Preached at St. Kilian Parish on November 17, 2019 at the Noon and 5:00pm Masses
Did anyone have any trouble getting home on Tuesday? What a disaster that snowstorm was! Cranberry was complete gridlock! When I get stuck in traffic, I take it as a sign that God wants me to pray. Well, apparently, he really wanted to have a long chat with me! That snow was like the end of the world had come!
I don’t mind snow, but I prefer the snow in those Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. You know, where the snow is over a foot deep everywhere, except the roads and sidewalks, which are perfectly clear. There are no wrecks or traffic jams. Everyone makes perfect snowmen without sweating and throw snowballs that turn to harmless powder when they hit someone, so nobody gets hurt. If something goes a little wrong, it is always fixed with a cup of fresh hot cocoa. Life is just about perfect in those Hallmark movies.
We want our lives filled with Hallmark moments, but those times are few and far between. We get stuck in traffic jams during snowstorms, and sometimes get into accidents. We have struggles at home, school, and work and we may encounter struggles with health, money, or addictions. We have many problems and most of them are not fixed with a cup of hot cocoa. Our world is filled with stuff you would never see in a Hallmark movie: school shootings, the abuse scandal in the Church, and Mason Rudolph taking a helmet to the head during a Steeler game.
To put things in perspective for us, in today’s gospel Jesus talks about some things that are much bigger than the snowstorm on Tuesday: earthquakes, famines, plagues, and the end of the world. At the time of Jesus Jews believed that something big was about to happen. Some of the people believed God was about to send some terrible disaster upon them – an earthquake, famine, or plague, or to use more modern examples, maybe a meteorite, a super volcano, or the end of the internet. To them the end of the world was coming. “Repent and God will not destroy you.” While other people were looking for the “day of the Lord” when a savior would arise to lead the people out from under the rule of the Romans. To them things were about to get a whole lot better. What most of the people did not realize was that the something big that was about to happen had already happened and was standing with them in the person of Jesus.
Jesus was in Jerusalem just days before his Passion and as the people were admiring the temple for its beauty and all the riches that covered it. Jesus tells the people that the temple will be destroyed, that all the beautiful stones will be thrown down and not one stone will stand on another. For those anxiously anticipating the end of the world or a savior, this could be a sign that what they were looking for and so they wanted to know when it would occur. But to Jesus the when was not as important as the fact that it would indeed occur, and the people had to be ready for whenever it would occur. He was challenging them to be ready when things would not go as they expected.
This gospel is also a challenge to us as and our faith as well. Can we be people of faith in the ordinary moments of life when we are simply stuck in traffic and cannot get home? Is our faith ready to handle the tough times, all the famines, plagues, or whatever disaster comes our way in our lives? Is our faith expecting the unexpected? Faith is living your life knowing that the world, your life, and everything in them are very fragile and could change in an instant. What would you do differently if the world or your life would change or end next year, next month, or tomorrow? As they say, nobody on their deathbed wishes they had worked more. Faith is about giving the proper priority to the things in our lives.
Despite all the talk in today’s gospel about wars, disasters, death, and the end of the world, this is a gospel of hope. As Jesus says in the gospel, “Do not be terrified.” He goes on to say that if you are persecuted, imprisoned, hated, or even put to death, not a hair on your head will be destroyed because “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” The key to faith is perseverance. No matter what happens, whether it be the wars, disasters, or plagues described in the gospel, or family problems, sickness, the gridlock of a Tuesday snowstorm, or any other of the challenging events in our lives, our Lord is with us and has our back.
Our lives are not a Hallmark movie, we all have a whole list of things in our lives that have gone wrong, are going wrong, or will probably go wrong soon. Our lives are filled with many small and large disasters. Much of our lives, despite how hard we try, is out of our control. But what is in our control is how we react to what happens in our lives. Jesus is asking us to respond to whatever happens in our lives with faith, knowing that he stands with us through it all, and that not a hair on our head will be destroyed!
Do not be frightened! By our perseverance we will secure our lives!
Rejoice and be glad!