The Triumph of God’s Elect: Endurance & Hard Work!
Readings: (1st: Mal 3, 19-20; Ps: 97, 5-7; 2nd: 2Thes 3, 7-12; Gos: Luke 21, 5-19)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
With just one week left to come to the end of the Church’s liturgical calendar, (Year C), and about six weeks to draw the curtains of 2013, the Holy Mother Church in her protective prowess encourages us to patiently hold on till the end. The weapons she places at our disposal to help us triumph include amongst others: Endurance and Hard Work! According to Gautama Siddhartha, (563-483 B.C.), “Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes”. Therefore, we must not give up. Instead, we must continue to endure until we triumph over all the enemies and evil that afflicts us. The Church teaches us today that Christ will come to bring all that is evil to nothing. He continues to strengthen our ability to endure daily through the Eucharist. Hence, the She says to all of us today: Feras, non culpes, quod mutari non potest (you should endure, not blame, what cannot be changed)!
In 1912, a young man named Douglas Mawson got into trouble in the Antarctic, when a member of his three-man sledging team fell into a crevasse with most of their rations. He and the other man, Mertz, were forced to eat their dogs, ingesting toxic levels of vitamin A. Mertz went mad and died; only Mawson made it, driven on by the desire to propose to his girlfriend. Also, during World War II a pilot named William Ash was shot down and sent to a Prisoners’ of War (POW) camp. This place was hell! But after months of agony he managed to escape, and was sheltered by nuns. However, he went mad with fever and walked straight into a Gestapo head quarter. He was skinned, soaked in brine, his fingernails were pulled off, but he still never spoke of, or betrayed the nuns who sheltered him. He knew full well that doing so will land the nuns into trouble and probably cost them their lives. These are true life stories of people who endured till the end.
In today’s first reading, Malachi announces the coming of the day of the Lord. He paints two pictures: the fate of the evil doer, and the triumph of the righteous who endures till the end. This short reading simply serves as an encouragement to us to continue our good work in patient righteousness and endurance. In order words, it teaches that to persist in good works till the end, one must endure all forms of trials and difficulties as the saints did because: “All these call for patience, endurance and faithfulness” (Rev 13, 10). Today’s first reading ends with a promise: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.” This should be our motivator! This healing that the prophet spoke of is the reward for our endurance. Endurance moves a child of God to continue to work hard without looking back. It eschews laziness, and helps us to overcome sloth. It is endurance that helps us persevere in doing good at all times. It keeps us going when physical strength fails us and, it perpetuates our quest for righteousness.
In the second reading, Paul encouraged us to work hard to earn both our earthly and heavenly living. Good work is a product of endurance; it yields good and enduring fruits as well. Good work makes a good Christian. Therefore one must persevere in it until it begins to yield good fruits. We recognize the fact that there is gross unemployment all over the world and the efforts young people are making to get jobs. Those making these efforts are not in any way lazy. The Church does not in any way encourage laziness of any sort (even though she recognizes Jesus Christ in the poor). This is why one of the seven capital sins according to the church is Sloth (reluctance to work or shear laziness). Thomas Aquinas said: “Sloth is “sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good…it is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds” (Summa Theologae 2, 35, ad 1). It is quite unfortunate that some Christians have given up the hope of working hard and can no longer endure hard times which do not last. Instead, they have become “corporate beggars”, thieves, and habitual liars just to attract sympathy from people. Instead of making efforts to lay their hands on something that will keep them going till “the healing sun of God” shines on them, they prefer going begging. What a shame! This is what Paul decries in today’s reading: “Now we hear that some of you are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with anyone else’s.” A lazy Christian yields easily to all sorts of vices and does not believe in “working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling.” If we are to triumph over the devil, we must work hard and endure the pains of good work.
In the gospel, Jesus warns us of the imminent tough times ahead. One of the most important thing we must take hold of in this gospel is that none of; our beautiful cities, road networks, automobiles, houses, cloths and, in fact anything man-made will endure forever. Even human beings will one day perish and be gone. However, with endurance in our sufferings and persecutions, we shall win ourselves immortality before Christ as he says to us today: “Your endurance will win you your lives.” The Lord encourages us to persevere in righteousness and endure in hard work. Furthermore, in warning that in spite of the elegance of the temple that it will be destroyed, Jesus warns us not to hold on tenaciously to anything of this world to the detriment of forgetting God because the only things that will endure are faith, hope, and trust in God which are manifested through charity – the love of God, as well as the love of neighbor. So, rather than fix our gaze on the glory of this world, we must keep all our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Heb12, 2).
Finally, enduring spirit comes from God who knows what we go through all our life. It is a gift he bestows on those who love him in order to help them overcome the difficulties of life. This is why Paul tells us that “you are being strengthened with all powers according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Col 1, 11). The situation we are in, in this present world, in our offices, our homes, schools, etcetera, might be very tough, it might even question our faith in Jesus Christ, yet if we endure, we shall have every course to smile at the end as Jesus assures us today: “Your endurance will win you your lives.” As solders of Christ, what proves our capability is the extent to which we can endure for the sake of Christ. That is, our ability to say: I will not cheat, I will not steal, I will not kill, and I will not get involved in any wrong business or shady deal for the sake of Christ etcetera. In light of this, Paul urges us once again: “endure hardship like us, like a good soldier of Christ” (2Tim 2, 3), and Hebrew insists: “Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as a son” (Heb 12, 7). Like William Faulkner (1897–1962): “I believe that man will not merely endure. He will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice and endurance.”
Peace be with you all!