THE THREE LAST THINGS: A HOMILY ON TUESDAY, 34TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
We often talk about the four last things, namely death, judgment, heaven and hell, but actually, there are three last things. This is not to say it is wrong to speak of the four last things, but to understand that of the four last things, we can only experience three. We will all die, we will all be judged, but while some will go to heaven, directly or through purgatory, others will go to hell.
Many times in our lives, we do and we will continue to experience the death of loved ones. Each time a loved one dies, it should remind us that we will die also. No matter how old we are, we are old enough to die. That is why when you go to the cemetary, you will find graves of different sizes and people of different generations. There is an Igala saying ‘Ukwu kp’ego, ailo ki b’ego‘, which means that whenever someone of a particular age dies, all those who belong to that age group should be scared. Death, in the first reading is described as the day of harvest. It is as if God has planted us, and one day he will come to harvest what He has planted, with the hope of finding fruits.
The responsorial psalm speaks of God’s judgment. On that day of harvest, He will judge us and He judges in fairness, with justice and with His truth. God’s judgment is always fair. There are two harvests in the first reading. The first harvest is of those who are saved. There are the ones to whom the gospel acclamation says ‘Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’ For such people, even though their bodies seem to have been destroyed in death, they will rise to eternal glory. Anytime you see joy and laughter. Anytime a sick person starts getting better. Anytime we are gathered at table. Anytime people are at peace. Anytime we experience any form of success or positive report, it should remind us of everlasting salvation. Every good thing we enjoy in this world, espeically the celebration of the Holy Mass, is a foretaste of the eternal glory that awaits those who have born good fruits.
Jesus in the gospel predicts the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is symbolic of the destruction that those who have not born good fruit will experience. The second harvest in the second reading describes this destruction. We are told that they are put into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger. This is something we do not want to experience. God is not angry with them because God has stopped loving them. Rather, in their rejection of God, they experience his love as anger. The people wanted to know what signs to expect before the destruction will take place. Jesus did not give dates but rather He gave them signs. However he said these signs do not neccessarily mean that when you hear of two nations fighting, then you conclude that the world is about to end. Rather, when we hear of nations fighting against each other. When we hear of abuses both inside and outside the church. When we hear of natural disasters, terrorism and all kinds of negative reports. When we hear of people being murdered for no good reason, of all kinds of destructions that is going on in the world, then we should think of eternal damnation. These things should remind us of the fate that awaits those who refuse to bear good fruits. Whenever we look upon the cross of Jesus, we see someone who has taken all these consequences upon Himself even though He has no sin. The punishment He had was meant for us. So, in spite of all our sins, we still have the hope of eternal salvation. It is left for us to confess our sins and repent of them and accept the salvation which Christ has won for us at the cost of his own blood. We all have the options of three last things. For some it will be death, judgment and eternal damnation. For others it will be death, judgment, and eternal life. Everything that is happening around us, good or bad, are constant reminders of the different fates that await different people. Do not be Afraid!