Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could predict the future? Besides knowing what the weather will really be like we might find out just how long we have to live and, better yet, whether we’re going to heaven or hell. Now wouldn’t that change the way we do things now?
Today’s gospel is not about making predictions especially dire ones. Rather, it is more about focussing on the way things are here and now. Luke’s gospel was written some fifty years after Jesus rose from the dead and 10-15 years after the Temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed. If it was not a prediction of these events then what meanings are to be found in these texts?
The first scripture reading this morning helps us understand. Malachi (the name means “messenger”) may have been a Temple priest who took it upon himself to be a prophet. He criticized a corrupt Temple priesthood and anyone else who tested God. He said arrogant people and evildoers would not be saved. By naming the things that were wrong he hoped people would change their lives.
What then are we to make of the cosmic tragedies listed in the gospel? Luke understands Jesus to be a “spokesperson” for God  who tells things like they are. In this sense Jesus was pointing out that life in this world is imperfect with its cholera epidemic in Haiti, the mindless battles in the Mideast, the weak economy in our nation, the devastating floods in Pakistan and the Philippines.
These events, however, are not signs that the end of the world is near. We will always have to deal with terrible calamities. We are challenged, instead, to find ways to do something about ending the evil we cause and helping others survive the natural catastrophes and illnesses we cannot control.
The psalm today is helpful in thinking about our responsibilities for one another. It is a hymn celebrating God’s rule over the universe. In that time of Israel’s history it was thought that people were passive witnesses to whatever God was doing in the world. Christian theology today tells us otherwise — that we are participants in God’s salvation. 
Our mantra in this community, for example, is all about daring to advance the kin-dom of God here on earth. It is not enough to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ. After all, we do not literally expect Christ to return on a cloud announcing the end of the world. What we are anticipating is a time and a place when and where justice will prevail and all of God’s people will find peace and harmony. It may be a long wait.
These scriptures today remind us that, in the meantime, God will not leave us alone on this journey. As we trek together sometimes we are faithful in doing God’s work. Sometimes, like the Thessalonians in the second reading, we are uncooperative or slow to respond.  In a mysterious way the holy Spirit, nevertheless, is helping us stand up straight and tall in the face of all adversity.
The end of another liturgical year will soon give way to a new Advent – the birth of a savior and the promise of the coming of God’s kin-dom. That’s the way it is in life. The dawn of something new comes after something old dies. Day follows night. Our task is to name, like Malachi did, what must end — those things that need to be changed in our lives and on earth. It’s a never ending task and there is no escaping it.
We can keep our focus on things as they really are. No amount of material goods, powerful weapons or government policies will cause lasting joy and security. We are pilgrims, all of us, pitching our tents in a time and a place, doing all we can do; joining with others who believe in God’s companionship, willing to work hard to bring about a little bit of comfort on earth. Do not be afraid.
1 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1997, 164-166
2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press,1984) Revised Edition pp. 511-12 and 525-527
3 Some Thessalonians, influenced in part by Gnostic teachings, believed Jesus Christ had already returned and so there was nothing more for them to do. Their knowledge would save them.