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The End — Goodbye!

By Deacon Arvol Bartok

            If we could see tomorrows news headlines, what would we see?  Did Russia launch a nuclear weapon that will kill us all or will natural disasters wipe out entire populations.  Would the headlines say, “The End — Goodbye!”  Can you imagine that tomorrow will be the end of the world?  The end of everything we own, everything we have, and everything we are.  Just think about it for a second.  Gone . . . the end.  Goodbye!

            In today’s reading we hear from the prophet Malachi, who proclaims that a day is coming like a blazing oven which will consume the proud and the evildoer.  The Lord’s fire will completely eliminate all evil.  Even Jesus evokes strong images in the Gospel of Luke, saying that the temple will be destroyed; false prophets will arise; there will be rumors of war  and insurrections; nation will rise against nation; there will be earthquakes, plagues, and famines; and there will be a general persecution of all who remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There  will even be strife within families to the point of death.  In other words, it will be the end.  It would be like us receiving the headline “The End  — Goodbye!”

            So how are we to react to such troubling or unsettling news?  Each of the three readings today gives us advice:  Malachi suggests to fear the Lord.  Paul counsels us to “work quietly.” And Jesus bids us to not worry but remain faithful.

            Let’s look at this a little more carefully.  Malachi says to fear the name of the Lord and the sun will shine.  Hang on a second, since when is fear a good thing?  Well, we need to understand what this word really means in the language it was written, Hebrew.  Here the word does not mean fear as in “run and hide” but more as in”to be in awe of”.  So we ought to marvel at the Lord’s hand in our lives.  Then Paul counsels us to work quietly.  Here Paul is advising the community to remain faithful in the ordinary, everyday tasks of life.  Some people in his time, believing that Jesus’ return was imminent, gave up trying to live a faith-filled life and said, “What is the point , it’s too late!  Let’s live it up!  Paul rejects this attitude and encourages the community and us to be busy living the gospel, laboring for justice, freedom and peace.  And, of course, Jesus himself does not mince his words — he invites us to remain faithful always.  In times of trial, he says, so not worry as he will be there to give us the right words and he will never abandon us in any way.  He will give us courage to face all our trials.  His Spirit will shine through our human limitations.

            This really is all the same advice–we are called to remain faithful and live the gospel now.  We are living the gospel by going to Mass.  We are living the gospel by being a neighbor to someone sick.  We are living the gospel  by remaining faithful in marriage.  We are living the gospel by being good parents.  We are living the gospel by loving one another.

            So today is not “the end — goodbye!”  Instead it is a “new beginning — welcome!”