As the liturgical year winds down, the readings at Mass and in the Divine Office reflect on the end of days. In his homily at the Mass commemorating the World Day of the Poor on November 17th, Pope Francis reflected on how our earthly life is temporary and that ultimately all that will remain is rooted the Love of Christ.
In the Gospel reading, the apostles showed their admiration for the temple in Jerusalem, but Jesus warned them that in the future, the temple would be destroyed, as would everything else, since nothing of this world lasts forever. Pope Francis reflected on this and life’s transience,
[Jesus] tells us that almost everything will pass away. Almost everything, but not everything. On this next to last Sunday in Ordinary Time, he explains that what will collapse and pass away are the penultimate things, not the ultimate ones: the temple, not God; kingdoms and human events, not humanity itself.
Even though we can spend our lives preserving all the great art and buildings in the world, they won’t last forever. They are temporary, but God and humanity are not. Pope Francis teaches us that this sober fact should inspire us to serve God and love our neighbor. He points out that Jesus’s words are a warning to avoid two temptations: haste and self-centeredness.
On haste, Pope Francis reflected,
The first is the temptation of haste, of the right now. For Jesus, we must not follow those who tell us that the end is coming immediately, that “the time is at hand” (v. 8). That is, we must not follow the alarmists who fuel fear of others and of the future, for fear paralyzes the heart and mind. Yet how often do we let ourselves be seduced by a frantic desire to know everything right now, by the itch of curiosity, by the latest sensational or scandalous news, by lurid stories, by the screaming those who shout loudest and angriest, by those who tell us it is “now or never”. This haste, this everything right now, does not come from God. If we get worked up about the right now, we forget what remains forever: we follow the passing clouds and lose sight of the sky. Drawn by the latest outcry, we no longer find time for God or for our brother and sister living next door. How true this is today! In the frenzy of running, of achieving everything right now, anyone left behind is viewed as a nuisance. And considered disposable. How many elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons are considered useless. We go our way in haste, without worrying that gaps are increasing, that the greed of a few is adding to the poverty of many others.
We let life’s stresses about family, the news, our jobs consume us to the point that there’s little regard for our neighbor. Pope Francis challenges us to persevere in spite of it all,
Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbour. This is why perseverance is the gift of God that preserves all his other gifts (cf. SAINT AUGUSTINE, De Dono Perseverantiae, 2.4). Let us ask that each of us, and all of us as Church, may persevere in the good and not lose sight of what really counts.
The second temptation Jesus warns us about is self-centeredness. We must be prudent and discern wisely since many will come and go claiming to be from God when they aren’t. Pope Francis reflected on this point,
Christians, that is, do not follow the siren song of their whims, but rather the call of love, the voice of Jesus. How is Jesus’ voice discerned? “Many will come in my name”, the Lord says, but they are not to be followed: wearing the label “Christian” or “Catholic” is not enough to belong to Jesus. We need to speak the same language as Jesus: that of love, the language of the you. Those who speak the language of Jesus are not the ones who say I, but rather the ones who step out of themselves. And yet how often, even when we do good, does the hypocrisy of the self take over? I do good so that I can be considered good; I give in order to receive in turn; I offer help so that I can win the friendship of some important person. That is how the language of the self speaks. The word of God, however, spurs us to a “genuine love” (Rom 12:9), to give to those who cannot repay us (cf. Lk 14:14), to serve others without seeking anything in return (cf. Lk 6:35). So let us ask ourselves: “Do I help someone who has nothing to give me in return? Do I, a Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend”?
Expanding our hearts beyond ourselves enables us to show Christian love to others. The more we grow in Christ, the more we want to love and to seek out the most marginalized and forgotten. The love of Christ is a love that seeks to serve, with no desire for repayment. Pope Francis gives us a challenge to look beyond ourselves, to embrace love in our neighbor, in the poor and marginalized. Be their friend, listen and love them. This should challenge us to love more like Christ and less like the world.
It’s what truly matters in the end since nothing else lasts forever.