as his followers. They will be dragged before kings and governors; they
will be betrayed by family and friends; some of them will be put to death. Such personal
experiences of suffering and loss will be even more devastating for them than the loss of the
Temple. Yet, the Lord will be faithful to them; in spite of such dark experiences of destruction and
loss, the Lord will continue to involve himself in their lives; he will provide and care for them in
the midst of it all; he will give them the wisdom and the eloquence that they will need to meet the
challenge; not a hair of their head will be lost. If they hold firm and trust the Lord in the midst of
all the destruction, death and loss, their endurance will win them their lives; the Lord’s life-giving
purpose for their lives will win through.
Nothing remains today that had been filling, beautifying and energizing a couple of centuries back.
The same is true with any kingdom, power, culture, civilization, and so on. When or how our
world will end we have no idea. The end may be a very long way ahead or, using the awesome
technology we humans have developed, we could bring it to an end in a relatively short time.
Some say that if we continue treating our planet as badly as we are doing now, we may not see the
end of this century. Another more practical interest for each one of us is when our own personal
end will come. Again it may be quite a long way off humanly speaking or, given the fragility of
our human existence, it could happen in the very near future. We see examples of this every day.
Therefore, when the Lord reminds us about these ends and the closing chapters of every human
being in today’s Gospel and other readings he is not keen on passing that fact as truth, to believe.
End is part of life’s game. End is a common phenomenon in our lives. Today God directs our
attention to the other meaning of end, namely the goal and purpose of our lives. He asks each one
of us to answer ‘what is the purpose of my life?’ Is it just to breathe, eat, drink and ease and finally
end it? Or is it for something new, born out of my death? Some more lessons people learn out of
me? Something that will be more satisfying, is going to happen as continuity?
By those Gospel prophecies about future ‘big bang-rupture’ Jesus did not intend to frighten us,
rather he points out the end of the universe and of each human, by death he makes us aware of the
seriousness of our lives in this world even if it is short-lived. He offered certain guidelines to go
through this risky life to win the victory. His suggestions were to hold on to the vision of our end,
with no distraction or any distortion; to place total trust in God the Father like a child; to endure
patiently all the challenges of human life; and to continue to work and pray uninterruptedly. As a
matter of fact in most of his letters, Paul shares with us all his vision of this awesome and terrible
ends. However surprisingly in today’s second reading and in that tiny little passage he offers us
the guidelines of Jesus, how to conduct ourselves during this interim period. He even asks us to
imitate him in his orderly conduct, in his laborious work to win his bread in toil and drudgery, in
working quietly and eating our own food.
Nothing sown, nothing reaped. It is a fact that we reap in the garden only what we sow in it. And
so is it in our life too. In those who have sown nothing, they will reap nothing. Those who have
based their lives on being loyal to truth and have spent their lives in the service of their God and
seeking the well being of their brothers and sisters, as we hear today from the prophet Malachi,
“the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays”. Mark Twain has said, “Twenty
years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you
did.” All we can do when death approaches is, cling in faith and love to the One who shall remain
when our life list is completed and all else passes away.