Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity
November 15, 2015
The sun comes up in the east and it does so every day. Its rays wake up the sleepy world with every new morning and we go about the business of the day without a second thought. The sun comes up and goes down in an apparent never ending cycle. And the cyclical nature of this everyday occurrence makes us think it will go on this way forever.
And yet, science tells us that the sun is just a big ball of exploding gas, which will eventually run out of fuel. And even though this may not happen for another billion years we still know that it will happen. Perhaps we don’t worry about it because we know it will never affect us – that’s something for someone else to worry about.
Continuing on with this theme of the sun, listen again to the words of our Lord, “…in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” These words of our Lord are confirmed by modern science – which shouldn’t be surprising – eventually this world, and in fact the entire universe, will come to an end. It is true that we may not see the end of the world in our lifetime but the only reason for that is because we would be dead. So either death or the end of the world will come to each of us, and yet we continue on with our lives like Nero fiddling amongst the fires of Rome – just going about our business like nothing is happening. Why is it that we are so complacent when we know the end will come? Are we all just crazy like that ancient Roman dictator?
In order to understand this complacency within us – and to wake up to the need to overcome it – let us look for its explanation in our lives. To do this let us ask the following question: why do we live our lives as if life will never end? To answer this question let us consider the alternative to a life lived as if it will never end – its opposite would be an oversensitivity to the approaching end demonstrated by the person who lives every day in constant fear that the next moment will be his last. Some people do in fact become trapped in this way of thinking and it can be crippling to the point that you don’t even want to venture outside, much less go to work and have a normal life. Most people, though, don’t succumb to this because deep down we all really want to be happy. After all, God made us to be with Him forever in eternal bliss and so we are naturally drawn to what will make us happy.
As a result of not knowing when the end of our life will come and instead of living our day-to-day life in constant fear of the end, most of us try to go about our day as happily as we can. But as time continues to go on day after day we get comfortable in our various routines and eventually push out of our minds that the end will one day come. We do this because to think of such things is too much of an interruption in the little realms of false happiness that we have created for ourselves. And so we become complacent and think, “Everything is ok – there’s nothing to worry about. The sun will continue to come up in the east.”
In order to overcome this disordered way of thinking we must learn to transcend this transitory life so that we may see that this life does not go on indefinitely. The routine of our daily life can make us think that it will, but we must remember what our Lord tells us plainly today – “heaven and earth will pass away.” But then what is left for us? Are we to continually worry and fret that the next moment might be our last? No, not at all.
Eventually, the sun will set on this temporary life and it will not return. And both the forgetfulness of the coming end and the perpetual fear of it come from an inordinate focus on this world, as if this world is all there is. That is why it is crucial for us to always remember that our true home is not here – it is in heaven. To be with God forever is the true end for all of mankind – it is the reason He created us. And our Lord tells us today that when He returns “He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” But to be part of that immortal elect we must choose to follow Him during this mortal life; in doing so we will be able to remain joyful in the day-to-day of our existence here on earth while also looking with anticipation towards the end when our Lord returns in glory.