Make Time to Ponder the Last Things

User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 13

Christ must be our sure foundation.
Christ must be our sure foundation. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Nov. 13, is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19. During the month of November, the Church has the faithful ponder death, judgment, heaven and hell. As the golden gown of autumn gives way to the lifeless look of winter, we are encouraged to see that our lives are on a trajectory that leads to autumn and then to the winter of death.

Today’s Gospel can be seen in three major sections.

Portrait of Passing Things

“While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.’” Notice how they admire the temple and its beauty. But the Lord reminds them that, although it is glorious now, it will all be destroyed. We, too, must understand that whatever glory we see or experience in this world will not last; in the end, it will all pass.

Passage to Promised Things

The disciples ask for signs that will precede the coming end. Jesus warns them of four perils:

False Messiahs: “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!” A false messiah is anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ telling you how to organize your life. Too many people give greater authority in their life to people and worldly things than they do to Jesus Christ and his teachings. The power to save you is not in the statehouse, the courthouse or the White House — it is in the saving blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fierce Militarism: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” A war was looming for those ancient people. We, too, are in a war, a battle.

Before Christ can reign unambiguously within you, the false powers in you must be defeated. But they will not go without a fight. The world, the flesh and the devil can be expected to wage a fierce battle in order to keep their power.

Far-Flung Marvels: “There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Earthquakes involve the shaking of the foundations of our life, things like money, politics, friends, family and our own skills.

All of these things are shaken in life, and all of them will eventually fail. If Jesus is not our foundation, then something else is. Christ must be our sure foundation.

Fearful Malice: “They will seize and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons.” Persecution is an expected part of the Christian journey to the promised land of heaven. Christ tells us not to worry about such things. Even if some of us eventually lose our lives for the faith, the Lord promises that our souls will be saved. The world can only harm our body; it cannot harm our soul, unless we allow it to do so.

Prompt to Persevere

“By your perseverance, you will secure your lives”: We must always journey on and not lose faith or lose heart. There is glory waiting for us if we persevere.

Scripture says, “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

An old spiritual intones, “Hold on just a little while longer; everything’s gonna be all right.”