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Sunday:       Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Date:         November 14, 2010
Year:         C
The readings: [Mal. 4:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk. 21:5-19]
The message:  By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Total words:  1479

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** The readings follow the sermon.

A mother says to her ten years old son, "If you study hard all year and you get passing grades, next Summer, I will buy you a new bicycle." In order words, if her son does not study hard all year and he does not get passing grades, he will not receive a new bicycle next Summer.

A man goes to a store and tells the manager, "If you can get me the carpet that I want, I will buy it from you." In other words, if the store manager cannot get the carpet, the man will not buy it from him.

Have you noticed that by reversing what is being said, we often get a better understanding of what was said? For example, Jesus said, "By your endurance you will gain your souls." [Lk. 21:19] If we reverse these words, we get, "If you do not endure, you will lose your souls." Notice how reversing the sentence highlights two important things: first, the need to endure; secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the second.

Why is it absolutely necessary to endure in order to be saved? Today's readings answer that question by teaching us the importance of endurance. During the First Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in righteousness. In the Second Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in our imitation of the saints. And in the Gospel Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in our living faith. To summarize all of this, we must persevere in our living faith through righteousness and the imitation of the saints.

During the First Reading from the Book of Malachi, [Mal. 4:1-2] we heard the Lord say, "'See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up,' says the Lord of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.'" [Mal. 4:1]

In other words, the evildoers will be wiped off the face of the earth. When they die, there will be no tombstone to mark their graves. Over time, their existence will fade away from the memories of the passing generations until such a time when no one will remember that they ever existed.

But those who revere the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the Lord shall raise them, sanctify them and carry them to a safe place where no harm shall ever come to them. This refuge is Heaven, the safe place where the Lord rules forever as the Shepherd.

During the Second Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, [2 Thess. 3:7-12] we heard St. Paul's harsh words for those who fall short of imitating the saints, their brothers and sisters in Christ. Admonishing the disorderly, St. Paul told them that if they were unwilling to work, they should not eat. [2 Thess. 3:10]

Why were some unwilling to work? Like nowadays, some of the faithful believed that Jesus was about to return at any time to establish His Kingdom. As such, why work? It is much easier to just wait for Jesus to arrive and then all the problems of the world will be fixed! Right? Wrong! According to St. Paul, living in idleness, they were bored with themselves and they had become busybodies. They occupied their time with small talk, rumours, hearsay, slander, all of these things leading to disharmony and division. Because of their disorderly lives that disturbed others, they neglected fruitful work for the glory of the Lord.

To such persons, St. Paul commands and exhorts in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. [2 Thess. 3:12] Every Christian, when he is able to do so, he must support himself and not live off the income or wealth of the others.

In his exhortation, St. Paul was not trying to be mean to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, as a senior authority of the Church, He was simply re-establishing order in the Christian community where disorder had creeped in.

Reviewing today's Gospel Reading, [Luke 21:5-19] we heard Jesus' discourse on the fall of Jerusalem. While Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple which occurred in 70 A.D., those who were present were associating this event with the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Approaching the end of His ministry on earth, many of Jesus' followers recognized Him as the Messiah and they wanted to crown Him as their King. So when Jesus spoke of destruction or anything that could be associated with war, His followers assumed that the day was near when Jesus would rule over them. They were wrong because "the Kingdom of Jesus was not of this world." [Jn. 18:36]

The same false belief has been held throughout every generations, even to this day. Some people only read part of a Gospel Chapter and take the written Word of God out of context from the entire discourse of Jesus. What we find in Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke is a repetition of Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew and Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark. In each of these Chapters, we read the words of Jesus that say, "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place." [Lk. 21:32; Mt. 24:34; Mk. 13:30]

In other words, what Jesus was talking about around 30 A.D. were events that were to take place in the days of His generation. Forty years later, those who were still living around 70 A.D., they saw the completion of Jesus' prophecies that are found in today's Gospel Reading. So if anybody believes today that the events mentioned in Chapter 21 of the Gospel of Luke are about to happen, they are in error. They will wait in vain and nothing will come to pass.

As Saint Paul said in the previous Reading, we must not be idle, awaiting things that will not come to pass. We must move on with our lives, be fruitful in the work of the Holy Spirit, while awaiting the final return of Christ that will proceed Judgment Day and the resurrection of the bodies.

But while waiting for these great moments to come, we must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did so that we too may arrive to our eternal glory.

We must never forget that Jesus warned us when He said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them." [Lk. 21:8] Jesus said, "Do not go after them." In other words, "Do not believe them."

When Jesus said, "By your endurance you will gain your souls" [Lk. 21:19] He was referring to the suffering that the early Church Christian had to undergo following the crucifixion and death of Christ and His glorious Resurrection. He was warning His followers that some families would be divided because some would accept Christ as their Saviour while others would not. Consequently, those who believed in Jesus as their Saviour, they would endure the death of martyrs. Others, fearing death, they would betray family members, relatives, friends, etc... renounce their faith and disown Jesus as their Saviour.

While today's Gospel Reading was prophetic in nature and applied to the days of Jesus, if we set aside the prophecies, the remaining words of Jesus still apply to us today. We are still called to persevere in our living faith. This teaching of Jesus has never changed. It is echoed over and over throughout the New Testament. "To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life." [Rom. 2:7, 5:3-5, 8:25, 14:4]

Some of us do not have very heavy crosses to bear. Our lives have been pretty good, filled with blessings from the Lord. But we have some brothers and sisters who do have very heavy crosses to bear. From day to day, they persist in their living faith in Christ, not knowing if, because they are Catholics, they will be shot tomorrow, (England) or if they will be slaughtered as lambs by Muslim extremists (Africa, Indonesia, Philippines, etc...). Indeed, the cross is very heavy for many to bear. And we must pray for them, so they will persevere until the end, that they not be counted among those who have renounced their faith and their salvation in Jesus Christ.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for one another, that we all endure until the end so we will gain our souls.

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"The Lord says this: 'See, the day is coming, burning like an oven,when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble;the day that comes shall burn them up,' says the Lord of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.'" [Mal. 4:1-2]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

'Brothers and sisters, you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day,so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: 'Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.' For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." [2 Thess. 3:7-12]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, 'As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.'

They asked him, 'Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?' And Jesus said, Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near! Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.'

Then Jesus said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

You will be betrayed even by parents, by brothers and sisters, and by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.'" [Lk. 21:5-19]

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