Twenty-eighth and Last Sunday after Pentecost-23 November AD
“Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till
all these things have been accomplished. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my
words will not pass away.”
His Eminence Christopher Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of
celebrating a balloon “Mass” according to the “Ordinary Rite”
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
This year more than the usual number of people have asked
me whether or not I believe that we are in the “end times,” the period just
before the Second Coming, the General Judgment, and the end of the world. I tend
to take a “wait and see” attitude about such things, but it is easy to see
where people’s concern comes from. Everyone is worried that we might see a
replay of the Great Depression. There are “wars and rumors of war,” and
people who want to start a war in the middle east in order to hasten the end of
the world! There are warnings of catastrophic global warming-or perhaps global
cooling, depending upon whom you talk to. Political leaders spending billions
and trillions of dollars seem to have no idea of where such money will come
from, or even exactly what it will be spent upon. More and more, human life and
basic human rights are in serious jeopardy, as are morality and basic
decency-and speaking out about such things is rapidly approaching a criminal
offence. In centuries past we had similar failures in civil society, but we are
always able to rely on the stability of Holy Mother Church, a luxury on which we
can no longer count.
Yet, the “generation that would not pass away until all
of our Lord’s predictions were accomplished” seems to be the “human
generation,” and not just those who were living at the time of Christ, or at
the end of a thousand years later. Indeed, our Lord added to these remarks: “But
of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father
alone.” So it would be the height of presumption for me to tell anyone whether
the end is at hand or will come in the far distant future. We are forced to take
that “wait and see” attitude.
In the middle ages people simply resolved to live a good
life in order to prepare for a good death. It did not matter that the world was
going to end today or a thousand years from now, they listened to our Lord’s
preaching in order to prepare themselves both for their own end and for the end
of time; both for their own particular judgment and for the final judgment. It
did not much matter what else went on in the world, for their job was to know,
love, serve God in this world, in order to be happy with Him in the next.
The Church places our Lord’s teachings before us in what
we call the liturgical year. Beginning in late November or early December, the
Church uses the readings and ceremonies of the Mass so that we may understand
the purpose of our life on earth, and the way in which we can live life to
prepare for a good death.
We learn of our beginnings: Creation. The Fall of Adam and
Eve. The Incarnation. The Redemption. And, we are warned of our end. Through the
liturgy of the Mass, we see in a symbolic way, the end of the world and our own
We have but one life, and it will end some day. But,
unlike our regular existence, in the liturgy we are given the opportunity to
begin again. And we are about to, once again, begin at the beginning. Next week
we begin the new Church year with the season of Advent
Things should be notably different. The vestments and the
altar drapes will be the penitential purple. The chant is more simple and
subdued. There will be no Glória in the Masses of the season; no Te
Deum at Matins. Only the Sunday Masses of the season will have Alleluia
The idea that we can begin things over with the new
liturgical year suggests that we have the opportunity to change the things that
went wrong in our spiritual lives in the past-the opportunity to do better this
time. Advent is a call to introspection and to strengthen one’s resolve.
In today’s Epistle, Saint Paul wrote about what is
expected of us: “May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will....”
“May you walk worthy of God and please Him in all things....”
“May you bear fruit in every good work....”
“May you grow in the knowledge of God....”
“May you be strengthened unto patience and long-suffering....”
We can prepare ourselves so that Advent is fruitful. Try
to put yourselves into the shoes of Old Testament people after the fall of Adam
and Eve; estranged from God, and awaiting a redeemer-a 4000 year Advent. Read
the scriptural works which they had available to them; that would be chiefly
Isaias the prophet. Then, in the few days just before Christmas, read also the
New Testament fulfillment of these prophecies; in Luke and Matthew.
Make your "new year's" resolutions now. Follow
the Church's traditional Advent observance:
b) Introspection; “how can I do better?”
c) Penance; particularly in abstaining from worldly distractions (eg: movies,
TV, trash novels, and other time wasters.)
d) Advent is not the time for Christmas parties.
e) Good works; do something positive.
f) Spiritual reading.
g) Fasting & abstinence; Fridays, Ember days, vigils, pick an extra day.
j) Weekday Mass.
The end of the world will surely come. We have our Lord's
word for it in this Gospel, and in next week's. But, more importantly, the end
will surely come for us. For some, this may be the last liturgical year. But,
hopefully, all or most of us have at least one more year to get things in order.
Hopefully, most of us will not see the lightning coming
from the east to the west, the gathering of eagles, the darkening of the sun, or
the blood red darkness of the moon. But, in our own proper time, all of us will
some day see the “Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power
and majesty” to judge the living and the dead-for we will all see Judgment
For most of us the end will come not with awesome events.
But, rather, for most of us, it will “come as a thief in the night.” “Let
him who hears understand!!” Let us all begin to prepare by making a holy