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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Active Waiting for the End of the World Requires Faith Not Suicide

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov 13, 2016
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya
Fr. Joe and his smiling congregation 
Many Jews were apathetic about their religious duties and keeping the commandments during the time of the Prophet Malachi, 470 B.C.In our first reading today,(Malachi 3:19-20) he warns his listeners that the day of reward and punishment is coming. Fire is the symbol that represents both the reward and the punishments.

A theme central to Jesus teaching is the kingdom of God with much focus on the "end times." For a period of over 600 years the Jews had suffered under one kingdom after another: the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. As Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom, a question that came up frequently was "When is this going to happen?" Jesus made it clear that no one knows the day except the Father (Mk 13:32). 

Then they asked him,“Teacher, when will this happen?And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”He answered,“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” (from the Sunday Gospel reading, Luke 21: 5-19)

Yet in every age Christians have come up with predictions on the exact date of the end of the world. Some prophecies ended in utter catastrophe as in the Joseph  Kibweteere 
They were told to expect to see the Blessed Virgin Mary when
they were locked into the Church and burned to death.
case in Uganda in 2000. Expecting the end of the world, followers of the obscure Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God were locked up into a church in the small town of Kanungu. Estimates put the number killed at 778, including children, as sect leaders burned the Church down with the people inside. Afterwards, "Bishop" Kibweteere -- the sect leader -- was reported hiding in Malawi. The people killed had given up all their financial assets to the cult before they were killed. 
Former prostitute Caledonia Mwerinde (left),
one of the sect's leaders, allegedly had visions of
the Blessed Virgin Mary naming the date 
of the end of the world. "Bishop" Kibweteere on the right

All these millennial predictions of the end of the world have been mistaken, yet some people have chosen to be deceived. 

As Jesus was predicting about the end times, he touches on something which the Jews valued most, The Temple. The people of Israel did not have a temple right from the begining. In the desert, they had a tent, and the Ark of the Covenant, containing the two stone tablets of the 10 commandments, some manna and the budded staff of Aaron.

It was David's son, Solomon who finally built the original Temple in Jerusalem on top of a hill called Moriah ( 1 Kings 5-7). According to tradition this was the mountain where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22). The Temple was first destroyed in 587 B.C. It proved to be a national and religious disaster, and forced Judaism to re-organise itself. 

In today's Gospel, when Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple of His time, the one  re-buildlt  by King Herod I, He speaks of the end of an era, of the end of time. This is a kind of end that forces people to live in a different manner, but still to live. 

Romans destroy the Temple in 70 AD
Since the Temple is so important, its destruction is taken as sign of the end of time. In fact, a world is coming to an end and a new way of facing life has got to be found. The earthquakes, wars and other natural calamities are apocalyptic images -- not to frighten us -- but to encourage us to persevere in hope in times when personal suffering and national tragedies seem to crush us. In this way we will gain our souls. 

Jesus tells his disciples that they will suffer for being his followers and be rejected just like He was. However, God's power and plan of salvation will not be frustrated by dark forces or any catastrophe. The big question now is: How well are we prepared?

Prepare! Try everyday to live your Christian life. If we do our best, a kingdom of peace and justice will take root. We must daily water the seed of love that Jesus has already planted in us, pass on to others the light of faith, act as yeast Jesus has put in the dough,  ferment the world with the Gospel values and  serve as salt to preserve the world from every 
 corruption. All this means that we can't sit down doing nothing, just waiting for the end time. It means that we need to keep ourselves always busy (though not acting as busy bodies) "working day and night even to the point of exhaustion " (2 Thess 3:8), in order to hasten the coming of God's Kingdom.

But such an active waiting for the end calls for patient endurance, because not only problems and pains are part of our every day life but we who walk with Christ must also be ready to lose our life for the Gospel. Until that day we prepare by gathering together in faith and listening to his words, while being nourished by his own body and blood.

Sometimes life is a joy; sometimes it is a great struggle. In the process, God is making something new as the Book of Revelation tells us. In the end for those who have been faithful to God, evil, sickness and death will not have its way with us; we shall rejoice in God's peace and love forever. Amen.
Have a blessed Sunday. And join me in praying for my mum Lucy Nungari Mungai who is not feeling well.

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