Thought for the Weekend
Fr Patrick McCafferty, Corpus Christi Parish, Belfast
Jesus says to us in the passage of St Luke's Gospel that will be read in many churches this weekend: "Take care not to be deceived."
This is the Lord speaking to His disciples shortly before His Passion, at the culmination of His ministry, as He is about to finish the work given Him by His Father (John 17:4).
These are His last instructions to His soldiers of every time and place, before they set out into history, to build His Kingdom until the day of His return, in the glory of His Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord promises us no easy time. "If you would serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal" (Sirach 2:1). Terrifying battles lie ahead for His Church and those who belong to Him: wars and revolutions; earthquakes, plagues and famines; fearful sights and great signs from heaven" (Luke 21:5-19).
Throughout it all, the Lord steadies us as He prepares us and, quite simply, He says, "do not be frightened".
The persecutions that will arise are our "opportunity to bear witness".
For even though the disciples of Jesus will be hated by all on His account, betrayed even by those closest to them and some of them put to death, nevertheless, "not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives" (Luke 21:18-19).
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The day of the Lord will be the eternal vindication of those who belong to Him. For those who fear His name, "the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays" (Malachi 3:19-20).
On that day, the people of God will say, "See! This is our God in whom we hoped for salvation. We exult and rejoice that He has saved us" (Isaiah 25:9).
Until that day of victory dawns, though, we are to "go on quietly working and earning". St Paul sternly rebukes some of those Christians in Thessaloniki who spend their days in idle speculation about the Lord's return and, while doing no work themselves, interfere in everyone else's (II Thessalonians 3:7-12).
The day of the Lord's return is certain and it is decided in Heaven.
Predicting the "when" and "how" of it is not only futile, but expressly forbidden (Acts 1:7) by that Master who expects only that we be "found ready" at His return (Luke 12:37).
Therefore, "be on guard! Be alert!" (Mark 13:33).