Homily: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Well, we’re all still here, so apparently the prediction wasn’t accurate. Have you guys heard about this? The story about David Meade, the biblical numerologist, who claimed that the end of the world was to begin yesterday, September 23rd? His proposition was based on the biblical significance of the number 33 (namely, that Jesus lived for 33 years here on earth), the fact that the total solar eclipse was exactly 33 days from September 23rd, and that, on that same day, a planet, named “Planet X”, was supposed to pass by earth at close proximity and cause numerous natural disasters to occur at the same time: volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. I’m not sure how Mr. Meade got around the fact that NASA has repeatedly stated that “Planet X” doesn’t exist and that, regardless, there is no planet whose trajectory would take it anywhere near earth anytime in the foreseeable future, but, thanks be to God, it appears that his prediction isn’t accurate and so it doesn’t really matter.
Or is it? I mean, maybe he isn’t right on about the “how” and the “when”, but he might still be on to something. With Western Society seemingly trying to consume itself into oblivion and with the great slew of natural disasters currently occurring (say nothing of the saber rattling going on between President Trump and Kim Jong-un), Mr. Meade might, actually, be on to something. In fact, as Catholics, I think that we have to say that he is right: doomsday approaches… the end is nigh! Why do we need to say this? Well, because we’ve been saying it for nearly 2000 years.
You see, the first Christians took seriously Jesus’ words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven when he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” “These things…” to which Jesus was referring were the signs of the apocalypse, namely that “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” And so, the first Christians made haste—and none hastier than Saint Paul—to try to preach the Gospel to the whole world before these “things” would took place. Saint Paul was always ready to leave this world at a moment’s notice—as is evidenced by his words to the Philippians in the second reading and which demonstrates his conviction that the end was nigh—but, nonetheless, he was content to continue working in this world for the benefit of those to whom he preached until the Lord returned.
Eventually, of course, that generation began to die off, thus prompting some Christians to begin to question whether or not the “end” was truly “nigh”. That’s why, in later writings of the New Testament, we see the authors beginning to try to explain how this makes sense. They found hope in Jesus’ words that, when he returned, those who were in the graves would be raised up: that none of them would be lost. This didn’t diminish, however, the urgency with which they continued to proclaim the Gospel. They refused to believe that, what seemed to them as a delay, meant that Jesus had given up all-together. Thus, they continued to preach that “the end is nigh” so that no one would be caught off-guard.
Nearly two-thousand years later, we’ve softened the “the end is nigh” rhetoric, a bit, but it nonetheless is a core teaching of our message. This is, in part, why we still read passages in our liturgies like the passage that we read from the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near” the prophet said. The prophet was implying, of course that there may be a time—in the near future, even—in which the Lord may not be found and in which he may not be near. We read this again today to wake us up to the same reality: it will not always be possible to find God when we seek him nor will God always be near to us when we call. The end is nigh. Thus, we are reminded of the urgency with which we must continually seek the Lord while he may be found and call on him while he is near.
Even the parable that Jesus gives us in the Gospel reading today tells us something of the urgency that should still motivate us. There, the landowner shows himself going out repeatedly during the day to seek workers for his vineyard. We see that, even up to the last hour of the work day, if he finds workers who have not been hired for the day, he will hire them and send them out to his vineyard to earn a day’s wage. Although it is easy to focus on what seems to be an injustice to the workers who worked all day long, I want to draw your attention to something that might be easy to overlook: that, ultimately, the day ended and, thus, that the landowner no longer went out to look for any more workers. Seek the Lord while he may be found…
My brothers and sisters, Planet X may not have passed close to the earth yesterday, thus sparing us from the horrible consequences that might have occurred, but that does not mean that the end is not nigh. As our Lord has told us, we know “neither the day, nor the hour” of our Lord’s return, meaning that it could still be something that is close at hand. And so our job is not to “seek to know the day and the hour”, but rather it is to “seek the Lord while he may be found” and to help others to do the same. We seek him when we seek him in our daily personal prayer, in the sacraments, celebrated in a worshiping community, and in the poor, whom we serve with generous hearts; and we help others to do so when we invite them to seek the Lord with us.
And so, as we approach this altar on which we encounter the Lord who is still near to us, let us call to him and ask him to strengthen us on our journey: so that, whether the end of the world comes today or another 2000 years’ worth of todays from now, we will be ready to run to him when he comes in glory.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – September 24th, 2017