As we begin to move closer to the end of our Liturgical Year, today’s readings speak of the end times. In the First Reading, from the book of Revelation, John speaks of a vision he had in which the earth was ready for harvest. Indeed, the earth was harvested because the grapes were ripe, but the angel throws the grapes into the “great winepress of God’s fury.”
I think we can agree, this is not the image of God that we like to imagine! However, we are reminded that God, though loving and merciful, is just, and He will judge and reward us according to how we followed the Greatest Commandments. Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:27-29). One way that we can prepare for the harvest is to practice the good exercise of a daily Examination of Conscience, reflecting on how we can better love God and others, and ask God to give us grace to do better the next day where we have failed. In this way we prepare ourselves to live the life of grace God has called us to and be ready for the time He will call us home.
We turn then to the Gospel, which begins with some people speaking of the Temple being “adorned with costly stones and votive offerings.” (Luke 21:5) Jesus responds, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21: 6) What comes to mind here is the verse from 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” When all is said and done, and the end is near, our own outer appearance will not matter, the externals will be gone, but what is within our spirit remains. Recently, my daughters were having a conversation while we were driving. My youngest daughter, 4 years old, asked, “Mommy, what is a soul?” Before I could answer, my oldest daughter, 7 years old jumped to answer, saying, “Your soul brings your love to Jesus.”
That answer gave me pause. Is my soul full of love for Jesus? How can I increase my love for Jesus? If I were to meet Him tomorrow, would I have work to do before that time came? Is my love for Jesus overflowing so that each person I encounter can have a glimpse of the Lord?
Finally, the people speaking to Jesus are concerned about the end times. They ask Him when it will be and what they should look for. We all fear the unknown. We all have fear of the end. But, Jesus is very specific in His answer to them. The Lord acknowledges that there will be upheaval, wars, famine and disease. However, He is clear in His specific instructions- first, do not follow false prophets, and do not fear. The Lord calls us not only to follow Him, but to keep our eyes focused on Him alone. We know from the Gospel that the Lord is Our Good Shepherd, and if we follow His lead, we have nothing to fear, because He tells us, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9-10) This abundant life starts now, but is meant to continue into Eternity!