Eschatological texts on yet another Sunday correlate the end of the liturgical year with the end of the world. There is now only one Sunday left between today and the joy of Advent beginning on 27 November. Meanwhile, to enable us to sing with full-throated ease the victory song of Christ the King on 20 November, His Feast, the Church invites us to first imbibe the Biblical teachings about the end times.

The First Reading is taken from the Book of Malachi (3: 19-20). The debate on whether or not Malachi is really the author’s name (in Hebrew, it simply means, “my messenger”) pales into insignificance when we note the core of the text: a chastisement of the Israelites, which, unfortunately, included the priests, too, in post-exilic Jerusalem for their lax religious and social conduct. Today’s passage is brief but its message loud and clear. It dwells on the day of Judgment, when the wicked ones will, like the stubble, be devoured by the flames; whereas, for those who fear the Lord, “the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” No two ways about it.

Malachi is the last of the eighteen prophetic books and also the last book of the Old Testament. In pointing to the day of the Lord’s coming, it carries a message of hope. Some five hundred years later, our Divine Lord – “the sun of righteousness” – came into the world to address people of goodwill. Thus, the Book of Malachi builds a bridge with the New Testament; and given the absence of any other prophetic record in the intertestamental period, it assumes even greater significance.

The Second Reading, from St Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians (3: 7-12), addresses the community’s slothful ones. He urges both pastor and pauper to eat their food by the sweat of their brow. Whereas the Apostle of the Gentiles was very concerned about setting a good example himself, his followers had begun taking things for granted and even lived off the charity of fellow Christians.

Does that mean anything to the twenty-first century Christian community? If we have begun to look like wayward children basking in past glory while letting the present slip through our fingers, we are in for trouble. It is high time we pondered on whether we, leaders and followers, parents and children, priests and laity, are exerting ourselves enough to ensure that tomorrow will belong to us! Let us get our act together, that His Kingdom comes here on earth and thereafter we deserve to inherit Heaven. No gains without pains!

In the Gospel (Lk 21: 5-19) we hear the words that Jesus spoke to His Apostles when His Passion and Death was at hand. Just in case they had thought that a life in the Lord’s service would be a cakewalk, Jesus forewarns them that proclaimers of the Good News might in fact be assaulted, convicted, jailed, or even killed. In other words, following Christ involves renunciation and suffering; we are called to be committed, to take an unambiguous position, to not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds! It’s a little cross we willingly bear, as an infinitesimal share in the mighty Cross that Our Lord and Master carried to Calvary.

Through all of it, we must fix our gaze on His Divine Face and not on the façade of the temple “adorned with noble stones and offerings”. Vanities will meet their nemesis: “there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Precisely when this shall come to pass is not clear as crystal, yet the secret of our holy success will depend on our sticking to the Lord through thick and thin. Behold the Lord’s words of caution: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified: for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Jesus is our Light and our Life! Lead, kindly Light, even as we witness nations rising against nations; earthquakes and famines, floods and pestilences devastating the earth. When we watch the Light amid the encircling gloom, we will not be afraid. We can be sure that we will never be left to the designs of the evil one, for when we are with the Lord – the Lord is with us! – we have nothing to fear! You must not draw back when, horror of horrors, “you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death.” And, miracle of miracles, you and I need not even “meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict,” says the Lord.

As the liturgical year draws to a close, it is highly recommended that we take stock of our spiritual baggage and ponder on the inescapable fact of our individual and collective end, praying thus with Cardinal Newman:

[A]long the narrow, rugged path, 
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.