33rd Sunday: The Time We Have Left
Their forty year old son had attacked his father. For years he had treated him as though he were an ignorant old man. But this time he pushed the envelope. He called his father stupid. The man’s wife was livid. After all they did for this son, he should act like that. Nothing could hurt her worse than seeing how her husband was treated. But she was shocked when her husband said, “Dear, let it go. They are only words.”
“How can you say, that?” she screamed. “He is going against everything we raised him to be. Where is his respect for his parents?”
“Darling,” the man responded, “You and I are not going to be on this world a whole lot longer. Why spend the time we have left at war with one of our children? He can choose to destroy himself with his anger, but we don’t have to destroy ourselves. Eventually, he may move on from this. But I will move on. I don’t intend to stay upset for the rest of my life.”
There is only so much time that we have in this world. There is only so much time that we are both physical and spiritual. We have to use it the best we can.
Today’s readings speak about the time that the world has left as well as the time that we have left. The prophet Malachi says that the Day of the Lord is coming. In Sacred Scripture, the Bible, The Day of the Lord refers to the last days of the world. In the Gospel Jesus speaks about the trials that will come before the end of the world. As the Church year comes to an end, the readings speak about the end, the end of time.
When we hear these readings we are tempted to dismiss them as something in the far future, something we most probably will not experience. We forget that the end of our own days will certainly come, and much sooner than any of us anticipate. So the father in the story is correct: None of us can allow hatred, anger or upset to destroy the time we have left to serve the Lord.
“Besides,” Malachi and Jesus say, “God will take care of all those who put him first in their lives.” This is not limited to those who lay down their lives for God, the martyrs like Ignatius of Antioch and Agnes, Sebastian and Agatha, Isaac Jogues and Cecilia, although it is certainly referring to them. But the promise also is given to all who put the way of the Lord before the way of the world. You see, the way of the world is to seek vengeance on those who hurt us, to get them back in a manner they will never forget. My Italian ancestors call this a vendetta.
This is not the way of the Christian. The way of the Lord is to forgive and move on. “Love your enemies,” we read Matthew 5, the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Many wags have added, “it will drive them crazy.” It will drive them crazy because none of us expect to be loved by others as Jesus loves us. None of us are prepared to handle people who love us for no apparent reason. But that is how Jesus loves us. It is how he expects us to treat others.
Malachi concludes by saying, “for you who fear my name, there shall arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Justice belongs to the Lord. We will experience justice when He sees fit, not when we feel it needs to be shown. We very well may experience the one who hurt us doing well in the world and seeming to enjoy the blessings of God while living in a way that destroys the presence of the Lord. But God sees, God knows, and God will deal with the situation in due time, His time.
In fact, rather than wait for them “to get theirs,” we have been given the mandate to pray for those who persecute us. We are to pray for their conversion, their reform, before their opportunity to seek forgiveness comes to an end. Whoa! The Gospels tell us not just to love our enemies but to pray for them? Yes, that is all part of picking up our cross and following the Lord. We are called to pray for that guy who mocks us and has turned us into the butt of all jokes at work. We are called to pray for that woman who made up a story about us, got us fired and took our job. We are called to pray for that kid who is so jealous of us, that she devised a scheme to destroy us and we fell for it. So we went with the in crowd at the party and tried some drugs. Then the kid who offered them to us told enough people about it that the word carried through the whole school and worked its way to our coach, our parents and even our priest. We are called to pray for that kid. We are called to pray for that woman, that man, fifteen years younger than us, who flirted with our spouse and stole him or her from us. The Gospels are telling us not to hold vendettas. They are telling us to pray for those who have hurt us. Our time on earth is limited. We have to make the best use of it.
Sure, we live in the turmoil created by those elements of the world that have rejected, or simply ignored the spiritual. The Day of the Lord will come for the world. We have a role in this. We are told by the Lord to give testimony to God and His way in our lives. Is this difficult? You bet! Will those around us who love us, particularly our family and friends, question our actions? Probably. But, as the Gospel concluded, when we are questioned, we need to trust God to provide us with His answers. And always, always, no matter what the situation, no matter how intense the injury we suffer, we need to stand for the Lord. That is the way of the Christian. Jesus is our Savior. He saves us from the hatred that would destroy us.
Today we pray for the courage to live our Christianity.