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"Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, plagues and famines in various places — and in the sky fearful omens and great signs. But before any of this, they will manhandle and persecute you, summoning you to synagogues and prisons, bringing you to trial before kings and governors, all because of my name. You will be brought to give witness on account of it. I bid you resolve not to worry about your defense beforehand, for I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict. You will be delivered up even by your parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. All will hate you because of me, yet not a hair of your head will be harmed. By patient endurance you will save your lives."
The first reading is taken from the Prophecy of Malachi 3:19-20 and concerns the day of retribution, of judgment when the Lord will punish the wicked and reward His faithful ones.
The second reading is from the the second letter of Paul to the Thessalonians 3:7-12, in which he addresses those few in the community who were unwilling to earn their daily bread and were abusing the charity of their fellow Christians.
The Gospel is from St. Luke, 21:5-19. The reason why these verses of St. Luke's gospel were chosen for today's Mass is that the Church wants us all to do a bit of spiritual stock-taking this morning. As next Sunday will be the special feastday of the Kingship of Christ, today's Mass is really the last of our liturgical year. Next Sunday, we begin our new liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent. To help us to be honest with ourselves in our stock-taking we are reminded today that this world will come to an end one day. We do not know when or how, but that end will come. It will be followed immediately by the general judgment. Christ will come in power and glory to judge the whole human race. Each one will receive the sentence he merited while on earth. The just will enter with Him into eternal glory. The wicked will go to their place of suffering, sorrow and remorse.
Long before that day comes, each of us here present today will already have faced his or her own particular judgment. It is this judgment which will seal our eternal fate. It it on this judgment that we should try to concentrate this morning. It is to help and encourage us to do just this that the church brings the thought of the end of the world before our minds. The end of this world will come for each one of us when we draw our last breath. How will we stand in God's sight when that moment comes? An eternity of happiness or grief will depend on our spiritual state at that moment.
The thought of death is a frightening thought for most of us. We would rather put it far from our minds, but of all the other things that can possibly happen to us on this earth, death is the one and only certainty. It would be utter folly then to try to ignore it or forget it. It is not the moment or the circumstances or the fact itself of death that matters. The vast majority, even of those dying of a slow illness, do not know that they are on the point of death. What matters is the judgment which follows death. How will we fare in that?
Each one of us can put the following simple question to ourselves this very moment. How would I fare if I were called before the judgment seat of God today? The best of us would certainly prefer to be better prepared. There is so much good I have left undone, so many faults for which I have not atoned properly, so many uncharitable thoughts about my friends and neighbors in my mind, so many acts of charity I kept postponing, so many acts of thanksgiving and praise I have not made to my loving God.
What of those who have even more serious sins on their consciences? Over two hundred thousand people will leave this world between now and midnight. If we were called, and we have no guarantee that we will not be called today, could we dare to face our judgment in our present state? "Today if you hear God's voice harden not your heart" the scripture warns us. Today you have heard Him speak to you. He has reminded you that your end is coming, that you should put your spiritual accounts in order. This is an act of God's mercy. He does not need you, It is you who need Him. Your eternal future will depend on whether you listen to His call today, as tomorrow may be too late. You can put your accounts straight this very day. Why take a risk with your own eternal welfare?
The Christian who wants to die in the state of grace, that is, in the friendship of God (and can there be any real Christian who would not want to?) has but one way of making sure of this. He is to try to live always in God's friendship. The man who does this by living his Christian life daily need not fear death. It may be a sudden death, but it will never be an unprovided-for death.
— Excerpted from The Sunday Readings Cycle C, Fr. Kevin O' Sullivan, O.F.M.