A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills…. For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.”
The two important points here are that God will “judge between the nations” and that God’s word comes “from Jerusalem.” What is God’s word to the nations? “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” If they do these things, they will “walk in the light of the Lord.”
If only nations obeyed this command, millions of innocent people would not have been killed and many others would not be dying today. Jesus himself preached and lived non-violence as should we, as individuals, as societies, as nations.
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans
Paul tells the Romans, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul knows that he will be killed and so he wants to let the Roman Christians know how important it is for them to stay the course and not fall into bad habits that were rampant in the city. Of course, the same holds true for we who live in an age that is all too prone to excuse these same excesses.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
After Jesus died many believed that he would come again on the last day. But when? Matthew tells people, “Stay awake! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
This belief that Jesus would come back, perhaps in their lifetime, and that the world would then end was very popular among Christians in the decades after the death of Jesus. It was intensified by the constant threat of prison and execution at the hands of the Romans. Even today, there are sects of Christianity that believe that the world will end soon, and Jesus will return. They go up to a mountain or some other remote place and wait until it becomes apparent that the time is not now.
We have no idea when the world as we know it will end, but we do know that our lives here on earth will end at our deaths. We know not the day or the hour. Rather than worrying about that, we should make the most of each day—serving God and each other—as we look forward to a new life forever in the divine presence.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.