|Michelangelo's Judgment Scene|
Note the Word of God in the Book of Malachi, five centuries before Jesus. The author sees so much unethical behavior in society that he proclaims a future day of reckoning, when God will punish the wicked in a blazing fire and reward the good with the warm rays of the sun.
In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus speaks about the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple by Roman legions. People were in shock, as New Yorkers were when terrorists demolished the Twin Towers in 2001. The author uses apocalyptic imagery: wars and earthquakes, famines and plagues, persecutions and betrayals.
You may wonder why the Word of God has all this gloom and doom.
The liturgical year celebrates the story of our salvation. We began with Advent; we await a savior who came to us in Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem. We then walk with Jesus as He worked “signs and wonders” proclaiming the kingdom of God was breaking into our midst.
We remember the Last Supper, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus through whom we have a relationship with God. We re-live the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. And on Sundays afterwards we witness the spread of the Gospel. And now, approaching the end of the liturgical year, we wait in hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus again “in great power and glory” and next Sunday we will crown Him king of the universe.
Yes, we celebrate the story that began on the first page of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and that ends on the last page of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus.” We await the second coming. This universe as we know it will be transformed into a glorious kingdom in all its fullness, and so we proclaim: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.”
The question is: Are we ready when the Risen Christ does come to us in the mystery of our own dying, either suddenly or gradually?
What behaviors do we have to change now? If not now, when? There are some things we can do to delay our appointment with death. We can exercise and eat the right foods, stop smoking, get an annual check-up and so on. But we all, ultimately, will have to keep an appointment with death.
We don’t know the day or hour. The news every day underscores this. Life is precious and can be short. And so the urgency to try to live as best we can today.
The beatitudes can be a good guide and promise God’s blessings: “Blessed are you….” May the Word of God inspire us to value each day as a gift from God, to live each day as best we can, because today is the only day we can count on. .