Thursday November 14, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Philemon 7-20) Gospel (St. Luke 17:20-25)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord speaks to us about what we can expect at the end of the world, about this coming of the Son of Man, and how one will not be able to know the time. We cannot say that He is here or He is there because at the moment He comes, that will be the moment that Judgment will be meted out. It is not like He is going to come down to earth and be sitting here for several days and people can gather around Him. But rather, Saint Paul makes very clear that the Lord is going to come on the clouds, escorted by the angels; then the dead will rise and then those who are alive will meet Him in the clouds. It is going to be a very quick and instantaneous thing, just like lightning flashing across the sky. One can know that there is a storm going on and you can look at the sky, but you cannot tell when it is about to flash with the lightning. And when the lightning does flash, everybody can see it. It is instantaneous. It lights up the whole sky and it is there for everyone to see. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.
When it is time for Our Lord to come, we can know the storm is brewing but we will not be able to know the day or the hour when He comes; that is something that is completely reserved to the Father. So we cannot attempt in any way to nail this down – we need to be very careful about that. If somebody is coming to you with specific dates about when the Lord is going to return, then you know that is coming clearly from the devil because the Lord is not going to tell us when He is going to return. It would not be good for our salvation. What if the Lord were to tell us that He was not going to be coming back until the year 2130? What do you think we would do right now? Well, maybe not us specifically, but this world? “Eat, drink, and be merry, because we have nothing to worry about! As long as I have a conversion on my deathbed, who cares? I can go out and do whatever I want because there’s no way that the end is near!” God is not that stupid; He is not going to do that to us.
Every single generation has thought that the Lord was possibly going to come in their day. All the signs, most of them, have been there throughout and it is possible that the Lord could come anytime. I think that last statement in the Gospel, however, is also something very important. In its original context, obviously, it has its clear meaning, but the Lord says: First, the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation. He has suffered from the very foundation of the world and that will continue until the end. And He will be rejected by each and every generation – but He has certainly been rejected by our generation in a rather profound way unlike none before since the time that He came into this world.
Again, I do not think the time is upon us for the Second Coming, but that does not mean we should sit back in our easy chairs and think that we have nothing to worry about. We need always to keep ourselves prepared because it will take place, whether it is a purification of the world, whether it is the Second Coming, whether it is our own death; it does not matter. It can take place at a time, a day, and an hour that we do not expect. We need always to be prepared because it will be like lightning flashing across the sky. We can see the signs around us; the storm is brewing. In fact, the storm is getting rather violent. But that does not mean we can predict when the lightning is going to flash. We simply need to make sure we are awake and we are watching; otherwise, all we are going to see is the effect but we are not going to see the lightning strike. To see the effect is not going to help us very much. If we want to be able to see the Lord, we need to be prepared, we need to be in the state of grace, we need to be living our faith, we need to be praying, we need to be seeking union with Jesus Christ. Then we will be awake and we will be watching so that when that lightning strike flashes across the sky, we will be able to take it in and see the awe of God’s wonder and power and be able to be united with Christ in the clouds.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.