33 Ordinary C – November 17, 2013 – Life in Between No More and Not Yet
Does this gospel bother you? As we approach the end of our liturgical year the biblical texts focus on end times, the end of the world. When is that time? It is an eerie coincidence that these readings bring to mind the calamities occurring around the planet today.
The death toll from the Tacloban Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines could reach 10,000 people. Last week there were four earthquakes in Delhi, India … in just three hours! And a tropical storm in the Puntland region of Somalia killed 100 people. Some say these natural disasters are acts of God, warnings that the end times are near. Others argue that the frequency of these catastrophes is caused by global warming.  No matter what we believe these calamities are opportunities to stop, to step back, to reflect. They can wake us up.
This gospel was written as if Jesus were predicting bad omens on earth. In fact it was written after the time of Jesus. The Temple he referred to was already destroyed. It was not a prediction of horrific events as much as it was a commentary on what already happened. The wording is scary enough but not any less realistic than what is being experienced on this fragile planet right now.
Columnist Conor Friedersdorf raised an interesting question last week. Given how predictable it is that there will be future natural disasters, he asked about preemptive measures. How we can lower death tolls and get help to survivors ahead of time rather than wait until after the disaster strikes. 
Forecasting and preparing for dire weather is one thing. What if we could predict the end of the world? Christianity is a religion that follows a linear historical path. We live in between the beginning and the end of creation. Flooding, droughts, hurricanes, firestorms, meteorites are some of the natural disasters we have to endure while we wait.
However, there are other facets of life that we can control somewhat. If it seems almost impossible for us to stop wars, poverty and the purposeful abuse of humans, what can we do? Act with kindness toward others. Greet strangers stranded in the cold. Volunteer with institutions and organizations to serve people in need. Do not put off saying, “I love you.”
There are at least two ways to interpret this gospel. A traditional way is to say life as we know it must end before eternal life can begin. Jesus used the Temple as an example of how earthly things do not last forever. That great architectural symbol of religion and power was destroyed. Jesus said he would rise up again as a new temple. Our life in Christ is that hallowed place. We are temples of a holy spirit.
Another way to understand eternal life is to act as if we are already participating in it. In this sense we do not imagine the end of time as a catastrophic event but an ever evolving transformation of life. That is why we Christians are hopeful. And, with all people who act with faith and charity, we work hard to bring about some happiness in this life for ourselves and others. This task may take some time to achieve. In fact, it may take “forever!”
Our eucharistic liturgy is a foretaste of eternal happiness. Here in this place we imagine and celebrate life that is more just, where all people, created in the likeness of God, are treated as such. If we allow it to do so, this liturgy will have an effect on the way we think and behave in our lives.
So, these readings today are not so much about the end of time as much as they are about what we are doing while we wait. They are calling us to live in a Christian way — humbly, simply, peacefully.
2 Friedersdorf, Conor. “Is This the Best Humanity Can Do for the Philippines? in The Atlantic. November 11, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/11/is-this-the-best-humanity-can-do-for-the-philippines/281332/