That Which Endures

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Does anything last forever? As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the Mass readings prompt us to look ahead to that day when even time itself will end.  What will that be like? Our first reading from Daniel warns us that the days leading up to the end “shall be a time unsurpassed in distress” (Dan 12:1), while our gospel says, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mk 13:24-25). Pretty scary stuff.

There is a temptation for us to become overly fixated upon figuring out when these last days will occur. We do well to remember Jesus’ own words that “of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32). But we don’t need to know when the world will end to know that our own end will come much sooner. Even the scriptures say that the length of our days is but seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong (Ps 90:10). Some manage to live longer, while others die tragically sooner. But each of us will meet our end  and then pass into eternity. There are no exceptions.

Eternal Things

So I ask again, does anything last forever? While our readings this Sunday speak of the end of time, they mention two things that will not end.

The first is God’s Word. Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mk 13:31). God is eternal and so is his Word. God’s Word — the Divine Logos — is the mind of God. It is eternal truth. And that Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

The second eternal thing is us! Yes, you and I must die. Our lives will come to an end, and we reflect on this reality especially during the month of November which begins with All Saints and All Souls Day. But as we reflect on our mortality, we also need to remember that we are immortal. Our material bodies will die and return to dust, but our immaterial souls will live on and one day be reunited with glorified bodies — this is the Christian hope.

Our Old Testament reading from Daniel says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace” (Dn 12:2). Daniel paints a picture of stark contrast. At the end of time, there are only two possible fates for us — eternal life or eternal horror.

I know which one I would choose! So how do we choose it? How do we make sure we will arise unto eternal life and not eternal horror and disgrace?

The answer is in the gospel. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mk 13:31). If we want to have eternal life, we must attach ourselves to the eternal word. The answer is Jesus.

Jesus tells of his final coming in the clouds at the end of time with power and glory, the angels gathering his elect from the ends of the earth. These are the ones who will rise to eternal life. We want to be among that number; and we can! That’s the good news!

And this is why our relationship with Jesus, in the end, it will be all that matters. Not how much money you made in your life. Not how famous you were. Not how many hours you put in at work. Not your GPA. Not how smart or skilled you are. Not how many accolades you are awarded. Not even being a great world leader or history maker. Only your relationship with Christ.

Because all these other things will pass away. The earth itself will pass away. But Jesus Christ will not pass away. He lives forever in glory. And if you remain united with Him, so will you.