33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – November 13, 2022
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98:5-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19
When the World Ends, but the Earth Keeps Spinning
I think each one of us is familiar with events that brought one “world” to an end and gave rise to a new one. We’re living in a world, and all of a sudden we wake up and the world as we knew it has ended and we’re living in a new one. One event happens, everything changes. 1) I think of the event of 9/11. That day is burned into my brain—I was 8, in case you were trying to do the math. 9/11 was a “world-ending event” in many ways. Life isn’t the same; massive changes that we still experience to this day. Absolutely no one mentioned the TSA before 9/11, and now you make sure you get to the airport early to have time to get through security, buy TSA Pre-Check to skip lines, and on and on. 2) COVID: that was a “world-ending event.” Healthcare has changed. Visiting people in the hospital will never be the same. Supply chains have changed. “Working remote.” The use of masks. 3) Or even something like having a child. That’s a life-changing event. The “world” that was “your life” came to an end. Life drastically changes when all of a sudden there is a human being 100% dependent on you for its very survival. Your kid becomes your central preoccupation. Every decision has to take this human being into account.
But also, whenever there’s a “world-ending event”—whenever one “world” ends and change ensues—there is always pushback. Change is hard! It’s uncomfortable! The event of 9/11 and the changes in airport security—they get pushback all the time; everyone complains about security and the lines and how bad it is. COVID—well, I don’t need to get your blood boiling too much, but—all of a sudden huge pushback! And even having a kid: you love the little bugger to death, but sometimes you just wish you had a day to yourself, or even an hour, or five minutes! Or, it’s called the pushback of abortion: just get rid of the kid. And so there is that pushback even in your own personal “world.” The pushback brings division and anger, hostility, complaining, fighting, violence. I mean, I literally watched families divide over COVID regulations; family members that no longer talk because of that. Children are killed. Ok? World-ending events and the changes that flow from them inevitably bring real pushback. We know this.
Jesus Declares the End of the World, but Not the Earth Just Yet
This time in the Church’s liturgical year is always a time in which we focus on eschatological and apocalyptic themes. November is the month dedicated to the dead for a reason: our attention is focused on our death and on the end of the world. It’s pretty sobering. Every one of us will have a start date and an end date on a tombstone one day. “Death comes for us all.”
But our readings and Jesus’s own words aren’t so much speaking about the end of the world, the end of the literal world, as much as they are about “world-ending events.” I mean, Jesus is speaking about the end of the Temple, the central symbol of the Jewish life and culture and religion. Jesus said, “The days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.” And it happened! The destruction of the Temple happened a few decades after Jesus’ ascension. But that wasn’t Jesus’ only point!
Jesus is declaring the end of this world and the worldview that goes with it! Life for the Jews, the way that they organized their lives, the lenses through which they saw the world—all of it was about to come crashing down! Everything was about to change! And with the end of this “world,” the end of this worldview, there was bound to be some pushback. What does Jesus say? “Wars and insurrections… Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom… powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues… awesome sights and mighty signs [in] the sky.”
It is the announcement of a “world-ending event” and a new world coming to birth here and now.
The Event and the Change
So what is this event? The event is nothing other than what we call the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ death and resurrection; the event of Jesus defeating the powers which have held us captive for so long: Sin, Death, Satan, Hell; the event of our rescue. Remember we talked a few weeks ago that the central event of the Old Testament was the Exodus, the dramatic rescue of Israel from Egypt? And that the mirror event in the New Testament, the central event is the dramatic rescue of all of humanity from the slavery, the captivity of Sin and Death? That’s what Jesus is doing on the cross: he is going to battle to rescue us, to put an end to that “world”! That’s the event!
Ok, and if that’s the event, what is the change? And the answer is everything! Everything has changed! This was a world-changing event. Literally, the world, reality is different. And also personally, everything is different. Again, think of 9/11 or COVID or having a child: everything is now different! You don’t get to pretend it’s not. The world, reality has changed. Think real quick to one of those events: do you remember your frustrations? Do you remember what you missed? Do you remember the dramatic, day and night difference?
This change is what the gospel announces. The gospel is the news, the explosive news, the life-changing, powerful, extraordinary news that everything is different! Jesus Christ has risen! Death has been defeated! Sin no longer holds us in its grip! Satan has been defeated! Life as we knew it under the reign, under the tyranny of Sin and Death—that world is gone! Everything has changed. Everything in life has been relativized by this event. Everything has to have as its starting point this event. That’s what Christianity is: the event that has given life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
Persevering Through the Pushback
But ask yourself: Do you experience that change? Do you feel like being a Catholic changes everything? Do you have an intense passion for your faith, for following Christ? Does your faith amp you up? Or is it nothing? Is it just a box to check off each Sunday? When you had a kid, everything in your life changed—it had to! Does your faith change everything in your life?
The litmus test is to look for pushback. There is always pushback to this event, to this change. A lot of pushback. And given what we know about “world-ending events” and the changes that come—that there is going to be pushback should not surprise us! We should expect it! Division and anger, hostility, complaining, fighting, violence. Some of you live this in a very real and tangible way. There is real pushback, real persecution for following Christ, for seeing the world this way, for living with these lenses. And Jesus isn’t naive about this.
But also—and more importantly—pay attention for the pushback in your own life. When you had a kid, did you notice the struggle you had with the lack of sleep? How hard it was for you to give up control of your sleep habits and give up the comfort of having a full night of sleep? You had a visceral reaction pushing back against this. And so your child gave you the gift to see a potential attachment to your own comfort and control. If your routine is thrown, is your attitude, your inner peace also thrown? When COVID threw off your routine, and you couldn’t go do things like you used to—what did this change do inside of you? If you found yourself down and desperate, I would challenge you to ask yourself “why?” Are those things so important to your life that without them everything in your life falls apart?
It’s the same with Christ. Christ brings about huge changes. Things in our life are going to have to change. And we have to be careful not to label the change and the discomforts that come from it as the problem. Pay attention that this pushback may be because of your own desire for comfort, your own attachments to your routine. Christ doesn’t promise us comfort and riches, but peace. There are so many things we are deeply attached to that, if they were taken away, would wreck us. Ask God to help you see those. Ask God to help you have a healthy detachment from everything that is not him.
I say these things not to make you feel bad about yourself, but to help us notice the easy ways that we form attachments to things, sometimes, oftentimes without even noticing it. These moments of change can be powerful opportunities to clean our lenses, to make sure God truly is number one in our life, to make sure that our hope is in him, that God is our peace—not our circumstances or our comforts or our routines. God alone is our peace.
When you go home today, when you start reading the news about politics, when you start watching football, when you start your online shopping—pay attention to how you view all of those things, how you view the events of the world, the importance of sports, the things you buy. How do you see? What is your view of the world? From where are you looking for your hope? Has the event of Christ changed everything, or not? And when you notice the things you are attached to, take them to Confession, place them on the altar during the consecration, and ask God to rid you of all of these attachments when you receive him in communion.
The end of the world is upon us. Thanks be to God that he has opened up for us the gate to a new world in and through Jesus Christ, through his Paschal Mystery, through this event which changes everything, this event made present here today in this Eucharist. May we be those devoted to him, attached to nothing else. May we be those whose attention is fixed on Him, whose lives are changed by the event of his Paschal Mystery.
One thought on “Stewardship Renewal #4 – Detachment”