33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Are the End Times Actually a Happy Ending?
I love a good story, and I like for my stories to have plots. The difference between the books my husband reads and the stack on my bedside table boils down to the word plot. A happy ending is good too, but plot is king even without making me smile at the end. Jesus doesn’t work with me in this gospel—no plot and definitely not a happy ending. He’s talking about the end times.
The end times don’t look fun. While I don’t want any of my descendants to have to live through them, I hope they don’t come while I’m around. On the other hand, when I pop the bubble I’m lucky enough to live in, maybe we are living through the end times now; “wars and insurrections…earthquakes, famines…” (vs.9, 11) all sound like the daily news cycle.
Whenever I start to get depressed about the state of the world, I think through history. All of those horrible things have been around for an eon. I don’t know when the end times will come, but those same things have the potential to still be around in the eons to come. The truth is all time is just a blink of an eye to Jesus, so an eon means nothing to Him. Besides, He said it wasn’t in our interest to know when the end was to be.
Maybe that’s because that knowledge would change how we act now and it shouldn’t. We should live as if every day is the end. If you’re about to meet your Maker, how would you act? So jump to it and be that person. Those are my initial thoughts on this reading. Be perfect every moment…and my heart kind of sinks. Not possible—should I just throw in the towel?
Then again, I read a blog post by a mom who complained about everyone who told her to Carpe Diem every day with her kids. Enjoy every moment. Unfortunately, she said, you can’t. Not every moment is enjoyable. And if you try to live like every moment is, you’ll wear yourself out.
But you can live like every moment is holy. Holy doesn’t mean enjoying. Holy means God is with us. Holy might be Christmas Day when the kids are ripping paper off the presents and squealing in fun. But holy is also the funeral and the grief and the just-diagnosed patient. God is there.
Jesus does warn us to be careful, to avoid false prophets, to stay away from those who take you from holiness, which sometimes means those who want to take us away from pain. He doesn’t want to steal happiness from us. But He does want us to understand that getting rid of pain will not make us happy. We will have pain—whenever we alleviate one problem, another one pops up, but pain doesn’t mean God isn’t there. He wants us to understand the difference in holiness and happiness. They aren’t the same.
What God cares about is people and the eternal because that’s when the happiness is finally guaranteed. He cares about us right now, right in the middle of our plots and all the way through to the end. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this passage does have plot and, even, a happy ending. I should try to live so I experience both.