Prepare Yourself for the Day of the Lord
November 16, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Daniel 12:1-3) Reading II (Hebrews 10:11-14, 18)
Gospel (St. Mark 13:24-32)
As we draw near to the end of the Church year of which next week is the completion, the Church always gives to us in these last couple of weeks of the Church year readings regarding the end times because as we draw near to the end of the year it reminds us also of the end of time. And the Church wants to keep this always before us because, as we heard in the Gospel reading, we do not know the day or the hour and it is something that each one of us needs to be prepared for at any time because the end could come for us at any moment, even if the end of the world may be far away yet. So it is a constant reminder to us to keep ourselves in the state of grace, to be prepared because we do not know when the Master will return. But we do know that He will return.
So today, we think about what these readings tell us and we reflect upon the times in which we are living, which is what the Second Vatican Council asks us to do and it is also what Jesus tells us to do in the Gospel reading: to look for the signs of the times, to be able to interpret the signs under which we live. He tells the people of His own time, “When you notice the leaves budding on the fig trees, you know that summer is near.” Well, we can turn it the other way here in Minnesota and say, “When the leaves have all fallen off and it’s starting to get cold, you know that winter is near.” And so it is. At the same time, we can look around in society and we can say, “When we see the various evils that are happening, we know that something must be near,” because we heard in the Gospel reading, as well as in the Book of Daniel in the first reading, that it is going to be a time of distress. Daniel tells us it will be a time unsurpassed in distress from the time that nations began until the present. When we look at what is going on in our society, we might not even recognize it because it has just become our daily routine. But when we look at the levels of depression, suicide, mental illness, all of the various physical problems, when we look at horrendous things like abortion and euthanasia and all of the different things that we have to live with everyday, it truly is a time unsurpassed in distress from the time that nations began until the present.
There never has been a time as evil as the one in which we are living. There has never been a time which has been as stressful for people as the one in which we are living. And so when we look at these things, we realize that something is at hand. I can pretty well guarantee you that it is not the end of the world; that is a long way off. However, as I have told you many times – and I will speak it today with greater urgency – the time is near at hand for the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. The time is near at hand for a chastisement, for a purification of this world because it has gone completely astray, but not as far astray as the Lord is going to allow it to become. Things will get much worse, and they will get much worse very soon. Then will come the time for Our Lady to clean house, to purify things. The question is, are we ready?
The Christians in the early days listening to Our Lord’s words heard Him say, as we heard in today’s Gospel reading, “These things will all take place before this generation passes away.” And they did. Not on the universal level, but on the local level. Remember that the people of Israel believed that Jerusalem was a microcosm of the universe and that everything grew larger from there. So in the year 70 when the Romans attacked Jerusalem and destroyed it, burning it in fire (the only city of the ancient world to be completely destroyed in fire), it fulfilled everything that Our Lord told us not only in Mark’s Gospel but in Matthew and Luke as well. It became a prefiguration for what will happen at the end of the world, but it is a prefiguration also of an intermediate purification that is going to take place.
Back in 1917 when Our Lady appeared in Portugal at Fatima, she made a series of promises. And only one promise remains unfulfilled, that is, that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and there will be a long period of peace and unprecedented growth for the Church. That is why I can have great confidence saying that it is not the end of the world and that the end of the world is nowhere near, because we have seen neither the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart nor the long period of peace. But what is going to precede that triumph is what we are going to have to deal with. The time is short; we do not know the day or the hour that it is going to take place either. But there are many reputed mystics who are all talking about the same basic thing, that is, the year 2004. We do not know if anything is going to happen in the year 2004, but many are speaking that same thing. If they are right, and I really hope and pray that they are, then within the next year or thirteen months we are going to see the most distressful time that has ever been on the face of the earth, and the most distressful time for Catholics since the beginning of the Church.
Now Our Lady also told us at Akita in Japan, which is the last fully approved apparition of Our Lady from 1974, that fire will fall from the sky killing the greater part of humanity and the living will envy the dead thinking that they had the better part, and that every single soul in the state of mortal sin will die and some of those in the state of grace will also die so that no one can make a judgment about those who have perished. This squares completely with Scripture where in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah we are told that one-third of the people will be saved through the fire. And so we need to realize that the distress is going to become even worse, but we must be prepared because we have at our disposal everything that is necessary.
We heard in the second reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews all about the priesthood and the sacrifice which is being offered and that in the New Testament there is only one sacrifice for sin because the priests of the Old Testament stood day after day offering the same sacrifices which could never take away sin. But Jesus, our High Priest, has offered one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin and has now taken His seat at the right hand of the Father. We do not offer a separate sacrifice nor do we offer the sacrifice again, but rather the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ continues to be offered. It is offered for us and for our world so that sinners may be converted and that souls may be saved.
And so we, each one of us, have an obligation to make sure that we are in the state of grace and that we maintain that state of grace. And we, each one of us, need to make sure that we are seeing clearly the signs of the times and the distress under which we live. As I mentioned earlier, it is easy for us to miss because it has just become the norm of our day-to-day life. But if we, again, look at all the illnesses, mental and physical, the distress under which people live is pretty severe. Even if we have somewhat grown accustomed to it, it is pretty obvious in our bodies and in our persons that it is not what God intends for humanity to live under.
We are told, then, in Scripture how we have to live and how we need to be prepared. We need to look at the signs of the times and we need to realize that the Lord is not going to tolerate this for much longer. Saint Peter tells us that God’s patience is directed toward salvation; He wants as many saved as possible. Yet, at the same time, we realize that He allows the evil in order to purify us. If you think back to the year 2000 when many people seemed to think that the world was going to end or that there was going to be some kind of cataclysmic event, suddenly the churches were full – just in case. “We really don’t want to live our faith, but just in case there might be something there, well, we want to make sure that we hedge our bets.” Well, as soon as January 1 came and went, by February 1 the churches were back where they used to be, and the rest were in bed where they had been previously. So we know that it is easy to suddenly have a little spurt of zeal and then fall back. We must maintain that zeal. The Lord is going to test it and He is going to purify it because He is not going to be too tolerant of somebody who simply wants to hedge their bets just in case.
The question is, “Do we really want to live our faith? Do we really want to be united with Jesus?” because on the other side of Our Lady’s Triumph it will be a Catholic world and the only option is going to be to live our faith. Not the way that most people in America have been living it over the last number of years where being Catholic is about one hour out of the week, but it is going to be a 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year deal. Thanks be to God! We have lived through this hideous mess; it is about time that we will share in the reward where we can truly be Catholic and live our faith everyday. But we must begin prior to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart to embrace our Catholicism and to live our faith every moment of every day so that we will be prepared, we will be in the state of grace, and we will be ready for whatever is going to come. And if it comes within the next year, praise God! If it does not, it does not matter because it will be coming and we need to live that faith anyway. So it does not matter when the day is; what matters is that we are prepared, that we are living our faith, that we are frequenting the Sacraments, getting to Confession, staying close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, living a life of daily prayer, seeking to grow in holiness and in union with Christ. That is what we must be about.
We need to think about it and say, “If right now we realize that winter is coming and people get real busy trying to make sure that the yard and the home and everything are in good shape, then so too we need to look at the signs of the times and we need to get busy and make sure that our soul is in good order.” If there is anything in your life that is not of Christ get rid of it. Better to enter into heaven without it than to be thrown into Gehenna with it. There is absolutely nothing in this world or in our lives that is worth losing heaven for. Nothing. If there is anything that is leading you away from Jesus Christ, cut it off and throw it away. The time is short and we need to get ourselves in order and prepare ourselves for the purification that is to come. Learn to read the signs of the times, and prepare yourself for the day of the Lord.