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It’s not the end of the world

November 13, 2016

A reflection for the 33 Sunday, Ordinary time, Year C. The readings are Malachi 3:19-20a, Psalm 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 and Luke 21:5-19.

Earlier this week I found myself listening to R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World (although I much prefer the cover by Great Big Sea). It’s a good song and, while I’m not exactly sure what it’s about, I always think about it around this time of the year when all the Mass readings have to do with the end of times, as we approach the end of the Liturgical Year.

I sometimes wonder when listening to the readings at Mass at this time of the year whether we should be proclaiming them as “the Good News!” Certainly hearing about earthquakes, famine, plagues, wars, destruction and persecution makes me wonder if the Gospel writers were thinking about the time we are living right now!

And then we have this crazy U.S. election, and everyone is running around like Chicken Little crying “the sky is falling!” and “it’s the end of the world!” (Some would accuse me of saying it would be the end of the world if Trump won.) Think of the irony: This Gospel reading today, one the same week of what’s taking place in the U.S. We can look at the reading and think, “bad things will happen and we should be afraid” or we can look at it and think, “bad things will but it’s not the end of the world.”

The truth is that there has always been earthquakes, [we especially remember victims of the earthquake today in New Zealand] war and destruction. Did Jesus tell us to watch for those things because those things are happening all the time? Surely, at some level he was speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (which took place in the year 70 AD under the Emperor Nero and the leadership of Vespasian – in fact, most Christians survived because Jesus had warned them about the signs and they escaped before the destruction started). At another level, I do think that Jesus was warning us to be attentive all the time. Isn’t that what we try to remember every Advent?

But it’s not just a matter of being attentive but also how we are attentive. How are we attentive to what’s happening in the world right now? Are we attentive with hope or with fear?

That was perhaps, what bothered me the most about this U.S. election. It was a campaign of fear. The day after the vote, a friend was telling me about the election night eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected. He was living in the States at the time. On that night, he said, people were out on the streets and there was an air of hope and joy. On election night last Tuesday, it seemed that people were resigned. Sure there must have been happy people somewhere, but his sense (and mine too) is that many people who voted for Donald Trump did so, not because they were excited about him as a great candidate of hope and change, but rather because they felt cornered.

I compare it to the recent experience I told you about a few weeks ago, with the Mexican woman whose husband was in hospital in a vegetative state. She could remove life-support or she could have the doctors continue to try to keep him alive through extraordinary means, even though he was not responsive and with no prospect of recovery. How does one make that choice? It is no choice. [This is the “choice” that women who desperately choose abortion make. I don’t think women choose abortion like you and I choose to go out for ice cream after dinner. For many, choosing an abortion is like an animal that is caught in a trap “choosing” to gnaw its own leg off.]

A choice that we make out of fear is no choice at all.

Jesus Christ came to free us from fear. In fact He came to bring us Hope. He came to fill us with Faith, Hope and Love.

I’m reminded of a talk I once heard from a Sister of Life. She asked us what the opposites of Faith, Hope and Love are.

Hope is an easy one. The opposite of Hope is despair.

Faith is having trust in God. When we do not trust in God, we trust in ourselves. That is pride. The opposite of Faith is pride.

Love is a bit harder. She argued that the opposite of Love is not hate; hate is a response. The real opposite of Love is fear. That is why we believe that perfect Love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Having this knowledge has made a significant impact in how I live my day-to-day. The devil wants us to be motivated by pride, despair and fear. On the complete other hand, Jesus wants us always to be motivated by Faith, Hope and Love.

How do you live your life? When you make decisions, small and big, what motivates you? Do you respond mainly out of fear? Do you act because of pride? Are you living your life in a state of despair?

Next Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is a feast that reminds us that Jesus is the Supreme Ruler of our lives. He is the one who rules over us and we should have no other “kings” before Him. Who rules your life? Who rules your decision-making? What ideologies rule in your day-to-day living?

The Kingdom of Jesus is one of Faith, Hope and Love. When we submit to Him and His reign we make a pledge to live by His rules. When we stand here at Mass and profess the Creed; when we receive Him in the Eucharist; when we gather at Mass in His name; when we say, “Your Kingdom come,” we are saying that we accept Him as King of our lives.

Do not let what you see in the news rule your life. Yes, in some way things will be different with the new American government. Maybe it will be the best government ever; maybe it will a disaster, but it’s not the end of the world. And, hey, there’s ISIS and there’s terrorism,  and there’s BREXIT and there’s a refugee crisis and yes, there’s climate change. But it’s not the end of the world. And in our personal lives there’s sickness and unemployment and debt and poverty and divorce, and sure feels like it’s the end of the world, but it isn’t.

Do not let pride, despair or fear rule in your life or motivate your actions. The battle has been won! Jesus Christ is the King of the universe and his Kingdom is one of Faith, Hope and Love!

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