How shall we endure?

Stand firm to the end, Jesus tells us. “By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”

Nov 11, 2022

               Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Rawi Alexander, OFM Cap

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Readings: Malachi 3:19-20;
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12;
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19

We don’t like things to be unfinished, do we? We don’t like half-baked cakes or ideas. We aren’t too fond of running out of paint just before the last wall in the room gets a coat. No one likes a runner who stops just short of the finish line. We like to know the ending. We like completion.

So it isn’t surprising that, when Jesus starts talking about the way things will be “at the end of the Age,” His disciples want to know “When, Lord? How will we know? What will be the sign that these things are about to take place?” But it also probably isn’t surprising that Jesus doesn’t give a cut-and-dried answer.

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, He 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.”

The disciples then asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And 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.

“How will we know the end is near?” the disciples ask Jesus. Well, if we had to boil down Jesus’ answer into one sentence, it might sound something like, “Things are gonna get a whole lot worse before they get any better.” His warnings of natural catastrophes, wars, famine, and other signs that the end is near do not offer much encouragement. And it gets worse. Not only will there be terrible things happening throughout the world, terrible things will happen to those who follow Jesus. Jesus warns the disciples that they will be betrayed by family members, arrested, persecuted, hated, and some will even be put to death.

Every time the media brings us news of another disaster, we may wonder, “Is this it, Lord?”
But Jesus says, “Not yet.”

Jesus says, “Do not be terrified.”

Jesus says that, when we are called to testify in court because of our faith, we don’t need to prepare an elaborate defence, because He will give us “words and a wisdom” that our opponents will not be able to contradict.

Stand firm to the end, Jesus tells us. “By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”

How shall we endure? Make no mistake, Jesus is not telling us that we must do this in our own strength or by our own force of will. Just as an athlete trains for endurance, we must also train for spiritual stamina to withstand the trials that must come, but we do not do this on our own. We endure because we have been redeemed. We endure because we have believed. We endure because we are children of God, completely dependent on God’s grace alone.

How shall we endure the suffering that comes with being a follower of Jesus Christ? By being a follower of Jesus Christ.

For it is in following Christ that we gain our souls. The word Luke uses here describes the essence of who we are. Some versions translate the word “psyche” as “very life.” By your endurance you will acquire your very own life. Jesus offers us more than mere existence. He offers us life that is full, rich, abundant, and eternal.

Such life, such endurance, is God’s gift freely given to all who believe, to all who claim Jesus both as Saviour and as Lord. No matter what trials we face, no matter what disasters overtake us, we have the power to endure to the very end if we accept God’s gift to us. That gift of unshakeable faith will see us through whatever may come, whenever it happens.

The time may be short or long. We don’t know. All the signs Jesus described to His disciples have been showing up for the past 2,000 years. There have been earthquakes, famines, wars and insurrections.

Christians have been persecuted, and continue to be persecuted throughout the world today. All that’s left of the temple in Jerusalem is a fragment of wall, now called the Wailing Wall.

Just as the destruction of that temple testified to the truthfulness of Jesus’ words when the Gospel of Luke was written, so does our faith bear witness to this truth: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. Christ has died that we might have life. Christ has risen, that we might have eternal life. Christ will come again, that we who endure may enjoy eternal life, abundant and full, as we reign with Christ in glory forever and ever.

(Capuchin Friar Fr Rawi Alexander is currently based in the Diocese of Sibu.)

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