33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Ike Udoh, SJ

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Daniel 12:1-3/Hebrews 10:11-14, 18/Mark 13:24-32

The Word of God draws our attention towards the end.  We get all these rich symbols in our readings today like the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light to symbolize the end of the times and seasons that mark our lives, images of judgment, and the coming of the Son of Man.  This is entirely fitting as it gets darker earlier now, and as a community of faith, we draw near to the end of our liturgical year.  With the celebration of Christ, the King next week, the church year (marking our times and seasons) officially comes to a close.  So, let us reflect together on our end.  I remember growing up in Nigeria, and watching a panel have a discussion on TV, and one man saying, “You know there is only one thing that is certain in life, i.e. we will all end up six-feet under.”  Death is an equal opportunity employer.  This is not to damper our fun or cause us any distress, but to be real, and not run away from the one thing that is certain about life, i.e. our own mortality.  Knowing that there was a time I was not, and now I exist, and that I will cease to be at some point, beckons reflecting on Who I am?  Why I am here? Where do I come from? What is my purpose? Where am I going?  Those who have been affected by the fires both here in the South and up North, having lost their homes and the “life” they had labored to have on this earth, or those who unfortunately lost their lives or are missing, thrust upon our consciousness the need to reflect on our end (i.e. our reason for being and destiny).

What is the underlying motivation for your existence?  One of my Jesuit brothers Tony de Mello S.J. says that we tend to pursue receiving praise, getting attention, being honored, fame, having material possessions, “making it,” etc.  He called this a worldly feeling, the way we have been programmed by society so we are productive and controllable.  De Mello contrasts this with what he called soul-feeling. Try this experiment, imagine yourself having your way, getting all the attention, making it (and get a sense of what that feels like).  Now contrast it with seeing a sunset, doing something that you really love, walking by the Ocean, intimacy and companionship, that is a soul-feeling.  “Then observe yourself in the course of a day or a week and think how many actions of yours are performed, how many activities engaged in that are uncontaminated by the desire for these thrills, these excitements that only produce emptiness, the desire for attention, approval, fame, popularity, success or power.  And take a look at the people around you. Is there a single one of them who has not become addicted to these worldly feelings?  A single one who is not controlled by them, hungers for them, spends every minute of his/her waking life consciously or unconsciously seeking them?  When you see this, you will understand how people attempt to gain the world and, in the process, lose their soul. For they live empty, soul-less lives.”

To live without thinking about our end is to live an illusion or live without facing the truth about our mortality.  You have probably heard of folks who after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, suddenly realize with great clarity what is most important and begin living more wholeheartedly.  De Mello suggests, “Any time you are with anyone or think of anyone you must say to yourself: I am dying and this person too is dying, attempting the while to experience the truth of the words you are saying. If every one of you agrees to practice this, bitterness will die out, harmony will arise.” The invitation today is to build our lives on what endures.  For “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  Jesus promises that those who hear his word and practice it build their house upon the rock that stands through life’s vicissitudes.  “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

In the end we all want to be happy, and Jesuit Fr. Spitzer talks about four levels of happiness, based on what motivates our existence.  Level 1 – is when your focus is on sensual pleasure or external stimuli.  There is a certain degree of satisfaction, but it is rather superficial and fleeting.  Level 2 – is when we are ego-driven, self-promotion and self-glorification, often marked by competition – being better than.  Level 3 – is motivated by doing good for others, serving the needy, it is other-directed, and leads to much deeper satisfaction and fulfillment.  Level 4 – is the deepest level of fulfillment and is when we are directed and motivated by a transcendent end, like the pursuit of Truth, goodness and beauty. God is himself truth, goodness and beauty, the true object of our insatiable desire to know, to love, and to see, because we are made in the image of the infinite one. We come from God and will return to God, hence, our hearts are restless until they rest in God

You may do this thought experiment proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Imagine yourself at the end of your life before the throne of God looking back on how you have lived your life, your relationships, your choices.  Knowing that end, let us begin to do now, what we wish we could have done.  Let us do good, seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Psalm 144:4 says, Man is like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow.  And 1 Peter 1:24 says,  For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  I may be at the end of my rope, broken and frightened, but I draw near now to the One whose love knows no end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Word of God draws our attention towards the end.  We get all these rich symbols in our readings today like the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light to symbolize the end of the times and seasons that mark our lives, images of judgment, and the coming of the Son of Man.  This is entirely fitting as it gets darker earlier now, and as a community of faith, we draw near to the end of our liturgical year.  With the celebration of Christ, the King next week, the church year (marking our times and seasons) officially comes to a close.  So, let us reflect together on our end.  I remember growing up in Nigeria, and watching a panel have a discussion on TV, and one man saying, “You know there is only one thing that is certain in life, i.e. we will all end up six-feet under.”  Death is an equal opportunity employer.  This is not to damper our fun or cause us any distress, but to be real, and not run away from the one thing that is certain about life, i.e. our own mortality.  Knowing that there was a time I was not, and now I exist, and that I will cease to be at some point, beckons reflecting on Who I am?  Why I am here? Where do I come from? What is my purpose? Where am I going?  Those who have been affected by the fires both here in the South and up North, having lost their homes and the “life” they had labored to have on this earth, or those who unfortunately lost their lives or are missing, thrust upon our consciousness the need to reflect on our end (i.e. our reason for being and destiny).

What is the underlying motivation for your existence?  One of my Jesuit brothers Tony de Mello S.J. says that we tend to pursue receiving praise, getting attention, being honored, fame, having material possessions, “making it,” etc.  He called this a worldly feeling, the way we have been programmed by society so we are productive and controllable.  De Mello contrasts this with what he called soul-feeling. Try this experiment, imagine yourself having your way, getting all the attention, making it (and get a sense of what that feels like).  Now contrast it with seeing a sunset, doing something that you really love, walking by the Ocean, intimacy and companionship, that is a soul-feeling.  “Then observe yourself in the course of a day or a week and think how many actions of yours are performed, how many activities engaged in that are uncontaminated by the desire for these thrills, these excitements that only produce emptiness, the desire for attention, approval, fame, popularity, success or power.  And take a look at the people around you. Is there a single one of them who has not become addicted to these worldly feelings?  A single one who is not controlled by them, hungers for them, spends every minute of his/her waking life consciously or unconsciously seeking them?  When you see this, you will understand how people attempt to gain the world and, in the process, lose their soul. For they live empty, soul-less lives.”

To live without thinking about our end is to live an illusion or live without facing the truth about our mortality.  You have probably heard of folks who after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, suddenly realize with great clarity what is most important and begin living more wholeheartedly.  De Mello suggests, “Any time you are with anyone or think of anyone you must say to yourself: I am dying and this person too is dying, attempting the while to experience the truth of the words you are saying. If every one of you agrees to practice this, bitterness will die out, harmony will arise.” The invitation today is to build our lives on what endures.  For “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  Jesus promises that those who hear his word and practice it build their house upon the rock that stands through life’s vicissitudes.  “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

In the end we all want to be happy, and Jesuit Fr. Spitzer talks about four levels of happiness, based on what motivates our existence.  Level 1 – is when your focus is on sensual pleasure or external stimuli.  There is a certain degree of satisfaction, but it is rather superficial and fleeting.  Level 2 – is when we are ego-driven, self-promotion and self-glorification, often marked by competition – being better than.  Level 3 – is motivated by doing good for others, serving the needy, it is other-directed, and leads to much deeper satisfaction and fulfillment.  Level 4 – is the deepest level of fulfillment and is when we are directed and motivated by a transcendent end, like the pursuit of Truth, goodness and beauty. God is himself truth, goodness and beauty, the true object of our insatiable desire to know, to love, and to see, because we are made in the image of the infinite one. We come from God and will return to God, hence, our hearts are restless until they rest in God

You may do this thought experiment proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Imagine yourself at the end of your life before the throne of God looking back on how you have lived your life, your relationships, your choices.  Knowing that end, let us begin to do now, what we wish we could have done.  Let us do good, seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Psalm 144:4 says, Man is like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow.  And 1 Peter 1:24 says,  For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  I may be at the end of my rope, broken and frightened, but I draw near now to the One whose love knows no end.