32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The first time I considered this question seriously was after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. Up to that point, it had seemed as though every other terrorist attack happened far away. However, we live only 45 minutes south of Boston and 20 minutes west of where one of the perpetrators attended college.
On the Friday that followed the attack, Boston was in lockdown as the police searched for the terrorist who had survived a shootout the night before. My youngest daughter, who was 10 at the time, asked if we were in danger. Trying to calm her fears, I assured her that the police had everything under control. But I still could not help but wonder what, if anything, I could do to protect my family if a he were to barge into my house to hide from the police.
In the wake of last week’s terror attack in New York, the brutal shooting in Las Vegas, and this past weekend in Sutherland Springs, TX many people are asking themselves what they can do if they find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. Is there any way we can protect ourselves or are we just sitting ducks?
During these last weeks of the liturgical season, the Church draws our attention to the end times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This Sunday’s readings, the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, will remind us of our need to remain vigilant and to be prepared.
Many of the Biblical prophecies appear to predict widespread destruction and global catastrophes. For that reason, the adjective “apocalyptic” has taken on a negative connotation, conjuring images of conflagration, famine and war. With evidence of global climate change mounting and with the unprecedented hurricane activity of the last few months, we cannot help but wonder if we are in the last days. Are we headed toward a collapse of global order from which we might never recover? And if so, how can we prepare for it?
Jesus assures us, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Mark 13:7-8).
Though Jesus warns us that there will be upheaval before His return in glory, what we are ultimately keeping vigil and preparing for is a blessed event – the wedding banquet of the Lamb. We are keeping our torches lit for the coming of our Lord who will finally bring justice to the earth. The unavoidable tragedies and challenge of this life remind us that this world is passing away. We strive to practice justice and charity in this life all the while holding on to the hope of a new heavens and new earth where God’s righteousness will prevail (2 Pt 3:13).
We might not be able to prepare fully for random acts of violence and terror. Despite our best efforts, natural disasters will catch us off guard. But we can prepare for the coming of the Lord through diligent prayer and acts of mercy. The end of the world is an event to which we look forward. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises and of our heart’s yearning. Therefore, hope is the oil keeping our torches lit through the long night of struggle until the dawning of that glorious day.
Douglas Sousa, STL