Meditating on the End to Understand the Goal, by Archbishop Francesco Follo – ZENIT – English

XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – November 13, 2022

Roman Rite M1 3.19-20; Salt 97; 2Ts 3.7-12; Luke 21.5-19

I Advent Sunday (Year A)

The coming of the Lord

1) Reflect on the end of the world to know its final end.

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, which gives rhythm to our life, the Church makes us meditate on the end of everything, to give the start to the “All”, which is Eternal Life.

The Word of God invites us today to meditate on the ultimate realities, in order to be able to know and understand the signs of the times with a look of faith on the world and on our life, and to prepare ourselves with confidence for the final encounter with the love of God. Indeed, whoever has a loving trust in God is able to persevere and deserves life forever.

In today’s Gospel passage the Messiah teaches us to live with persevering trust and witness, discovering more and more that “what you could not receive immediately because of your weakness, you receive at other times through your perseverance.” (cf. St Ephrem the Syrian (306 – 373), taken from DiatessaronIV century.).

Speaking of wars, revolutions, famines, persecutions and other sad events, Christ does not intend to panic the disciples of yesterday and those of today. He wants to teach that life’s difficulties, big or small, are opportunities to grow stronger in faith and hope.

On the one hand, to hold on, to persevere, in expectation of Christ, is our ultimate End. This is the method for welcoming the Expected and how he will make his home among us: He is the Emmanuel, God with us – always. On the other hand, the time that separates us from the end to always remain with the Last End is the time of witnessing. During this period, we experience the closeness of God and his love, who never abandons his disciples, but remains close to them to also tell them what language to use in the face of the persecutors (cf. lc 21.15).

Jesus encourages us to remain faithful to Him until the end. Let’s wait to meet Him with perseverance, hold on. He will transform our difficulties, our fears and anxieties, even those of death, into a glorious resurrection.

2) Two witnesses of perseverance

There are many saints who are examples of perseverance and witnesses of true expectation. I choose two: Saint John, the precursor, and the Virgin Mary, because they are the two pillars of the portal that Jesus passed through to enter our history.

Both were not waiting for something but someone. They did not seek to discern more or less apocalyptic facts to decide what to do in the more or less near future: they expected nothing less than God. They weren’t waiting for better days, nor a vague utopia, nor a hero, but were really waiting for God.

Saint John the Baptist was simply waiting for God, this God who came to put order, to judge and to save. The precursor was a man determined for everything, until the end. He had no qualms about calling the leaders of the people a “race of vipers” and blaming King Herod for all his misdeeds. He feared neither prison nor beheading. He persevered in being “simply” a voice that resonates in the desert and through everything, even through blocked ears. John the Baptist was a true witness, who pointed with perseverance to the presence of the Lamb of God and sealed that indication by laying down his life. This shows how to bear witness, that is to say how to be martyrs – He is a model for all Christians (lay people, religious, priests and bishops) – how to be missionaries of Christ: no one must announce itself, nor replace the Word with chatter, we must all be only the voice of the One who grows among us, who is always greater than us.

The Virgin Mary also waited for God. She knows what the angel said to her: “The Saint you are carrying will be called the Son of the Most High; and his kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1, 31 ff). But his expectation is not like that of John the Baptist who awaited “the unimaginable”, who advanced with the fire, the ax and the winnowing shovel. She was expecting a small child. But for a mother, isn’t a child who is God something unimaginable? Won’t this child come to “cast fire on the earth”? And will not a sword pierce the mother’s heart? But the Virgin Mary waited with perseverance, welcomed him into herself and gave to humanity (to each of us) Someone “meek and humble of heart”, who will “not make his voice heard in the public squares and will not quench the wick that is failing” (Mt 11, 29, 12, 19 s). Mary also persevered in her walk alongside Christ, from Nazareth where she conceived him by the work of the Holy Spirit, to Jerusalem where Jesus emitted the Spirit and recreated the world.

Our heavenly Mother is therefore, for us, a model of excellence, who shows us how we can and must witness.

The end of time and the terrible signs that indicate it terrify us, not only because they are terrifying but also because they announce to us the inexorable end of the world.

What to do ? “Convert and do penance” says John the Baptist. “To carry Christ within us for others” says the mother of God to us. We have to go from “me” to “you”, to God. Pass from a sterile and selfish behavior to a loving and fruitful behavior for others, by following Christ, Emmanuel with us and for you.

3) The example of consecrated virgins in the world.

Here is now a brief reflection on how the consecrated virgins in the world can serve as examples for us to follow John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary.

At the school of Saint John, these consecrated women learn not to speak of Christ but to point him out by applying the phrase daily: “I must make myself small if I want him to grow”. The consecrated virgins show that the Precursor not only invites to a sober lifestyle but also to an interior change, thanks to which one welcomes the light of He who is “the greatest” and has made himself small, the “most strong” and made himself weak.

At the school of Mary, consecrated women learn to live virginity as an intense desire, an intense fruitful life. Thanks to their consecration, the miracle of the virginal motherhood of the Mother of God is reproduced.

Here is how the Church describes in the Roman Pontifical, for the consecration of Virgins (see also prayer of consecration of virgins n° 24) this “holy race” which flourishes from the incarnation of God and the grace of baptism: “While protecting the nuptial blessing, which flows from marital status, there must be nobler souls who renounce the physical community of man and woman, and tend to the mystery which marriage contains to give all their love for the mystery indicated by marriage, consecrating themselves to Him who is husband and son of eternal virginity”.

But here we have the great mystery of the Church: the union between “divinity” and “humanity” in the womb of the Virgin. This is why the Church blesses the virgins in the prayers of consecration by saying this: “May the Creator of heaven and earth bless you, He who deigned to choose you for communion with the blessed Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ”. His life is simply a model. “May the image, yes, of virginity be for you the life of Mary, from which is reflected, like a mirror, the beauty of chastity and the rule of all virtue” (Saint Ambrose, De Virginibus, II, 2, 6, PL 16, 108). If the Church wants to remain what she is, “the Virgin, let her be a virgin” (Saint Augustine, Discourse 1,8). There must be those “noble souls who imitate in their bodies what happened in Mary and anticipate what the Church, saved, will receive in glory.

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Sermon on Psalm 95

“A new land, where justice will dwell”.

All the trees of the forests will leap for joy before the face of the Lord, for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He came once, and he will come. ~ The first time, his word resounded in the Gospel: From now on, you will see the Son of man coming on the clouds. Why now? Will not the Son of Man come later, when all the tribes of the earth will mourn? He first came in the person of his preachers and thus he filled the whole earth. Let us not resist the first advent if we do not want to fear the second. ~

So what should the Christian do? Using the world, not serving the world. What does it consist of? To possess, as if one did not possess. This is what Saint Paul says: Besides, brothers, time is limited. Therefore, let those who have a wife be as if they had no wife; those who cry, as if they were not crying, those who rejoice, as if they were not rejoicing, those who shop, as if they had nothing, those who use this world, as if they did not use it, for it passes, the figure of this world. I want you to be free from worries. He who is free from care waits with security for the coming of his Lord. For do we love the Lord when we dread his coming? My brothers, are we not ashamed? We love, and we dread his coming! Do we really love, or do we not love our sins more? We will hate our sins themselves, and we will love the one who will come to punish the sins. He will come, whether we like it or not. Just because he’s not coming now doesn’t mean he won’t. He will come, and you don’t know when. And if he finds you ready, it doesn’t hurt you if you don’t know. ~

And all the trees in the forest will leap for joy. He came first, and he will come to judge the earth. He will find those who believed in his first coming leaping with joy, for he is coming. ~

He will judge the world with justice, and the peoples with his truth. What justice and what truth? He will gather his elect unto him for judgment, and the rest he will separate, for he will put these on his right hand, and those on his left.

What could be more just, more true than that: they will not expect mercy from the judge, those who did not want to show mercy before the judge came. Those who wanted to exercise mercy will be judged with mercy. For he will say to those whom he has placed on his right: Come, blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. And he attributes acts of mercy to them: I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, and all the rest.

Those whom he has placed on his left, what does he reproach them with? For not wanting to exercise mercy. And where will they go? Go to the eternal fire. This fatal sentence will arouse a great groan. But what does another psalm say? We will never forget the righteous. He does not fear a disastrous sentence. What is this fatal sentence? Go to the eternal fire, prepared for the demon and his angels. He who rejoices in a favorable sentence will not fear a disastrous sentence. ~ Here is justice, here is truth.

Because you are unfair, the judge will not be fair? Because you’re a liar, the truth won’t be true? But if you want to meet a merciful judge, be merciful before he comes. Forgive, if you have been offended. Give away the goods you have in abundance. And with what will you give, if not with what you get from him? If you gave of your good, it would be generosity. Since you give what you get from him, it’s restitution. What do you have that you did not receive? These are the sacrifices that are very pleasing to God: mercy, humility, gratitude, peace, charity. If this is what we bring, we will confidently await the advent of the judge, he who will judge the world with justice, and the peoples according to his truth.

We wish to give thanks to the author of this article for this outstanding material

Meditating on the End to Understand the Goal, by Archbishop Francesco Follo – ZENIT – English

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