33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: "Purity of Endurance"
Every Sunday, as we come to Mass, our desire is that we may be able to learn something from the teachings and remember it as we leave this place. Hopefully, it could bring about a change in our lives from glory to glory to being like Christ. The way to do this is for the Word of God to be richly dwelling in us. We come to Mass to be students of the Word. The Collect of the Day says, “Blessed Lord, Who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” This is the victory that we have in our lives as God’s people.
We are in the second to the last Sunday of Ordinary time and of the Church calendar year. Ordinary Time is about the life of Christ lived out through His church (you and me) in our daily life and battles. It is an abundant life, a life designed for our welfare and hope, yet buried deep within - like a treasure that has to be cultivated and discovered. Proverbs 13:23 says that “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor.” People are poor because they don’t cultivate the ground where there is the abundance of food. Like our lives, we need to cultivate our spiritual life through studying and immersing ourselves in the Word of God and growing in our faith because we are living in a very treacherous, very perilous time and culture that likes to steal our faith. Scriptures says, “The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy,” with the purpose of destroying our lives and eventually killing us spiritually. But remember, Jesus has come to give us abundant life.
God created us with this life to become like Christ, who is the Light of the world. We come to Church each Sunday, with the intention of becoming more like Jesus. There must be a progressive movement toward that greatness that God intended us to have. Let us not make Christianity as a crutch or an activity where we take on a form of godliness but deny the power that it should give. Christ intended us to live in this imperfect world, with imperfect human beings, in order to show us the His power in a greater way.
Jesus came to this world to reveal and to show the power, the character, and the life of God. He did this so that one day, a company of men and women, called the Church, might reveal and show in an even greater way the power, character, and life of God in this world. From the beginning we were created for greatness, but we live in a broken world. We live in a world filled with distraction, betrayals, and things that will try to shipwreck our faith. We must realize that our help is in the Name of the Lord.
I came up with an acronym – AID – which stands for virtues that would “help” us not just to survive but to overcome in this world. “A” stands for ALERTNESS. There is a spiritual stupor or insensitivity to the things of God, but without alertness and attention, there can be no retention of the Kingdom. A teacher would say, “Pay attention, class,” because he wants the students to have a retention of what is being taught. For a soldier, one word that is often used in drills is, “Attention!” because a soldier is trained to pay attention to his commanding officer.
In our gospel, in Mark 13:9, it says, “Be on your guard!” 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 1:13 says, “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” Spiritual alertness is developed through prayer. In Isaiah 62:6, it says that God has appointed watchmen to be attentive to things that will happen. These are the prayer warriors whom God has called to pray. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
In Matthew 26:41, in the New Living Translation (NLT), Jesus said to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” We have to keep watch and to pray so that when we are tempted, we are ready because next to temptation is sin if we are unable to face it. It can’t be done by our own self-control and strength, but by keeping watch, by being vigilant and praying. Attention to God and His Word is what brings us strength.
The second virtue that we need not just to survive, but to overcome in this world is the “I” in AID, which is INSIGHT. It is the ability to see into the meaning and significance of things, events, activities, etc. which the Holy Spirit gives to us. Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the [c]expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:10 says, “Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.” We don’t understand this too much because we have the knowledge and the ability and the resources of man. Google is God today. Many people consult Google more than they consult God, but it is the Holy Spirit that will show us the insight. It is not by might or by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 2:10-12 says, “But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” We don’t have to be limited in our understanding and knowledge. Life is about God and about Jesus, not about what we have achieved or what we have as head knowledge. It is not about the material things that we will amass, but about Christ - as it is He who will give us insight in our daily situations.
The third virtue that we need not just to survive but to overcome in this world is DETERMINATION. Determination is the quality that we show when we have decided to do something (usually something difficult) and we will not let anything stop us. In Mark 13:13, it says, “13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.[a] But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” In Ecclesiastes 7:8, “8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” We are good in starting any endeavour, task, or project, but do we have the strength to finish and complete it? In Job 17:9, “The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.”
Finally, Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Our help, our AID, is in the Name of the Lord. Be alert, have insight, and be determined because the Lord is with us!