Mal. 3:19-20a; Ps. 98; 2 Thes. 3:7-12; Lk. 21:5-19
(Audio recorded live, 13 November 2022)
When I was a young boy, I grew up on the border of the City of Trenton and the Township of Ewing. I lived in an old Dutch style two-story home with four bedrooms. The home had originally belonged to my grandmother who later moved to the house behind us, which was also nextdoor to my uncle. My grandmother’s brother lived directly nextdoor to us, and the next house down was his brother’s. Between the Smiths and the Csolaks, we took up most of the block. Growing up in such an environment meant that I was never far from family, and as a child, there was plenty of space for us to run around, whether it was uncle Richie’s yard or uncle Charlie’s, both a football throw away. And boy did we throw footballs, and baseballs, and frisbees, and wiffle balls; then soccer balls, and even basketballs out in the street. I remember helping my dad cement a basketball hoop in front of the house. In the back yard was my dad’s rehearsal studio—a square building with concrete walls that he called the Gig Hall. I used to listen to him rehearse his band at night just outside my window. During the day, I used to bounce baseballs off the Gig Hall wall to practice my catching skills. All the properties were studded with trees, so this time of year was especially fun. There was a giant swamp maple tree between uncle Charlie’s yard and mine. It would drop a ton of leaves. Sometime the wind would gather the leaves into big piles against the fence where me and my siblings would jump in and out of the piles. We had summer cook outs, birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years dinners. Setting the table was always a big task. We needed to install two leafs to extend the dining room table, plus add a smaller table at the end for the kids. The smell throughout the house was amazing and provided just the right amount of anticipation for that meal. Then the relatives would arrive and everyone would be smiling and laughing. And for the amount of work it was to pull off, my parents somehow managed to do it for decades. And I know many of you have done the same.
Why am I sharing this? Well, we just heard some difficult words from Jesus about the end time. And a lot of people are talking as though we are living through the end time. Certainly many signs appear to be there, but are they the kinds of signs we ought to focus on? We can spend all our time and energy seeking bad news, surrounding ourselves with negativity, or we can focus on the things that truly matter. Economies come and go, sometimes they crash and burn, but they are not the end of the world. Kings and queens come and go, sometimes they are tyrants, but they are not the end of the world. The leaves on the trees come and go, sometimes they are slippery on the road, but they are not the end of the world. All these things come and go and they come back again. It is all part of life on this earth. But, what truly matters is how we spend our time on this earth.
The prophet Malachi speaks of a time when the proud and evildoers will be stubble. In other words, their lives of wickedness will leave them withered and empty; they will be scorched by the Sun. And just as the dark is vanquished by light, the son of justice will come to expose the ways in which the evildoers have abused their power. By exposing their crimes, those who fear the Lord, who do what is right, will be vindicated.
St. Paul encourages us to pull our own weight. He talks about those busybodies who are conducting themselves in a disorderly way, doing the bare minimum, going to others and asking for food rather than supporting themselves. Living in community demands that everyone pull their own weight and contribute. Sure, some people are sick or have disabilities, but if someone is capable of contributing, they should. I was talking with someone the other day about their son’s first job. It was a low salary and the son wanted to quit. His mother said, “some job is better than no job.” She also knew that the real value was in the experience, not the money. And if it seems as though there are no jobs or no work to do, St. Paul says then to work quietly. In other words, start praying, not only for yourself, but for the Church. I guarantee God will hear your prayer and answer it.
Jesus says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” We are all called to stay connected to him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Malachi says the evildoers are stubble; they fell off the vine. But, we are invited to persevere in faith, to pull our own weight, both in life and in prayer, and to remain connected to Christ, to stay on the vine. He is the source of all good, of all love, of all righteousness. He is the Son of Justice. So, may our communion today be a reminder of how close we remain to the source, and may it bring us closer to one another, especially those closest to our heart.