Deacon Jim Koger preached at all Masses.
Mark Twain once said: “when the end of the world comes. . . I want to be in Kentucky. They’re always about 20 years behind everyone else.”
7 year old Billy said: “When they announce there are only four days left until the end of the world. . . that’s when I will get better at subtraction.”
When will the end of the world happen? This is a question people have been trying to answer for a long, LONG, time.
The Romans thought it would be in 634 B.C. – based on a number that 12 eagles had revealed to their legendary founders Romulus and Remus.
St. Hippolytus of Rome said it would be in the year 500 A.D. ---- based on a formula he derived from the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.
Pope Sylvester II said the end of the world would be 1000 A.D. at the close of the millennium – which caused riots in the streets of Rome and a flocking of people to Jerusalem.
Martin Luther thought the end was coming no later than 1600. And remember when everyone thought the Y2K bug would crash computers and cause catastrophes that would destroy the technological world as we know it?
Norse mythology, Orthodox Judaism and of course we followers of Jesus Christ – know that the end is coming – we just don’t know when. . .
It’s the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time, and so the Church is coming to the end of our liturgical year. Next weekend is the Solemnity of Christ the King, which finishes off the Sundays of Ordinary Time, and then it’s on to the new liturgical year with Advent.
And so with two weeks to go – the Church is using this end of the year theme to mirror a greater mystery: the end of history.
This sort of thing can be interesting to us. Movies are made about catastrophes and natural disasters and the end of the world. We usually think about angels and judgment and all the things that come with it. The big question is the same one that it was in Jesus’ time ---and before and ever since --- WHEN? When will the end come?
Today, Jesus gives us a few signs that will come before the end – saying there will be wars and famine.
If we would read the Book of Revelation we would hear of the Anti-Christ first making an appearance before the end –
And the prophet Malachi told us --- the day will come like a blazing oven. . .
All are to be signs of the end times. . .
But here is the thing – we have had wars and famines for the two thousand years since Christ walked the earth. There always seem to be people in every generation who are blatantly labeled the anti-Christ – Hitler, Stalin, Osama-bin Laden to name a few. And every single summer in Kansas City feels like a blazing oven. . . So what are the definitive signs???
What I would suggest is that we’re missing the point if we are seeking a sign or a date for the end times. . . Much like the concept of heaven we dealt with last week ----- the second coming of Jesus, the end of the world – transcends the logic of human minds and history. We DON’T know when, how, or why Jesus will come. We can’t figure out a date, nor should we.
The point is that Jesus WILL come again ---- and we need to be prepared. NOT by building bomb shelters or stocking up on bread and milk – but preparing with---- hopeful anticipation.
The Greek word Parousia, which Shelly had a hard time saying --- is used to describe the end times. The word literally means the welcoming ----- or the grand arrival --- of an important guest. . .
This is how we are called to prepare for the end --- with hope and open arms, hearts, lives and minds --- to welcome the coming of our special guest – Jesus Christ.
I think maybe a sports analogy might work here. There is some tendency in our culture to avoid thinking of the last things – the great truths like death and judgment and heaven and hell. We are simply told to enjoy ourselves while we can – and not to worry about the big picture. But really, that view of the end isn’t very accurate and certainly won’t be good for us. . .
It would be like telling an athlete to just enjoy their time playing in the game – and don’t get too worried about the outcome of the game -----
until it is the last inning, the last quarter, or the last set ---
Any good athlete enjoys the game by playing hard and doing their best to win the game. They know that the 4th quarter or the 9th inning is right around the corner, the clock is ticking -----
and the time will soon run out. And when it does, and they make their way back to the locker room – they all want two things:
Hopefully that they won the game – AND that they pushed themselves as hard as possible to play their part in order to win.
The lesson of the Gospel is similar. Yes, our time on earth will come to an end someday. The clock is ticking, and the 4th quarter is on the way.
But there is also a big difference – an athlete can give his or her all and still lose. They can be satisfied with their performance, but still disappointed with the outcome.
But as Christians – we have to play to win. If we as Christians give our all-- in the time we have, spending our lives striving to be more like Christ every day --- in spite of hardships, sufferings, persecutions, opposition, and enemies – then victory is assured – a crown of righteousness will be awaiting us in heaven.
Today as we gather for Mass, we are mindful that the end times will come. But we come to the Eucharist striving to give our all – to prepare, to hope, and to imitate the love of Christ each and every day. As we receive the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, let us receive what we need to be holy in this life – so that we can live with God forever in the life to come.
The late Reverend Billy Graham once told of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach one of his crusades.
Wanting to mail a letter, he saw a young boy and asked him how to get to the post office.
When the boy had given him directions – Dr. Graham thanked him and said: “If you come to the Baptist Church tonight – you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”
“No thank you, I don’t think I will be there,” said the boy. When Graham asked him why not – they boy said, “Mister you don’t even know how to get to the post office – how are you going to tell us how to get to heaven??”
We have just a few more weeks of reading St. Luke’s Gospel before we begin a new liturgical year and the reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel. . . By this point in Luke’s Gospel – Jesus had been preaching, teaching, and healing – all to let people how to get to heaven. And so he had many steadfast friends who were faithfully following him ----- and many zealous enemies --- wanting to shut him down.
If these nay-sayers could confuse Jesus – cause him to fumble for an answer – his appeal would be dimmed in the eyes of some, or so they thought. Then this could start a counter-movement in which there could be much questioning, and mumbling, and discontent.
Then, when the time came to cart Jesus off for a final end to his life and teaching --- maybe they would be rather thankful – rather than upset. . . or so they thought.
The Sadduces were part of this crowd who wanted to discredit Jesus and his teaching. They were Sad-you-see ----- because they did not believe in the Resurrection. They said there was no firm basis for life after death in the first five books of their Scriptures – known by us as the Pentetuch – and to them, as the Books of Moses or the Hebrew Torah.
They wanted to show that this man who some believed came down from heaven – had no idea what heaven was like –and they thought they had the perfect question to make him stumble. . .
It was an absurd question they posed that assumes seven cases of marriage: if a man’s brother dies childless – he must marry the widow according to the Law of Moses found in the Book of Deuteronomy (25:5-6). A single bride is passed to seven brothers in succession --- SO, whose wife will she be in heaven?
Whenever I hear this question of the Sadducees – there is a side of me that wants to say, “Good Question” –
not because I don’t believe in life after death, which was the Sadducees problem – but because I want some insight as to what life in heaven is going to be like. So it’s more “good question” – give us an idea Jesus, so we have something to look forward to – something to strive for. . .
But then I think maybe that’s getting too caught up in the physical facts – much like the questions – where heaven will be, what we will do all the time, who will be there – and who will not --- good questions – but do they sidetrack us from what the meaning of the resurrection and the life to come is all about???
We do like to think about our own life after death – and the fact that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees us that life – BUT the resurrection is about so much more than what is going to happen to MY body and to ME after I’M dead and gone. . .
Naturally I am quite interested in what happens to me after I’m dead – but I’m not the only fish in the sea – and the sea is so much more than just the sum total of all the fish. . .
The belief in the resurrection --- is NOT just that Jesus is alive today – and I can have a personal relationship with Him --- though this is true.
It’s NOT just that there is a life after death and I can enjoy it when I get there --- though this is true also.
But the belief in the resurrection is also that there is a whole new world, a new creation, a new order of being – that has come into existence. And that you and I and everyone else is going to get caught up in that new creation.
God has made a way through death and out the other side – and the world as we know it --- the world of beautiful autumns and chilly morning, as well as shootings and terrorism and addictions --- and 24 hour days and 7 day weeks --- the world in which people are married and given in marriage –
this world, itself, in a through the process of resurrection – is being put to death and brought through the grave---- to new life on the other side.
The whole point of the resurrection when seen from this perspective – is that the risen Christ is the beginning of God’s new world order, “the first fruits of those who slept.”
Jesus Christ is the guarantee that love is stronger than death, that God who made the world and has grieved over its fall into sin and corruption – has not left us to stew in our own demise – but has entered into the world --- has taken its pain and shame and death unto Himself – and broken through to a new creation on the other side –
which will be absolutely nothing like we know on this side -- -a place where there is no more suffering – no more tears, no more sadeness.
What a good question the Saducees ask. And what a good answer Jesus gives them. And while many of us don’t want to find our way to the post office these days – especially in North Kansas City --- I hope most of us long to get caught up in the new creation of heaven --- and we do that, as St. Paul tells us – by directing our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.
A good weekend for a story: What’s Up, Zak (or Up a Tree) the Story of Zacchaeus. By Paul Dallgas-Frey
There are two things you should know about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a little Man. And Zacchaeus was a rich man. And nobody like him very much. Okay, that’s three things!
Nobody liked Zacchaeus. . . mostly because he got rich taking money from other people and giving it to the Romans.
Nobody liked the Romans much either. That was because they came in from another country like a bunch of bullies. They came with all their soldiers and swords and spears and stuff and made people do things they did not want to do – LIKE GIVE THEM MONEY!
That’s what Zacchaeus did. He collected money for the Romans. They called it “collecting taxes.” Some of the money he gave to the Romans – but lots of it he kept for himself. And that’s how he got rich!
Zacchaeus was a very rich man. And Zacchaeus was a little man. . . without a lot of friends.
Zacchaeus lived in a town called Jericho a long time ago. You might remember Jericho – if you heard the story about the walls that came tumbling down when the trumpets blew. But that was way before Zacchaeus time.
One bright, sunny day – Zacchaeus looked down the dirt road that came into Jericho and he saw a crowd of people coming his way.
Back then, everybody was talking about a guy named Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went, people who were blind could see again. Jesus was a pretty amazing guy! And everybody wanted to see just who this Jesus guy was – including Zacchaeus!
The only trouble was, everywhere Jesus went there were always crowds of people all around him – and remember, Zacchaeus was a little man. He know that he would never be able to see over a great crowd of people.
Zacchaeus ran up to the edge of the crowd and stood on his tiptoes to see what the big deal was.
But all he could see were the backs of people’s heads.
He tried jumping up and down. He bounced from one side and then to the other. But still he could not see.
But then, on one lucky bounce, he saw the man at the center of the crowd and it was Jesus!
Zacchaeus tried to push his way through the crowd, but everyone wanted to see Jesus, and they would not let him through.
What could he do? He wanted to see Jesus too!
Then Zacchaeus turned around and saw a sycamore tree growing right beside the road Jesus was walking along.
Zacchaeus had an idea!
He ran on ahead and climbed up the Sycamore tree. He did not care if he looked silly or not. He wanted to see Jesus!
Sure enough, Jesus stopped right under the sycamore tree. He looked up, and there was Zacchaeus peeking through the branches.
“Zacchaeus!” Jesus said to him, “Hurry down from there! I must stay at your house today!”
“How does he know my name??!” Zacchaeus thought to himself. “But he does! He knows my name! And he wants to come and stay at my house!”
Zacchaeus flew down that tree quicker than you could say, “Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus – sitting in a tree.”
When his feet hit the ground, he was so happy he nearly did a little dance! But that’s just what Jesus does to people. Jesus laughed and slapped his arm around Zacchaeus’s shoulder, and together they started off towards Zacchaeus’s house.
But the people in the crowd were not so happy.
They had spent all day in the hot sun following Jesus, and now he was going to stay at the house of Zacchaeus – a rich, cheating tax collector???!!
They began to grumble about Zacchaeus. . .
“This man is a sinner!” one woman said.
“He cheats and steals from his own people!” said an old man.
“He isn’t good enough for Jesus to come and stay at his house!”
Zacchaeus heard what the people were saying about him, and he must have known that they were right. So he said, “Listen! I will give half of everything I have to the poor! And if I cheated anyone, I will pay them back four time as much!”
Jesus was going to be a guest at his house. And what do you do when you are expecting company? You clean things up!
That’s what Zacchaeus did. Only he cleaned himself up on the inside first. Zacchaeus wanted to make things right for Jesus. He was so happy that Jesus wanted to come to his house, he wanted to make Jesus happy too.
And Jesus was happy!
Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house! Your life was all wrong – but now it is right. You were lost, but now you have been saved! That’s why I am here. I came to find and save the lost!
Zacchaeus was a little man – but now he felt ten feet tall!
And you know what??
Jesus know you too! Jesus knows you by name, just like he knew Zacchaeus.
He wants to come and tell you how much he loves you.
Jesus wants to tell you the good news of his home in heaven. He wants to laugh with you and cry with you no matter what.
But Jesus can’t exactly walk up to your front door and ring the bell. It would take a LONG time for Jesus to walk up to every house in the world!
You’d be all old and wrinkly by the time he finally got to yours. . . and he wouldn’t be able to stay very long. There are a LOT of houses in the world to get to!
Back when Jesus stayed at Zacchaeus’s house, all the other people grumbled because each of them wanted Jesus to stay at THEIR house. But when Jesus was on earth, he just could not stay at every house every night. . .
That’s why Jesus went to heaven. Jesus went to heaven so he could send his Spirit to live with each of us – all at the same time!
Of course you can’t see his Spirit. Btu you can’t see love either. You can’t hear it or smell it or touch it. But you know when love is there. That’s how it is with Jesus. When Jesus comes to you, you can’t see him, or hear him, or touch him. But you know that he is there.
Jesus wants to come to your house today! All you have to do is invite him in!
For God rejoices when the lost is found –
Every wayward soul that is heaven-bound.
Even all of those who stay on the ground-
God rejoices when the lost is found!
In 1989, the Empress Zita, the last empress of the Austrian empire and Queen of Hungary – was buried in Vienna.
She had been crowned in 1916, but was exiled in 1918, never to return to her beloved Austria. She never, however, renounced her crown.
When she died, a great imperial funeral was held in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Assembled inside that day were leaders from around the world, including a personal representative of Pope John Paul II. The Vienna Boys Choir, a full orchestra and a chorus were all ready to sing and play for the Mass.
Outside the cathedral, in the plaza, old men wore their Austrian military uniforms, and when the funeral procession drew near – there was spontaneous singing of the Austrian imperial anthem. Pall bearers carried the body of the empress to the closed doors of the cathedral and the leader of the procession knocked on the door three times – according to an ancient ritual.
The rector of the cathedral came to the door, opened it just enough to look out, and asked, “Who desires entry?”
The leader of the procession answered: “The empress Zita, Empress of all Austria and Queen of Hungary.”
The rector replied, “I do not know this person.” And he closed the door.
Continuing the tradition -- a second time the knock came on the door. The rector repeated his question – and the leader answered in the same manner: “The Empress Zita, Empress of all Austria and Queen of Hungary.” The rector once again said he did not know this person, and closed the door.
A third time – the knock came. Once again the rector asked, “Who desires entry?” And this time the answer came: “Our sinful, mortal sister, Zita, seeking God’s mercy” And with this, the doors were opened wide and the glorious music began. . . >>
for in the eyes of Austrians, Zita was an “uppercase” empress – but in the eyes of God, she was a “lowercase” saint – still in need or God’s mercy.
That’s what you and I are – we’re “lowercase” saints in need of God’s mercy – here to honor the “uppercase” saints who were humble enough throughout their lives to know – they were always in need of God’s mercy – and yes, could move mountains if they had faith the size of a mustard seed.
The Biblical word for saint – simply means those who are set apart --- much like St. Paul wrote his letters to the believers in Roman, and Corinth, and Thessalonica – calling them saints. . .
Saints are those who believe in --- and have received the loving grace of God in Christ and seek to serve the kingdom of God as faithful disciples. In order to do that, they align themselves with the teaching of Christ and are his representatives in the world. As such – they, WE – are set apart.
The Gospel today, the Beatitudes, is part of Jesus longer - -Sermon on the Mount – where he tries to teach us the way in which we need to live our lives differently – how we need to align ourselves with the teaching of Christ ---- because we are set apart. . .
Hear these Beatitudes from Christian author and pastor, Eugene Peterson’s perspective – to hear how we are supposed to live differently. . . set ourselves apart --- because we believe and have received the loving grace of God in Christ - - -
You’re blessed---- when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and more of God’s ways and not your own.
You’re blessed ---- when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you.
You’re blessed---- when you’re content with just who you are – no more, nor less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything --- that cannot be bought.
You’re blessed ---- when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. For God’s food and drink in the Eucharist is the best meal you will ever eat.
You’re blessed ---- when you care about something and someone – other than yourself. At the moment of being full of care -- you find yourselves--- cared for.
You’re blessed ---- when you get your inside world – your mind and your heart – put right Then you can see God more easily in the outside world.
You’re blessed--- when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed ---- when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that – but count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit God. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when this happens – give a cheer even – for though they don’t like it, God does. >>
And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. For God’s prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Saints, those we honor today, and we saints in the making – define themselves by ordinary living in extraordinary ways. We honor today our mortal brothers and sisters who have gone before us who made God’s kingdom more present by their acts of mercy, justice, love, and self-sacrifice. The world was blessed by their attitudes – and God now blesses them with eternal life. And with God’s grace, we hope to follow in their footsteps.
You and I won’t wear a crown like Zita. The Vienna Boys Choir probably won’t be singing at our funerals. But – like the capital S saints who have gone before us – we will one day return to our true home. We will receive a heavenly crown of righteousness, and the angels will sing when the gates of heaven swing open for us.