C Cycle – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
My experience tells me there are many scripture passages like this one which we will listen to or read, then we will quickly move on without giving it another thought. Often the readings like this are not even listened to for our minds begin to wander as it reflects on the opulence of the temple, and to those beautiful churches we like to visit. It seems we are fascinated by older churches with their art, marble, statues and yes glittering gold candle holders and vessels. But there is a danger in getting caught up in things which can be seen and today Jesus is reminding us these things are unimportant because they will not last.
That statement, will not last, does not just apply to the temple in Jerusalem. We know it was destroyed but Jesus is talking about more than just one temple not lasting. There are other physical things which will not last. There are other spiritual things which can capture our senses which have nothing to do with our salvation. Those things touch our senses, but they fail to change us and do nothing to help us become disciples who believe.
The building was never meant to be our focus of our faith. Instead our attention should be on the foundation of the Church, Jesus Christ. Yet it is Jesus, the one who offers us life, we ignore as our eyes are drawn to externals of our faith. Jesus came to restore what was lost by the sin of Adam and today He is giving us a lesson in discipleship. He reminds us today of the one reality we must hold central in our quest for holiness. That one reality is how often do we and how bold are we in acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
This gospel lists all the things which afflict us during our life on earth. Jesus is leading us to understand a key to rising above those things and to living as disciples. Jesus is telling us there is only one thing that matters in our faith journey and that is the importance of trusting in the promises of God.
Jesus is telling us there are going to be things beyond our control and those things can seem overwhelming and leave us questioning God’s provident care of us. Jesus reminds us we live in a broken, sinful world. In our lifetime, Jesus reminds us there will be wars, famine, earthquakes, disease, pain, abandonment, and things that frighten us because they destroy our confidence that God cares about us.
Yet in this gospel there is a deeper message that Jesus reveals as the key to knowing will never abandon us. He tells us our faith, what we believe about God and how deeply we believe in salvation through Jesus Christ will be challenged by the events in our lives. That is a definitive statement and yet so often, as the forces of an evil world assail us, we wonder – does God really know what I am going through. The truth is the world will challenge us to believe in another source of overcoming our trials and that is “God helps those who help themselves.”
Jesus is telling us the secret to being not only being overcomers, but He reveals the key is to become very vocal about our belief in Him. Disciples remain confident, standing up and proclaiming Our God Reigns even during pain and suffering. Notice in this gospel our preparedness is measured by our willingness to speak out and refute those who tell us God does not care.
This is not a matter of how much church doctrine we have learned. It is not a matter of how much time we spend in church or how well we know the church documents. It is a matter of how well we have utilized the things God promised to give us to change our hearts.
It is a matter of opening ourselves up to read the scriptures through which God reveals Himself to us. It is in the scriptures we will discover how desperately God desires to be in an intimate relationship with us. It is in the scriptures we will discover the voice of Good revealing His plans to restore us and make us holy men and women. Not by our efforts by us surrendering to the transforming power of the Spirit, sent by God to make us holy. John in concluding his gospel said, “… these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30).
That statement alone is reason enough to listen to gospel’s like today’s because if we are not seeking the heart of God it is too easy to ignore the words of scripture because they do not seem relevant to today. That is exactly to point of today’s gospel, it is too easy to become fixated on externals and ignore the two gifts of God, given to us to lead us to holiness – Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Today Jesus gives us a vivid picture of success as a disciple. It is one who believes in Jesus Christ and God’s promises and is not distracted by external forces which afflict us.
How often we are persecuted for our faith. How often are we in discussions to defend our faith, our belief in the things we believe. I am not speaking of doctrine and defending our beliefs as Catholic’s. I am speaking of defending the Christian faith against forces that are daily battling to restrict our expressions of faith. There is a very real battle going of by forces seeking to push Christians and all expressions of faith from the public domain.
Our challenge is to stand on the promises of God who said “we would be given wisdom to speak and defend our faith if only we dare to step up and risk being ridiculed, ostracized, shouted down, the loss of our jobs and our friends because we dare to proclaim Christ as Lord. Christ gave us a very good reason to stand up and proclaim our belief in a loving God when He said: “…whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Mt. 10:32-33).