As we draw near to the end of the liturgical year the Church is putting this question to each of us: “What do you see as the purpose of your life, of your existence in this world? How seriously should we take the predictions of today’s gospel about the end of this world and the day of judgment?” To help us reflect on this, we should keep ever before our minds this one great certainty, that death puts an end, absolutely and beyond recall, to all our works, all our plans, all the seemingly vital concerns which lend a certain purpose to our daily involvement. Every human soul that has cast off this worldly body goes forth into the unknown like a traveler entering into unexplored territory. Cardinal Newman once wrote about the hereafter, “Do not fear that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning.” It is when our new life begins that understanding of our present life will be clear to us, how we carried out our role in the spread of God’s kingdom.
The liturgy of these final Sundays of the Church year stress how we should look beyond our immediate worries, troubles, interests, that are largely of selfish concern. It does this by confronting us with the thought of the four last things, namely, death, judgment, heaven and hell.
It is useless speculating about time of the second coming of Christ, although the first Christians thought it would happen in their lifetime. However, the message in this Gospel is to be watchful, to let the thought of what is to come influence our present behavior, bearing in mind that the trials of life are small compared with the glory to come. Nor should we be alarmed by the imagery of wars, earthquakes, famines, stars falling from the heavens. These are Jewish apocalyptic terms employed by the early Church to denote their hope for some radical changes at the second coming of Christ.
If we love God we need never be alarmed, for perfect love casts out all fear. But until the day when the Lord calls us, we must try to be ready and prepared to meet him. This after all is what he taught us: We must watch and we must pray.
(Adapted from ACP)